A Left Perspective on the Violation of Ukrainian Sovereignty

Reed Cleland, Staff Writer

What is Russia’s assault on Ukraine other than a product of global economic inequality which has been acceptable for decades? 

The promulgates of the so-called “liberal internationalist order” have failed the people of Ukraine, who now find themselves defending their sovereignty from one of the world’s most powerful men, Vladimir Putin, an alleged multi-billionaire who seeks nothing less than the recomposition of the former Soviet Union and disruption of the West. Particularly under the neoliberal and neoconservative regimes of the past forty years, the political left has gravely fumbled the ball in generating a foreign policy which clearly aligns with the life-or-death crises facing poor and working people in Upstate New York, the American Midwest, Greece, sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, among other impoverished regions. Autocrats like Putin are portrayed in the same realpolitik manner which characterized international affairs in the first half of the twentieth century, which offers no benefit for the global working class. 

One might think that after seventy years of constructing complex international institutions allegedly designed to promote cross-national cooperation, world affairs might have become more peaceful. One might think that these institutions should have sped us towards a utopian, borderless future in which we all live and dance among the sunflowers together. One might think that the United States, having triumphed in the Cold War, might have restructured its domestic budget when it comes to expenses for NATO (and footing much of the bill for other member states). One might think that mutual disarmament and arms control, one of the Reagan presidency’s few praiseworthy accomplishments, should have remained the forefront of an approach to global peace. 

Most human beings are not prone to thinking internationally. Outside of a privileged few, international affairs in all of its dimensions – diplomacy, military interventionism, environmentalism, refugee crises and more – are not the primary subject of discussion for families who struggle to pay rent, support their children in school, or battle opioid addiction, among other challenges. And that’s just in a first-world country!

But for multi-millionaires who receive appointments as ambassadors and shamelessly store their immense wealth in off-shore tax havens, the journalists who live in skyrise Manhattan suite-style apartments, and the lobbyists for defense-contracting firms, it is far more convenient to view the world in a black-and-white “our side is good and their side is bad” framework than to call for reversing dangerous levels of global wealth inequality. Their narrative disconnects the problems facing Michigan truck drivers and their families from the trade-union movement in Russia and the 45% of Ukrainians who fell below the poverty line in 2020, according to the Kyiv Independent.

The left has utterly failed in combating these corporate narratives, which have been promoted through the channels of propaganda networks (looking at you, Fox News) and into billions of homes in every nation on every continent. 

That is not to say that Putin’s psychopathic decision to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty had nothing to do with potential NATO encroachment. It is not to say that it had nothing to do with territorial disputes which Russians and Ukrainians care deeply about. It is definitely not to say that it had nothing to do with the 2014 annexation of Crimea or Putin’s wider ambitions to re-establish the borders of the former Russian Empire.

Putin’s invasion is but a shadow of the future to come if the excesses of runaway global casino capitalism are not reigned in via dramatic government interventions in domestic economies. The left can remain a force for anti-imperialism, anti-militarism, and non-interventionism while also avoiding apologetics for Russia’s war on the people of Ukraine. Those sanctions in place thus far from President Joe Biden have been excellent maneuvers. Right now is the ideal opportunity for representatives of leftist foreign policy to make efforts for global solidarity around a borderless working-class agenda. The tipping point of nuclear annihilation is too close for any further delay.

To assist freedom fighters in Ukraine, please consider donating to one of the following organizations, as listed by TimeOut: the Ukrainian Red Cross, Revived Soldiers Ukraine, Voices of Children, United Help Ukraine, Doctors Without Borders and the Kyiv Independent.