Referenda: Russians exercise their right to self-determination
23 September marked the launch of four days of referenda in the Ukraine, with the aim of determining whether the inhabitants of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson wished to be ruled by the fascist junta in Kiev or would prefer to be integrated into the Russian Federation. In all cases the vote was resoundingly in favour of joining forces with Russia.
Given that the citizens of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had suffered over eight years of shelling and blockades at the hands of the Kiev putschists, and the population of Zaporozhye and Kherson regions had been forced to live with the most vicious Russophobic campaign of hatred, the referendum results were never in any doubt – not, as the paid cynics of the imperialist media sneer, because the electorate was voting with a gun to their heads, or because the ballot boxes were stuffed, but because the overwhelming desire of the population in those areas is to end the living nightmare of life under the jackboot and at last find themselves under the protection of Russia.
International observers confirm that there were indeed soldiers accompanying the election commission volunteers as they went door to door and also in attendance at polling stations. However, the military presence was not there to intimidate people into voting, but rather to protect the election process from being threatened by a minority of reactionaries. The volunteers whose efforts made the massive referendum possible, trudging the streets door to door to give everyone a chance to cast their votes, bravely went about their task, even in the face of threats from the Kiev regime of reprisals and death.
The reason that these volunteers, many of them teachers, went out on the streets to gather votes was to keep to a minimum the number of people queueing outside the polling stations, so as to avoid exposing large crowds to the ever-present possibility of enemy shelling.
There were many international observers and journalists in attendance as the referenda unrolled, making a mockery of the imperialist attempt to portray the events as some hole-in-corner paper exercise. In the case of Donetsk, there were no fewer than 129 foreign monitors, hailing from Italy, France, Russia, Venezuela, Romania, Togo and South Africa. In addition there were 542 journalists from Russia, China and Venezuela, as well as those from EU members France, Italy and Portugal, not to mention Qatar and Britain.
When all the votes were counted, the people’s verdict was clear: both the Donbass republics and the regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye are henceforth fully integrated with the rest of the Russian Federation. It is clear that further attacks or threats of attack on these safeguarded territories will be understood as attacks upon Russia itself and will be dealt with as such. Anglo-American imperialism can no longer carry on prosecuting the conflict it has initiated as a proxy war, with all the fighting and dying restricted to the Russians and the Ukrainians whilst the imperialist war industry counts its dollars far from the noise of shells. If imperialism wants to blunder around on the fringes of Donbass, Kherson and Zaporozhye, it will rapidly learn the difference between a Special Military Operation and a no holds barred war between Britain and the US on one side and Russia on the other.
Behind all the huffing and puffing about ‘Putin’s nuclear threats’ lies a deep (and well founded) disquiet that the collective West’s ability to keep all the genocidal wars that it initiates safely at arm’s length is coming to an end. US exceptionalism has led a charmed life, outsourcing all its dirty work to the Islamic State or the Kurds or the Ukonazis or some other mercenaries. Masquerading as concerned bystanders with no skin in the game, Anglo-American imperialists could cheer on Kiev’s ‘plucky’ stormtroopers with impunity, shouting insults at Russia from the sidelines. Having trained hundreds of Ukrainian fighters up in Scotland, Britain could then bundle them off back to die pointlessly in Ukraine, far from the White Cliffs of Dover, patting itself on the back for having done its bit for freedom and democracy.
Now that Russia has made it clear that the newly seceded territories are no less Russian soil than Moscow or St Petersburg, and will be defended as such, Western politicians need to start moderating their language. They need to understand that they are not playing some tired cold war game where idle threats will bear no consequences.
So when the likes of Liz Truss simper atop a NATO tank to vent their Russophobic spleen, they would be wise not to assume that such insults and threats will be safely contained within the imperialist media echo chamber, without consequences in the real world.
