HARRY TARG : WAR AND PEACE | Reflections on the War in Ukraine

Russian invasion of Ukraine / Viewsridge / Creative Commons.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | March 10, 2012

Many of us in the peace movement have had useful conversations (and debates) stimulated by the war on Ukraine. We are discussing the causes of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, both immediate and historical, and how the peace movement should respond to this important crisis.

I commend the Oliver Stone documentary to all as one detailed and informed narrative of a very complicated Ukrainian history. An important element of Stone’s narrative is the role of Ukrainian neo-fascists who were prominently active in the 2014 coup against the elected Ukraine government. These descendants of World War II neo-Nazis, Stone claims, now serve in the Ukraine army.

Also, most accounts of the Ukraine crisis today ignore the extraordinary expansion of NATO in the 1990s and the 2014 coup against the elected government of Ukraine carried out with the covert support of the United States. Including this in the accounts today adds important context, not for determining good guys and bad guys, but for figuring out what should be done and where peace forces should stand. And to be clear reflection on this context does not deny the immoral and inhumane Russian invasion of Ukraine.

My takeaways so far are the following:

1.Russia has fallen into a trap that will significantly and negatively impact on its economy. It also reduces Russian influence around the world and undermines Russia’s renewed economic ties with countries in the Western Hemisphere.

2.The invasion gives fuel to the emerging anti-China Cold War rhetoric for politicians of both parties and the corporate media who suggest that Taiwan will be next, presumably after a Chinese invasion.

3.The Ukraine war is an enormous plus for military/industrial complexes in the US and in Russia as well.

4.The Ukraine story transforms the global narrative from the critical discussion of exploitation by the Global North of the Global South to the Biden narrative of “authoritarians” vs. “democracies.” For example, see the powerful presentation by V J Prashad of the essential nature of the North/South struggle.

5.The impacts of the debate on progressive forces in the US and elsewhere are potentially devastating. In the US, our discourse is shifting from a progressive agenda including President Biden’s Build Back Better program for example to stories about the relationships between Putin and former President Trump and so-called “national security.”

Biden’s State of the Union address reflects his “shift to the center.” Now we have a cause all Americans can get behind: opposing the Russians. (I am reminded how the Soviet menace in the 1940s was used to defang CIO militancy, the drive for free health care, Henry Wallace’s call for US/Soviet dialogue and, of course, civil rights for all).

I think the Russian invasion and the incomplete and war-oriented narrative of the Ukraine crisis dominating the news from such sources as the Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, and CNN/MSNBC constitute a real setback for us. Media news is a commodity. War and portraits of American exceptionalism are profitable commodities for the increasingly concentrated corporate media.

For these reasons and more, I endorse the Code Pink demands that Russia withdraw its troops from Ukraine and the United States and its allies pull back NATO forces from their presence in Eastern Europe. In addition, diplomatic efforts should ensue to replace NATO with an organization that can provide security for Europe and the Global South. The Code Pink frame gives appropriate recognition to both the immorality of the Russian action and the context, including NATO expansion and the events in Ukraine since 2014.

Finally, I want to reintroduce the concept of “historical memory.” These memories are important for people and they are legitimate ways to think about what needs to change. The historical memory for many Russians probably includes the 27 million of their ancestors killed during World War II largely from invading German armies crossing through Ukraine. I assume that if I were a Russian such a memory would affect how I think about the world. I know from experience how deeply the Holocaust still affects Jewish people even today.

So peace activists will continue to debate root causes of this senseless war and what to do about it. But for now as Cold Pink and others demand: Stop the War, Withdraw Russian Troops From Ukraine, Reverse the Extension of NATO.

[Harry Targ is Professor Emeritus at Purdue University. He taught United States foreign policy, international relations, and Peace Studies. Harry is a co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS). He lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, and blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical.]


Read more articles by Harry Targ on The Rag Blog and listen to Thorne Dreyer’s Rag Radio interviews with Targ.

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3 Responses to HARRY TARG : WAR AND PEACE | Reflections on the War in Ukraine

  1. martin Murray says:

    This is a very informative piece. Stories of good versus evil, heroic and innocent Ukrainians supporting democracy against Russian imperial goals, and the right of nations to join NATO if they wish (remember Cuba and the missile crisis of the early 1960s, and how their sovereign rights were regarded!) have steered us away from a nuanced understanding. The Russian invasion is immoral, horrific, and needs to be condemned and opposed in no uncertain terms. The people of Ukraine do not deserve any of this. But remember “weapons of Mass destruction.” Putin is lying but so was the Bush administration.

  2. Jay Jurie says:

    Good stuff, Harry, but of course I’m biased. Cogently written.

  3. Paul Spencer says:

    Good summary of the situation. I take issue with your paragraph 1., however. Recent history, including Iran’s, shows that the sanctions program is failing and will boomerang on U.S. allies. China’s economic partnership with the RF is growing. India, Pakistan, and other Central and South Asian countries are heading toward trade in national currencies, plus the new Russian and Chinese financial transaction clearing projects. The Belt-and-Road Initiative relies on the Russian-Chinese-Central Asian economic partnership and is moving forward steadily. Offshoots of this will link Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Belarus in the short run and will probably add India, Southeastern Asia, and Afghanistan afterwards. Long-run plans start with Africa, involve South and Central America, and, eventually, will include Europe.

    The main driver, though, for Russian success in dealing with USUK/EU sanctions – besides European needs for Russian commodities – is that the RF is resource-rich, and China is a manufacturing powerhouse. The other countries involved have products, of course, but they have vital needs for the commodities from Russia and the products of China’s industries. That is the formula for survival, perhaps for dominance. It is simple – call it simplistic, if you like – economic logic that actual labor (resource extraction and industrial production) creates value. Ask Marx and Engels. Financial manipulation by our corporatocracy creates and grows social imbalances that will end in revolution. Ask Lenin and Mao.

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