Monday, December 12, 2022

Russian troops out now! Key to peace in Ukraine

  French trade unionists, left MPs, show the way

Paris ukraine demo dec 10

Demonstrators marched to Russian Embassy in Paris December 10 in response to a call issued by major unions and international solidarity activists

I noted recently[1] the mounting calls by a pacifist left for a ceasefire and negotiated “solution” to the war in Ukraine – significantly, calls that have escalated as Ukraine registered some victories in its armed resistance to Russia’s illegal aggression, occupation and annexations. As I said then, absent any call for Russian withdrawal from Ukraine such calls amounted to appeals for Ukraine’s surrender of territory and national sovereignty.

A quite different approach has been taken in France, centered on a call for “The withdrawal of all invading troops from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”[2] Here is the statement published on the eve of the march:

Every war ends one day, any negotiation that would put an end to it will be welcome. But a just and lasting peace will not be established without conditions, it can only be envisaged on the basis of respect for certain elementary principles. A wide group of French politicians, civil society associations, trade unions, intellectuals, artists and representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora are calling for a demonstration for “a just and lasting peace” on Saturday December 10 at 2 p.m. Place du Trocadéro.

An unprecedented humanitarian crisis threatens the people of Ukraine this winter. The conditions of conflict that have prevailed in eastern Ukraine since 2014 has turned into an all-out, “high-intensity” war since the invasion of Ukrainian territory by Putin’s troops on February 24, 2022.

This “special operation” had the explicit goal of overthrowing the Ukrainian government and destroying the Republic of Ukraine as an independent entity. The failure of this first objective led the government of the Russian Federation to modify its objectives and to prolong a brutal war of conquest with the proclamation of the annexation of a large part of Ukrainian territory.

The victims number in the tens of thousands, the displaced persons in the millions, the damage in the tens of billions of euros. The invading forces commit war crimes, and, by their systematic nature, crimes against humanity – such as the destruction of vital infrastructure, the forced displacement and deportation of populations – including children. Not to mention the massive rapes.

In Russia, people are recruited voluntarily or by force to fight a war, which, in different ways, hundreds of thousands of them rightly wish to avoid or courageously oppose head on.

Every war ends one day, any negotiation that would put an end to it will be welcome. But a just and lasting peace will not be established without conditions, it can only be envisaged on the basis of the respect of certain elementary principles:

• The withdrawal of all invading troops from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders;

• The safe return of all refugees and displaced persons;

• Respect for international law, both with regard to the rules of armed conflict (release of prisoners of war) and humanitarian law and the principles of the United Nations Charter and other international documents (including the European Convention on human rights and the founding principles of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe).

Other issues, such as reparations for war damage, possible criminal proceedings before the competent national and international jurisdictions, as well as guarantees of security, freedom of expression of populations and exercise of their individual and collective rights, can be clarified once the above principles have been affirmed and put into practice as quickly as possible.

Support of these objectives by public opinion throughout the world will be an essential element for a just and lasting peace for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia.

Amongst the signatories the trade union leaders, including Phillippe Martinez, of the CGT, Benoît Teste, FSU, Clémentine Autain, the radical left Ensemble! and La France insoumise deputy, Olivier Besancenot of the NPA, and the left philosopher Étienne Balibar, stand out.

France’s largest union, the Confédération générale du travail (CGT), historically associated with the French Communist party, published on September 22 a resolution calling for “stopping Russia in its escalation to total war”:

Since 2014 and in a vastly greater way since February of this year, the consequences of Russian imperialist and warlike aims have provoked:

• several tens of thousands of civilian and military deaths;

• more than 14 million people have left their homes, of which 6 million have found refuge outside the borders of Ukraine, which represents a figure higher than the populations displaced after the Second World War;

• billions of euros in damage to infrastructure and residential areas, with dozens of towns and villages virtually wiped off the map;

• more than half a million Russian citizens have also fled their country and more than 18,000 others have been arrested, including nearly 1,500 in yesterday's demonstrations. Most are awaiting trial, facing sentences of up to 15 years in prison for “expressing pacifist sentiments”;

• the instrumentalization of this war by Western governments, led by the United States, to strengthen armament budgets, the militarization and extension of NATO, instead of the vital investments needed in social and environmental transition ;

• in Belarus, let us recall that the entire leadership of the independent trade union BKDP has been imprisoned since April 19, and incurs very heavy penalties for the same reasons. At the end of last March, during a webinar organized by the CGT with more than twenty Ukrainian trade unionists, Alexandre Yaroshuk, the president of the BKDP intervened with a courageous and moving pacifist declaration. Since mid-April, we have had no news of our comrade Alexandre who was also present at the CGT congresses in Toulouse and Dijon. Let us recall that Belarus still applies the death penalty and that our comrades are under the charge of high treason;

• public and political freedoms in Russia today are non-existent after having been under constant attack throughout the mandates of President Putin;

• as for social and union rights, they are suspended everywhere in this part of the world, because of martial law and the turn towards a war economy;

• finally, the whole planet finds itself taken hostage on the economic level (with the return of high inflation and the uncertainties about access to raw materials and energy), ecological (with the nuclear risk both civilian and military) and humanitarian (with supply difficulties, particularly in agricultural commodities).

