In the War in Ukraine, Which Side Are You On?

By Stephen Gowans

May 1, 2022

What’s more important? Addressing the climate emergency or entangling Russia in an exhausting war? For Washington—which plans to invest more in keeping the war in Ukraine going than in arresting the threat to humanity of climate change—the answer is the latter.

To avert a war in Ukraine, the US could have accepted Russia’s reasonable proposals for a new security architecture in Europe. It declined. Now that war has broken out, it could be working on a negotiated peace in Ukraine. (Even the IMF urges it to do so.) Washington prefers not to.

Instead, the US is investing heavily in keeping the war going as long as possible, in order, it says, to weaken Russia. The US lured Russia into the trap of war. Moscow stupidly took the bait. Now, much of the world, arms manufacturers excepted, suffer.

In what does the contest between the US and Russia originate?

It originates in a struggle over the questions of whether:

  • The profit-making opportunities of Ukraine will belong to the EU or a customs union with Russia.
  • Europe will depend for its energy on US-controlled suppliers or Russia.

Which side do you want to be on?

  • The side seeking Ukraine’s integration into the EU and Europe’s energy dependence on US-controlled suppliers?
  • The side seeking Ukraine’s integration into a customs union with Russia and Europe’s continued energy dependence on Russia?

In other words, whose billionaires are more important to you? The US’s or Russia’s?

Or are billionaires, and their contests for profits on a world scale, the problem? And is choosing sides in their contests, rather than eliminating them altogether, a grave error?

The war in Ukraine offers no benefit to ordinary people that I can think of.

But it does present multiple harms:

  • Higher energy and food costs.
  • A migrant crisis.
  • Supply chain disruptions.
  • A significantly heightened risk of nuclear war.
  • Higher government expenditures on arms at the expense of spending on health care, education, housing, and addressing the climate emergency.

Ordinary Ukrainians face the threats of death, injury, homelessness, and economic harm. The standard of living of ordinary Russians is declining, and will decline further. There is nothing good in this war for ordinary people, anywhere.

What’s more, based on the way the war is unfolding, it appears that the United States and NATO will emerge stronger. Anyone who thinks this war will be a blow to US primacy is sorely mistaken.

Who could possibly support this war?  The answer is:

  • Investors in arms and energy companies.
  • Investors in businesses that stand to gain from securing new profit-making opportunities in Ukraine.
  • Operatives of any of the belligerent states.

Alongside these bourgeois supporters of the war, stand a few proletarian supporters. Among them are:

  • The ignorant.
  • The confused.
  • Class traitors.
  • People who pose as socialists, peace-activists, or “independent journalists,” but are in reality propagandists of the belligerent governments.

The only wars worth supporting are wars against oppression. The struggle between Washington and Moscow for control of Ukraine and the supply of energy to Europe does not fall into this category.  Ukrainians are not oppressing Russians.

Choosing sides in a contest between national groups of billionaires vying for business opportunities in Ukraine and Europe is, for ordinary people, an exercise in self-harm. If we’re going to chose a side in a war, let it be the side of you and me, not the side of billionaires.

And let the war be a battle against the menaces of climate change, precarious work, unaffordable housing, exploitation, racial oppression, and pandemics, not a contest over whether US billionaires or Russian billionaires will dominate Ukraine’s profit-making opportunities and the European energy market.