Two statements on Ukraine


Military posturing fans the flames of war in Europe

Keir Starmer has chosen the moment of mounting tensions over Ukraine to announce that “Labour’s commitment to Nato is unshakable”, attempting to justify his stance with selective and inaccurate statements about the defensive and democratic character of the North Atlantic Alliance and accusing those who disagree of showing solidarity with Putin.

Nato is not “a defensive alliance that has never provoked conflict” nor does it provide a “guarantee of democracy and security|” as the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere will readily testify, whose countries have been shattered and lives destroyed by two decades of war.

Neither has Nato “ushered in what is now approaching three-quarters of a century of peace between the nations of Europe”. Nato’s bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999 was the first military attack on a sovereign European country since the end of World War II. It took place without UN approval and is widely regarded as illegal under international law.

Even Denis Healey, who Starmer describes as a “giant of the Labour movement,” argued: “It was a terrible mistake to attack a sovereign state without even consulting the United Nations… we should have asked Richard Holbrooke [US ambassador to the UN] to have another go at negotiation.”

In contradistinction to the benign picture Starmer seeks to paint, Nato’s evolution includes:

  • The North Atlantic Alliance is a nuclear-armed alliance committed to using nuclear weapons pre-emptively in a military conflict whether or not its adversaries possess nuclear weapons. Since the 1950s, Nato has rejected successive calls to adopt a nuclear no-first use policy.
  • Declassified US documents testify to the fact that the use of nuclear weapons was actively considered during Nato’s first military engagement, the Korean war of 1950-53.
  • The Warsaw Pact dissolved in July 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By contrast Nato extended its area of operations. In the ensuing three decades, it has expanded its mission statement and enlarged its membership.
  • There are currently 30 Nato member states. Additionally, Nato works with 40 non-member partner states across the globe on a wide range of political and security-related issues. Full Nato members in East Europe include Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Rumania, and Albania, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania which border Russia. Nato partners with borders on Russia include Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Russia’s near abroad – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – are also Nato partners.
  • Three Nato members are nuclear weapons states – Britain, France and the US. Five European members – Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey – host US nuclear weapons on their territories and are pledged to deploy them if Nato so commands.

Tensions between Nato and Russia have been building for three decades. Ukraine must not become the pretext for a military clash between two nuclear armed adversaries.

Labour CND calls for de-escalation and dialogue, not a build-up of armaments and troops leading to the brink of a war in which the people of Ukraine will be the losers. This is a strategy of sanity, in contrast to the military posturings of Britain and the US which fan the flames of war in Europe.

Statement launched by the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign


We, socialists, trade unionists, scholars, activists for human rights, social justice and peace, stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine against Russian imperialism.

The international left and labour movement must vigorously oppose Russia’s threats against Ukraine.

We say neither Washington nor Moscow. We oppose the policy and manoeuvrings of the big Western powers and NATO.

But currently it is Russia that is threatening the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination and challenging their legitimacy as an independent nation.

It is Russia that has massed troops on Ukraine’s borders; Russia that has annexed Crimea and persecuted the Crimean Tatars; and Russia that has organised an eight-year war in eastern Ukraine leading to 14,000 deaths, 30,000 wounded and 1.9 million displaced people on the Ukrainian side alone.

Subjugated by Russian Tsarist and Stalinist rulers, for centuries Ukraine was the object of exploitation and national oppression, its culture and language subject to discrimination. Millions perished at the hands of the Kremlin.

We call for peace through self-determination of the Ukrainian people. That does not mean support for the current government of Ukraine or the capitalist oligarchs it serves.

Despite its rhetoric, self-evidently the Russian government is interested in neither democracy nor opposing fascism. The Russian government actively promotes pro-Russian sections of the far right in occupied eastern Ukraine and other parts of Europe; and its anti-Ukrainian policy strengthens the hand of far-right Ukrainian nationalists too.

We hail the brave internationalists in Russia protesting against Putin’s war politics. We demand the release of Russian political prisoners.

We stand in solidarity with socialists, trade unionists and activists for democratic and human rights who, who can bring real progress – in Ukraine and in Russia..

We demand the withdrawal of Russia’s troops from the Ukrainian borders and occupied territories, and an end to Russian interference in Ukraine.

Initial signatories

Clockwise: Nadia Whittome MP for Nottingham EastRachael Maskell MP for York CentralClive Lewis MP for Norwich SouthClaudia Webbe MP for Leicester EastJohn McDonnell MP  for Hayes and Harlington.

Sign the international statement of solidarity click the link here:

Image: Ukraine (claims hatched) in Europe. Author: TUBS, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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