Ukraine – Caught Between Russian And U.S. Imperialism

Pro-Russian protesters remove a Ukrainian flag and replace it with a Russian flag in front of the Donetsk Oblast Regional State Administration building, March 1, 2014 (Credit: Andrew Butko)

Ukraine has become the focus of the world’s attention. Three months of mass-protests centered around the Maidan square in Kiev has led to the removal of the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and the creation of a new government claiming to represent the interests of the people. The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has called this new government illegitimate and has sent troops into the Crimean peninsula, the Southeastern section of Ukraine. The Obama administration has responded by condemning Russia’s military action and supposedly supporting the interests of the Ukrainian people. But what is really going on here? In fact, Ukraine and its people are caught in the middle of a worldwide competition between the U.S. government and the Russian government – neither of whom have the interests of the Ukrainian people in mind.

The conditions of life for ordinary Ukrainians have become unbearable. Wages in Ukraine are half of what they are in surrounding countries such as Russia and Poland. More than one quarter of the population of Ukraine is living below the poverty line. And since 1991 more than 15 percent of Ukraine’s population has left the country seeking jobs in other parts of the world.

It was these conditions which sparked the uprising which overthrew the Ukrainian government. People’s anger was directed at the Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych. However, the new government which has emerged is closely linked to Europe and the United States. The people’s revolt has been turned into a power struggle between the U.S., Europe and Russia.

What is really at stake in Ukraine? Control over the vast natural gas supply which is piped from Russia through Ukraine into Europe. Russian natural gas supplies more than 30 percent of the natural gas which is used by countries in Western Europe. Control over the pipelines that travel through Ukraine is essential to controlling this natural gas supply.

If Ukraine is in the hands of the United States and Europe, they will be able to control the flow of gas and set prices. If it is in the hands of Russia, the Russian elite will call the shots. Democracy and human rights have nothing to do with it.

All around the world there is a competition between the United States on the one hand, and Russia on the other hand. Through economic and military alliances the United States and Russia extend their influence. The United States may be the most powerful military and economic power in the world, but this doesn’t stop Russia from using its influence to make alliances with Syria, Iran, and other states that stand in the way of U.S. military and economic goals.

The United States government condemns human rights abuses and oppression carried out by the governments of Russia, Syria and Iran. But the United States supports regimes such as Saudi Arabia in which there is no freedom of speech or democratic rights, where workers are treated as slaves and women have no rights.

The Unites States government condemns military invasion, such as the Russian government is carrying out in Ukraine. But the United States invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, murdering millions of people to replace these governments with new ones. In 2011 the U.S. and its European allies carried out a bombing campaign to replace the government of Libya. In other words, the U.S. and European governments have done exactly what they accuse Russia of doing right now.

How can we believe any word that comes out of these politicians mouths? Their claims of standing up for human rights and democracy are nothing but lies to hide their real interests – to serve of the banks and corporations. As the governments of the U.S., Europe, and Russia threaten to escalate the conflict in Ukraine we should say loud and clear this has nothing to do with our interests or those of the Ukrainian people.