Ukraine: Positions of the European left

See also "France: Parti de Gauche leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Ukraine". For more on Ukraine, click HERE.

March 21, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A number of European left parties have released statements on the developments in Ukraine, Crimea and the region. Unless otherwise stated, they have been translated by Dick Nichols, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal and Green Left Weekly correspondent in Europe. There are statements from Déi Lénk (The Left), Luxemburg; Sortu, the radical left Basque Country party; the Communist Party of France; the Communist Party of Spain; and Gregor Gysi, chair of Germany's Die Linke (The Left). More will be added as they come to hand.

Déi Lénk: Against simplifications, for the democratic rule of the people

Statement of Déi Lénk (The Left), Luxembourg

March 4, 2014 -- The Ukraine has been struggling for years against oligarchs of all stripes, those who govern or have governed in the geostrategic interests of both Russia and the West. These struggles to control the Ukraine are the origin of the current chain of events. We refuse any sort of simplification and are pleased that all political forces in Luxembourg reject any black-and-white approach.

The most immediate danger is that of a Russian intervention in the Crimea, which violates all the international guarantees that Russia itself gave in 1994. There is a risk that this incursion will spread to other regions of Ukraine. That is why we must support any initiative for dialogue and cooperation that will ensure peace.

Meanwhile, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the United States seek to take advantage of the plight of the Ukraine to offer – or impose –"help" at a price of neoliberal reforms, whose character is known from their application in Greece, Portugal and elsewhere. We reject the Ukraine becoming the object of a geopolitical struggle between the European Union and Russia, each driven by its own interests. Any help to the country should be given unconditionally.

We therefore likewise condemn both the armed Russian intervention as well as the scheming of certain Western powers, particularly in order to integrate Ukraine into NATO.

Russia seeks to justify its intervention in the Ukraine with the danger of fascism. There are fascists in the Ukraine and we strongly condemn their actions. We find particularly disturbing the presence in the new government of members of the Svoboda party. But we do not accept the conflation of the extreme right with the mass movement that overthrew Yanukovich, just as we do not accept the amalgam between the interim government and the people of Maidan Square.

It is for the Ukrainian people and them alone to democratically decide their future, including the question of relations with the EU, Russia and other countries. It is important to support all initiatives of civil society in support of social rights and democratic freedoms. These struggles are shared by people around the world should be linked up.

We therefore condemn both the Russian army and the manoeuvrings of the Western powers. We demand respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine and for the inviolability of its borders.


Sortu: On the situation in Crimea and the Ukraine

Statement by the Basque left-independentist party Sortu

Basque Country, March 13, 2014 -- In a brief reflection issued by Sortu on February 25, we express our concern at the political events that were taking place at that time in the Ukraine.

Besides the new authorities in Kiev being of questionable legitimacy, we considered that the participation of the far right in that “government” and its exclusionary political agenda posed a risk of escalating conflict.

Unfortunately, our concerns have come true and a real and inclusive democratic process has not developed. On the contrary, the situation of political confrontation and tension has increased and the will of the majority of citizens in the areas south and east of Kiev has not been respected.

Although predictable, the mobilisation and intervention of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is not acceptable. We denounce that intervention. It’s with great difficulty that militaristic outlooks and actions will bring about anything useful along the road to overcoming the conflict.

On the other hand, we also denounce the irresponsible policy of the European Union and the United States, which have not been able to curb the dangerous political path taken by the new authorities in Kiev and generally have supported its political agenda.

Sortu reaffirms that both in the Ukraine and elsewhere popular sovereignty and democratic debate must be the key to the resolution of existing conflicts -- without any outside intervention.

In no way can geostrategic interests take precedence over democratic processes. In that sense, Sortu considers that the right of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to freely determine its future should be recognised. Limits cannot be put on the expression of the democratic will of peoples, provided that all the civil and political rights of all citizens are respected.

In the case of Crimea, the referendum to be held on March 16 and the application of its results must respect the rights and participation of all citizens and especially the Tartar peoples.

In the discussion over the legality of that decision-making process, we would like to recall that relations between peoples must be understood from the bottom up and on the basis of respect for the democratic application of the right to self-determination. In no instance, in accordance with the geopolitical and economic interests of the moment.

The political tensions unleashed in the Ukraine and neighbouring countries can have serious consequences if the parties, both internal and external, do not act responsibly. There is a looming risk of civil and armed conflict. We therefore call on all parties to take measures to prevent this from happening. The future of all Europeans is at risk.

As we anticipated in our February 25 reflection, Sortu demands that all forces outside the Ukraine cease their political interference in the country. Their intervention should be limited to facilitating a process of democratic discussion, leaving aside geopolitical interests.

In these critical moments, Sortu believes that all citizens and political actors in the Ukraine and Crimea must act responsibly, in an effort to ensure that current discussions develop according to democratic precepts.