Biden for his part takes a straightforward Russian warning that it will take all necessary steps to deal with any attack on Russian territory and translates this statement of the obvious into full-blown nuclear hysterics all the way to Armageddon and back. What is really biting him is not Armageddon, though it’s a word he likes to throw around a lot like a kid with a sparkler in a gunpowder factory. What is bothering Britain and the US alike is much more fundamental: the prospect of having the wars it starts bounce back to land on their own doorsteps.
Kerch bridge provocation
If the murderous terrorist attack on the Kerch bridge which links Crimea with the rest of Russia was intended as a symbolic toe in the water, then Russia’s swift response left nobody in doubt as to the response all other direct acts of war against Russia can expect to receive. For starters Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had in response delivered a massive strike against Kiev’s energy, military command and communications facilities. He warned that “If attempts to carry out terrorist attacks on our territory continue, Russia’s responses will be tough and will correspond in scale to the level of threats posed to Russia. No one should have any doubts about this.”
France ditches ‘strategic ambiguity’
As Britain and the US continue to plunge deeper into their war against Russia, France is quietly loosening its ties to their aggressive war policy. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has put the cat among the pigeons by abandoning NATO’s customary stance of ‘strategic ambiguity’ over the use of nuclear weapons. ‘Strategic ambiguity’ means that, when anyone asks if you would go nuclear in any given circumstance, you say that you can neither confirm nor deny it. The idea is that by maintaining a studious silence, you will preserve the deterrence value of the weapons in the eyes of an enemy. It is also hoped that, by keeping schtum about their precise intentions, any differences of opinion amongst the allies can more easily be glossed over.
France is a kind of semi-detached member of NATO, not joining in its formal nuclear weapons mechanisms, and not taking part in its yearly nuclear exercises. All the same, France has kept in close alliance with its fellow European nuclear powers. But now, as the war spins out of control and Europe suffers economic collapse, Macron is shrugging off all ambiguity and telling it how it is. In a television interview he insisted that France’s nuclear doctrine rests exclusively on the “fundamental interests of the nation” which “would not be directly affected if, for example, there was a ballistic nuclear attack on Ukraine, or in the region”. A frosty Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would not make any comments on how NATO would react to any use of a nuclear weapon, only warning that “It will have severe consequences if Russia uses any kind of nuclear weapon against Ukraine.”
Sanctions hole German economy below the waterline
On the economic front, monopoly capital in the US is still having in some respects a ‘good war’: the US arms manufacturers have bursting order books and the export of LPG gas is increasing in volume and attracting high prices from sanctions-stricken European consumers. Things are not going so well with the European ‘allies’ however. Germany has to all intents and purposes committed economic suicide by buckling to US pressure and freezing the operation of the crucial NordStream 2 gas pipeline. This line was designed to pump gas along the bottom of the Baltic to Germany, neatly avoiding the Ukraine.
Germany’s massive industrial economy voraciously devours energy imports and faces disaster if these are long interrupted. The German economy was able to limp along for a while with the help of gas supplies coming through the original NordStream 1 pipeline, until it transpired that anti-Russian sanctions were preventing Siemens from carrying out regular maintenance checks. The consequence of this negligence was that when a key turbine failed, NordStream 1 was put out of action for a number of days – even though the replacement part was ready and waiting to be delivered. The coup de grace was the coordinated sabotage at four points of the NordStream network, damaging pipes so badly that corrosion by sea water may prove irreversible.
Needless to say, everything was instantly blamed on Russia, including blaming it for blowing up its own (very expensive) pipelines for no conceivable reason. For German industrialists starved of fuel and forced to lay off workers and mothball factories, it must have looked a lot more like an act of war inflicted on Europe by the US. As steel, fertiliser and glass production all hit the skids, German manufacturers faced closure or transfer to the US. Pressure is building from the manufacturing sector to stop the sanctions against Russia and resume input of oil and gas. Even Volkswagen is muttering about upping sticks and moving to the States, the equivalent of the ravens leaving the Tower of London.
