Why the Russian Federation Recognized the Independence Movements in the Donbas

“Minsk, Minsk, Minsk,” they cried after Russia recognized Donetsk and Luhansk. But those Western diplomats and pundits did not hear those of us in the Anti-war, pro-peace and anti-imperialist movements who insisted that Minsk II was the only conceivable way out of the crisis!

There will be reams of words attempting to provide a coherent analysis of the manufactured crisis dramatically unfolding in Ukraine, which took another unanticipated turn when Russia extended recognition to the Peoples’ Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the territory referred to as the Donbas in Eastern Ukraine.

I will not add to that mountain of ink because, for me, the story is relatively simple. I have argued since 2015 that it was greed informed by miscalculations that drove the U.S. — with the support of European capital salivating from prospect of profits generated by gaining full control of the Ukrainian economy through the European Association agreement — to decide to overthrow the government of Viktor Yanukovych when he turned to Russia instead of surrendering Ukrainian sovereignty to U.S. and European capital.

This was the genesis of the crisis. For U.S. policymakers it did not matter that the coup government was made up of literal neo-Nazis and extremist white supremacists and antisemitic ultra-nationalists from the neo-Nazi Svoboda party — the National Socialist Party of Ukraine.

Nor was there any concern that one of the former commanders of the Azov Battalion, a violent right-wing gang that was merged into the Ukrainian National Guard and is now being trained by the British, said that Ukraine’s mission is to “lead in a final crusade … against the Semite-led Untermenschen” (sub-humans).

No concern because aligning with rightist elements in order to advance the economic and geostrategic interests of the U.S. state and capitalist class behind the backs of the U.S. public is nothing new. That is why it is so ironic, or perhaps contradictory, that while Democratic Party activists are mobilized to struggle against the far-right in the U.S., Biden’s Ukrainian policies are affirming once again that the neoliberal right does not mind aligning with naked fascism to advance the imperial interests of capital.

From rightist Islamic forces to right-wing apartheid state of Israel, to anti-democratic monarchs of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), there is usually never a state too odious for the U.S. to deal with as long as there was the possibility of a buck to be made.

That is why it is almost surreal to read U.S. propaganda messages that still frame U.S. intentions in themes that suggest a benevolent character to U.S. behavior — and getting away with it! And even among African/Black radicals who should know better, instead of educating Africans on what was in play in Ukraine with the expansion of the white supremacist NATO structure, the gangster move being made on Ukraine in order for U.S. capital to continue to assert control over the European market, and the crude attempt to divert attention away from the failures of Biden’s domestic policies — some Africans, along with elements of the white left, were more interested in having abstract discussions on the class nature of the Russian state and economy — as if there was anything to debate there!

Like other subversive actions by the U.S. state, the destabilization and then capturing of the Ukrainian state, and the installation of a puppet government had nothing to do with any concerns for democracy. It is impossible for the U.S. to be concerned about democracy when it is the principal state undermining democracy around the world. If the U.S. were committed to upholding democratic processes, it would not have overthrown a democratically elected government in Ukraine.

And U.S. policy certainly did not reflect any concern for human rights in Ukraine. The war that was sparked after the coup government decided to attack its own citizens in the Donbas who rejected its legitimacy resulted in thousands of Ukrainians losing their lives.

The U.S. was not concerned with the territorial integrity of Ukraine either, because it was the coup government, backed by their bosses in Washington, that forced the separation of the Donbas from Ukraine by defining them as non-Ukrainians. Ukrainian citizens in Donbas became “pro-Russia separatists and terrorists,” which made them eligible for massive human rights violations, including murder as foreign entities.

Yet, with all of that, up until February 21, 2022 the 57th anniversary of the assassination of the Black internationalist revolutionary Malcolm X, a route to a peaceful resolution to the crisis existed — the Minsk II agreement.  It was the Minsk II agreement, put in place after the independent republics fought the Ukrainian neo-fascists to a military stand-still, along with provisions for a ceasefire, that provided a path to peaceful resolution. The agreement would have provided political autonomy for the Donbas within the Ukrainian state, thus preserving the existing borders of Ukraine before the coup of 2014.

Unfortunately, with the election of Joe Biden, who was the Obama administration’s point person on Ukraine, the Democrats immediately picked-up where U.S. policy left off in 2016 and started to encourage the Ukrainian government to ignore the Minsk II agreement and to consider taking back the Donbas by force.

Today, after the U.S. flooded Ukraine with weapons, including long-range artillery that was introduced into the conflict area in violation of the Minsk ceasefire deal, the deployment of 150,000 Ukrainian troops positioned along the contact line between Ukraine and Donbas, and the shelling from the Ukrainian forces right during the period that the U.S. predicted that Russia would invade, the Minsk agreement has become another casualty of war.

On February 18, 2022, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated that he was “alarmed” by a reported spike in Ukrainian artillery attacks against rebels in the eastern region of Donbas with weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreement. Reports from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which was tasked with the responsibility, since 2015, to monitor and report on violations of the agreement, indicated that in Donetsk, between February 18 and February 20, 2022, there were 591 ceasefire violations, and in Luhansk it recorded 975 ceasefire violations, including 860 explosions.

What was the response from the Ukraine government? The government claims that OSCE is biased because the data it is gathering seems to indicate that it is the Ukrainian forces that are responsible for the increase in military actions.

But that controversy and debate over that data failed to find itself in the daily coverage of the situation by the Western press, even though the empirical data clearly showed that Ukrainian forces were responsible for escalating the military engagement.

Ukraine is just the symptom; the Disease is U.S. Doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance”

The U.S. has its pretext to move the Europeans to impose economic sanctions against Russia, even though it is clear to many in Europe that the Biden administration’s policies are no more than the “liberal” version of “America First” as it relates to Europe.

European capital, especially the Germans, are expected to take another hit for the team like it did during the first round of sanctions against Russia and the money they all lost with the Trump administration’s abrogation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran Nuclear Deal).

The capitalist oligarchy that is the base of Putin’s governing coalition may understand something that U.S. policymakers in their arrogance are underestimating, namely, that European capital is getting closer to a breaking point with the U.S., especially when money can be made in a context of relative stability in Europe as opposed to the destabilizing effects of conflict.

They also know that the world is changing and that multipolarity is rapidly becoming the new reality and that European capital will have to make careful choices.

China is the number one trade and investment partner with the European Union states, the Chinese inspired “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ” is the largest “free trade” agreement on the planet constituting one third of humanity and one third of global GDP. Russia is sitting on top of the Eurasia Economic Union that, in terms of land, is the largest trade union on the planet, and, of course, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

The Russian recognition of the republics of Donbas was no more than the open acknowledgment of the dismembering of Ukraine. A process that started with the U.S. coup and the imposition of a government that completely turned over Ukrainian sovereignty to U.S. and European capital.

The lesson for the colonized, working classes and nationally oppressed? Authentic national liberation, people(s)-centered human rights, and self-determination for peoples and nations are impossible in a world in which capitalist competition and war are the defining characteristics of global relations.

We must, as we say in the Black is Back Coalition and the Black Alliance for Peace, turn imperialist wars into wars against imperialism! That is our task and responsibility. To do otherwise is to fail the historical mission of our generation.

Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the U.S. based United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) and the steering committee of the Black is Back Coalition. Read other articles by Ajamu, or visit Ajamu's website.