Accordingly, the CGT reiterates its support and solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are resisting Russian imperialism. It also stands alongside the Russian citizens who are courageously trying to oppose and demonstrate against the war and who recall these words of Lenin: “The working class, faced with a reactionary and imperialist war led by its government, cannot wish for any other outcome than the defeat of its government.”

Russian troops must leave Ukrainian territory and peace must be restored in the region.

In the following article, Federico Fuentes explains why the statements of support for a negotiated solution to the war by the respective protagonists point irrevocably toward the need for an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. It was published first in Green Left Weekly.

- Richard Fidler

* * *

Ukraine: 'We want genuine peace negotiations, not another “ceasefire” until the next invasion'

By Federico Fuentes, December 8, 2022

The liberation of the southern port city of Kherson in mid-November represented an important victory in Ukraine’s just war of resistance against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion.

The recapture of the only major city seized by Russian forces since February 24 followed the liberation of large swathes of eastern Kharkiv Oblast since September and represents the most significant gain yet of the Ukrainian counter offensive, which began in August.

Kherson locals celebrated and cheered Ukrainian fighters as they entered the city and raised the nation’s flag over Freedom Square on November 11. The images were a stark contrast to the courageous unarmed protests by locals against the arrival of Russia’s occupying forces nine months ago, protests that were subsequently suppressed.

While fighting continues in the Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts, and Russia tries to hold off further Ukrainian advances in Kharkiv and Kherson, Putin has sought to demoralise the Ukrainian people through a mass campaign of aerial destruction that has damaged the majority of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure amid the cold winter.

US open to negotiations

In this context, an increasing number of voices from the United States and Russia have emerged calling for negotiations.

On the US side, the growing cost of the war — in terms of financial aid and depleted military stockpiles — along with pressure from European leaders facing domestic turmoil over rising energy prices, has motivated desires for negotiations.

The most notable of these voices has been US Army General Mark Milley, the highest-ranking US military officer. In a speech to The Economic Club of New York on November 9, Milley said: “There has to be a mutual recognition that military victory, in the true sense of the word, is maybe not achievable through military means, so therefore you need to turn to other means.”

Milley said a window of opportunity for ending the conflict could come when the front lines stabilised in winter: “When there’s an opportunity to negotiate when peace can be achieved, seize it.”

The comments came just days after US President Joe Biden’s top national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, made an unannounced visit to Kyiv. Meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he raised “the need for a diplomatic resolution to the war”, according to a November 10 NBC News report.

Russia seeks ceasefire

Milley’s comments also came as news filtered out of “confidential conversations” between the US and Russia.

The Wall Street Journal reported on November 7 that Sullivan has been in ongoing talks with Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov and Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev to guard “against the risk of escalation”.

Moreover, according to AP News, CIA Director Bill Burns and Russia’s SVR spy agency chief Sergei Naryshkin met on November 14 in the “highest-ranking face-to-face engagement between US and Russian officials” since the start of the war.

The meeting was hosted in Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, after an approach by the US, “signalled a willingness to help broker a deal,” NBC News reported.

Back in mid-October, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said his country was “willing to engage with the United States or with Turkey on ways to end the war”. Absent was any mention of willingness to engage with Ukraine.

A week after Sullivan’s visit to Kyiv, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Russia was “still open to negotiations, we have never refused them, we are ready to conduct them — taking, of course, into account the realities being established at the moment”.

By “realities being established”, Zakharova was referring to Russia’s declared annexation of the Donestsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts following sham referendums organised by its invading forces in September.

At the same time, Russia has faced huge losses in terms of troop numbers and military hardware, and is confronted with rising demoralisation among soldiers on the frontline and growing opposition to the war at home.

Zelensky’s peace proposal

Responding to Sullivan’s calls for a “diplomatic resolution to the war”, Zelensky emphasised, according to NBC News, “that Ukraine had pushed for diplomacy with Russia in the initial months of the war and only took talks with [Putin] off the table following documented atrocities and alleged war crimes that the official said had made talks with Moscow in the near term unpalatable to the Ukrainian public”.

But Zelensky has also warned that, behind talks of negotiations, “Russia is now looking for a short truce, a respite to regain strength”. Addressing the Halifax International Security Forum on November 18, Zelenksy added: “Someone may call [a ceasefire] the war’s end. But such a respite will only worsen the situation.”

“Immoral compromises will only lead to new blood,” he continued, noting an “honest peace” can only be achieved by “the complete demolition of Russian aggression”.