It’s not as though the Biden administration made any secret of its hostility to the very existence of these pipelines. Back on 7 February, Biden had told a press conference that “there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it. … I promise you, we will be able to do it.” At the time this could be regarded as empty bragging by a president in his dotage. In retrospect it looks more like an announcement of state terrorism, terrorism which is at least as much aimed at Germany’s industrial dominance as at Russia. And now as we go to press we learn that the British Royal Navy was involved in sabotaging the pipelines, with the then British prime minister, the short-lived Liz Truss, messaging Blinken on her iPhone: “It’s done” within minutes of the acts of sabotage taking place, before anybody knew anything about it. Of course the British government denies any involvement, but then it would, wouldn’t it!
A straw in the wind of German public opinion is the parliamentary revolt that overturned a proposal to increase military support for Kiev by a sizeable majority, 476 against and 179 in favour. It will be interesting to see how the German public reacts to the announcement by Moscow on 5 October that it will happily pump gas through the one remaining undamaged NordStream2 pipe, just as soon as the necessary legal decisions are taken by the Europeans concerning certification and the removal of restrictions. Berlin had better move quickly if it is to seize this lifeline before it is too late.
G7/EU oil cap plot backfires
Whilst Western sanctions have reduced Russian oil exports, this has been more than compensated for by higher prices, leaving the target of the sanctions their main beneficiary. The G7 group of countries (US, UK, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and Germany) and the EU are tearing their hair out trying to find a way of reducing Russia’s lucrative revenue stream. The scheme they are working on would see all participants refusing to pay more for Russian oil than an agreed price – a price cap fixed by a consumers’ cartel. Any country which was found to be paying more than the capped price for Russian oil would be penalised, as would any shipowner or insurance company who connived at such a sale. Anyone who transgressed this sanctions regime could find themselves dragged through the courts facing lawsuits. Presumably this is what they mean when they talk about a ‘rules-based international order’. The problem for imperialism is that world society is less and less ready to go along with these impudent rules dreamed up in the US, EU and Britain. Even before the ink has dried on the latest desperate wheeze dreamt up by Brussels or Washington, Moscow quietly was pointing out that it won’t be selling oil to anyone who joins in with this price-fixing scam, and large energy-hungry countries like China and India will doubtless be consulting their own economic needs, not the G7 mafia’s offer which they can and will refuse. If Greek and Maltese ships are forced to rot in harbour, Chinese tankers can fill that gap. And whilst the US throws a big chunk of its US Strategic Petroleum Reserve into the market in an effort to tame oil prices, OPEC+ has opted to decrease daily output by two million barrels, pushing prices yet higher. Sadly for the G7/EU schemers, cut-throat competition between rivals is not suspended for the duration of the anti-Russian sanctions war!
The speech Vladimir Putin made on 30 September 2022 to set the seal on the accession of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Lugansk People’s Republic, the Zaporozhye Region and the Kherson Region to the Russian Federation went far beyond ceremonial backslapping. It was a thorough history lesson, a penetrating analysis of the past, a sober estimate of war and the threat of war in this transitional period, and an optimistic mapping out of the future multipolar world whose outlines are daily becoming clearer.
He dealt swiftly with critics who dispute the validity of the accessions, asserting “It is undoubtedly their right, an inherent right sealed in Article 1 of the UN Charter, which directly states the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”
He turned the spotlight onto the eight years of war which preceded and necessitated the Special Military Operation, eight years which are consistently airbrushed out in the imperialist media, saying “We will always remember the heroes of the Russian Spring, those who refused to accept the neo-Nazi coup d’état in Ukraine in 2014, all those who died for the right to speak their native language, to preserve their culture, traditions and religion, and for the very right to live. We remember the soldiers of Donbass, the martyrs of the ‘Odessa Katyn,’ the victims of inhuman terrorist attacks carried out by the Kiev regime… For eight long years, people in Donbass were subjected to genocide, shelling and blockades; in Kherson and Zaporozhye, a criminal policy was pursued to cultivate hatred for Russia, for everything Russian. Now too, during the referendums, the Kiev regime threatened schoolteachers, women who worked in election commissions with reprisals and death. Kiev threatened millions of people who came to express their will with repression. But the people of Donbass, Zaporozhye and Kherson weren’t broken, and they had their say.”
Here is Putin taking a panoramic view of how imperialism (‘the West’) made its rake’s progress through the last century, concluding with the current drive to war against Russia and China:
“And here it is important to recall that the West bailed itself out of its early 20th century challenges with World War I. Profits from World War II helped the United States finally overcome the Great Depression and become the largest economy in the world, and to impose on the planet the power of the dollar as a global reserve currency. And the 1980s crisis – things came to a head in the 1980s again – the West emerged from it unscathed largely by appropriating the inheritance and resources of the collapsed and defunct Soviet Union. That’s a fact.
“Now, in order to free itself from the latest web of challenges, they need to dismantle Russia as well as other states that choose a sovereign path of development, at all costs, to be able to further plunder other nations’ wealth and use it to patch their own holes. If this does not happen, I cannot rule out that they will try to trigger a collapse of the entire system, and blame everything on that, or, God forbid, decide to use the old formula of economic growth through war.”
Putin knocks the nail on the head in his account of how imperialism (“the West”) is endlessly parasitic, forever driven by the pursuit of maximum profit and domination:
“The West is ready to cross every line to preserve the neo-colonial system which allows it to live off the world, to plunder it thanks to the domination of the dollar and technology, to collect an actual tribute from humanity, to extract its primary source of unearned prosperity, the rent paid to the hegemon. The preservation of this annuity is their main, real and absolutely self-serving motivation.
“In certain countries, the ruling elites voluntarily agree to do this, voluntarily agree to become vassals; others are bribed or intimidated. And if this does not work, they destroy entire states, leaving behind humanitarian disasters, devastation, ruins, millions of wrecked and mangled human lives, terrorist enclaves, social disaster zones, protectorates, colonies and semi-colonies. They don’t care. All they care about is their own benefit.
“I want to underscore again that their insatiability and determination to preserve their unfettered dominance are the real causes of the hybrid war that the collective West is waging against Russia. They do not want us to be free; they want us to be a colony. They do not want equal cooperation; they want to loot. They do not want to see us a free society, but a mass of soulless slaves.
“The West is counting on impunity, on being able to get away with anything. As a matter of fact, this was actually the case until recently. Strategic security agreements have been trashed; agreements reached at the highest political level have been declared tall tales; firm promises not to expand NATO to the east gave way to dirty deception as soon as our former leaders bought into them; missile defence, intermediate-range and shorter-range missile treaties have been unilaterally dismantled under far-fetched pretexts.
“They are exporting grain from Ukraine now. Where are they taking it under the guise of ensuring the food security of the poorest countries? Where is it going? They are taking it to the self-same European countries. Only five percent has been delivered to the poorest countries. More cheating and naked deception again.
“In effect, the American elite is using the tragedy of these people to weaken its rivals, to destroy nation states. This goes for Europe and for the identities of France, Italy, Spain and other countries with centuries-long histories.
“Washington demands more and more sanctions against Russia and the majority of European politicians obediently go along with it. They clearly understand that by pressuring the EU to completely give up Russian energy and other resources, the United States is practically pushing Europe toward deindustrialisation in a bid to get its hands on the entire European market. These European elites understand everything – they do, but they prefer to serve the interests of others. This is no longer servility but direct betrayal of their own peoples. God bless, it is up to them.
“But the Anglo-Saxons believe sanctions are no longer enough and now they have turned to subversion. It seems incredible but it is a fact – by causing explosions on Nord Stream’s international gas pipelines passing along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, they have actually embarked on the destruction of Europe’s entire energy infrastructure. It is clear to everyone who stands to gain. Those who benefit are responsible, of course.”
Has Putin been studying Lenin in his spare time?