Addressing the G20 summit on November 15, Zelensky laid out Ukraine’s proposal for peace: “To liberate our entire land from [Russia], we will still have to fight for a while longer ... However, if victory will be ours in any case — and we are sure of that — then shouldn't we try to implement our formula for peace to save thousands of lives and protect the world from further destabilisations?”

Zelensky’s formula is based on a ten-point plan that addresses: radiation and nuclear safety; food security; energy security; release of all prisoners and deported persons; implementation of the United Nations Charter and restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the world order; withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities; restoration of justice; countering ecocide; preventing escalation; and confirmation of the end of the war.

Zelensky said negotiations had “to be public, not behind the scenes” and that “this aggressive Russian war [had] to end justly and on the basis of the UN Charter and international law”.

“If Russia opposes our peace formula, you will see that it only wants war.”

Ukrainian socialists

In an article published on the website of Ukrainian socialist group Social Movement, Denys Bondar and Zakhar Popovych outlined their organisation’s view on prospects for peace negotiations.

“All wars, of course, end in negotiations. Ukraine has always clearly emphasised that it has no intention to march on Moscow and force a full and unconditional surrender.”

But they note that “there is a consensus in Ukrainian society that to achieve peace it is necessary to expel the Russian army from the country (by destroying it, if possible) and to ‘demilitarise’ the Russian Federation, at least until it can no longer shell peaceful Ukrainian cities and blackmail us by depriving us of electricity, water and heating…”

Furthermore, they add, those opposing “some territorial concessions for the sake of peace” has risen to 87% of the population, with the “overwhelming majority of respondents in all regions of Ukraine” and “representatives of all major ethnic and linguistic groups” included in this group, according to a recent Kyiv Institute of Sociology poll.

“Those people in the US, Europe, and the world who truly want peace talks to begin must, at a minimum, demand an immediate end to the destruction of Ukraine's critical infrastructure by Russian missiles and the restoration of normal electricity and heat to the population...

“Instead of wasting time talking about what the world needs to convince Zelensky of, it would be better to first convince the governments of the world to stop buying Russian oil and gas and provide Ukraine with missile defence systems and at least a couple thousand industrial transformers to restore normal electricity, water and heat supply...”

“It cannot be ruled out that if the Russians publicly offered to discuss a peace plan that would include the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and the prospects of restoring the territorial integrity of the country, Ukrainians might agree to some negotiations.

“But no proposals that include the withdrawal of Russian troops are currently being voiced. De facto, the Russians ‘offer negotiations’ only on the cessation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive until they can accumulate forces…”

Summarising the stance of the majority of Ukrainians, they write: “There is no certainty that Russian authorities even understand that Zelensky cannot simply sign whatever he wants, and that even Biden cannot force Zelensky to sign an agreement that will not be approved by the majority of Ukrainians…

“Ukrainians want peace, not another ‘ceasefire’ that will last until the next invasion. Campaigning for peace is actually being conducted even in mainstream Ukrainian media, but trust in peace negotiations and lasting peace are impossible without public discussion of its terms.

“Editor-in-chief of Ukrainian Pravda, Sevgil Musaeva, a Ukrainian of Crimean Tatar origin — despite what the postponement of the Crimea issue means for her personally — does not reject negotiations, but calls for a public formulation of fair peace terms, because if ‘Ukrainian society does not feel justice, any agreements are doomed from the beginning’

“We, Ukrainian socialists, must now watch carefully to ensure no one forgets that peace negotiations must be public and only public, and only on terms acceptable to Ukrainians. Only in this way can we count on a just and lasting peace.”

[1] See my introduction to “Navigating the Left’s Ukraine Debate,”

[2] Initial signatories: Union des Ukrainiens de France - Russie Liberté - Socialistes russes contre la guerre - – Association des Géorgiens en France - Géorgie vue de France - Collectif pour un Syrie libre et démocratique CPSLD - A Manca - Assemblée européenne des citoyens – Association autogestion - Aplutsoc - ATTAC France - Cedetim - Club Politique Bastille - Confédération générale du travail (CGT) - Coopératives Longo Maï – Éditions Syllepse - Émancipation Lyon 69 - Ensemble ! - Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV) - Entre les lignes entre les mots - Fondation Copernic – Forum civique européen – Fédération syndicale unitaire (FSU) - Gauche démocratique et sociale - Gauche écosocialiste - L’Insurgé - Les Humanités - Mémorial 98 - Mouvement national lycéen (MNL) - Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) - Pour une écologie populaire & sociale (PEPS) - Rejoignons- nous - Réseau syndical international de solidarité et de luttes – RESU France (Réseau européen de solidarité avec l’Ukraine) - Réseau Penser l’émancipation - Union syndicale Solidaires.

1 comment:

  1. Important news from France plus another excellent, thorough article on the issue of negotiations. thanks! Richard