Ukraine: Statement of Communist Party of France

March 3, 2014 -- Through its national secretary, Pierre Laurent, senator for Paris, the French Communist Party today asked President François Hollande that no decision be taken by France in the Ukrainian crisis without consultation with party leaders and the heads of their parliamentary fractions.

For three months now the Ukraine has been under the fire of a merciless power struggle by its oligarchies, all equally greedy and corrupt, and enriched thanks to the neoliberal policies supported by both the European Union and Russia.

The European Union, Russia and the United States, either directly or through NATO, have engaged in verbal overkill, shows of force and military escalation. Trapped between the plague and the cholera lies the Ukrainian people.

The backdrop to this dynamic is the strategic stake that the Ukraine represents for the great powers who are engaged in a fierce economic war. Seventy per cent of Russian gas and oil passes through the Ukraine, and Europe accounts for 90% of purchases of Russian oil. What we are seeing is not the return of the Cold War but a fight within the G8 between the United States, supported by the EU and served by NATO, and Russia, to preserve or conquer their place among the world powers.

Like Germany, which is putting a contact group in place, France should play a leading role in distinguishing itself clearly from NATO and in stopping the military escalation. France’s goal should be to contribute to a process that leads to the eventual withdrawal of all foreign military forces now present on Ukrainian soil.

Ukraine should not serve as a "buffer zone" or "militarised zone", single or divided in two, where Americans, Europeans and Russians test out their strength at the expense of the Ukrainians.

France must also have as primary goal the establishment in the Ukraine of a genuine democratic process that allows the Ukrainian people to regain full control of their destiny.

The new oligarchic faction running things today has called an election for May 25 in a highly tense situation where the extreme right and neo-Nazi groups lay down the opposition’s political line and create a reign of terror in the country.

Neither France nor the EU can be part of such an approach. They should rather be helping the democratic forces, exposed to the violence of the extreme right, to get the upper hand in order to undertake a genuine process of democratic, social and constitutional reform. France should support democratic and progressive Ukrainian forces that advocate that the Ukrainian people vote by referendum on the reforms to be undertaken.

The war dynamic and the cynical head-to-head "West"-Russia clash must be defused. In order to support the efforts of the UN and its secretary general, who today meets the Russian minister of foreign affairs, France should take the initiative of calling for the convening of a round table under the auspices of the UN and its Security Council meeting on the Ukraine, where the EU, United States and Russia have to reach agreement on a political exit to the crisis based on two immediate points: stopping the military escalation and the establishment of the democratic process.

France, finally, has a special responsibility to ensure that the European Union should thoroughly review its relations with Russia and work with her to develop a good neighbourhood policy that overcomes the tensions and breaches of the past by establishing a high-level partnership based on economic, political and cultural exchanges within a common security framework requiring the withdrawal of foreign armed forces from the Ukraine.

France must speak with its own voice for peace and democracy.


Communist Party of Spain on the situation in the Ukraine

By Jose L. Gomez Centella, general secretary

March 2, 2014 -- The dramatic situation the Ukraine is experiencing, which has brought the country to the brink of civil war, threatening its territorial integrity as well as its very existence as a sovereign state, not only springs from the internal division between supporters of integration into the European Union and those who prefer a Ukraine linked to Russia.

It is ambiguous in character, given that it cannot be denied that the participation in [the protest movements] of a great number of people reflects the deep discontent of a part of society with the policies of the Yanukovych regime and its milieu, which showed incompetence at the time of governing the country. Yanukovych fulfilled none of his election promises and in cowardly fashion abandoned his post at the most difficult moment, an act that has alienated the majority of his voters and supporters.

However, these demonstrations are not to be explained solely by this discontent, nor, as the Communist Party of the Ukraine has reported, do they have the character of a class confrontation. This bloody struggle has arisen between two groups from the same class of exploiters, with the winning side of pro-Western forces and ultra-right nationalists imposing itself in violent fashion through a veritable coup d’etat. These forces knew how to cleverly exploit the discontent of the people and with their support perpetrate a violent coup.

At the same time, the West, without any respect for forms, has decided to give direct support to the conduct of the ultra-right forces, in the interests of the goal of bringing about a profound shift in the situation in Europe. Their ambition is to destroy the economic, cultural and social ties of Russia with a part of the Ukrainian people so as to prevent the consolidation of Russia as a counterforce contesting the hegemony of the Troika in Eastern Europe, and through its subjection to the European Union to deliver the Ukraine as a new protectorate to the US, NATO, the IMF and various multinationals.

The conduct of far-right wing groups, headed by openly neo-Nazi forces and ideological heirs of the Nazi forces that occupied the Ukraine during the Second World War, is being accompanied by a new and extremely dangerous resurgence of anti-communist violence. This is manifest in the widespread destruction of existing monuments to Lenin and to the heroes of World War II, together with criminal attacks on the headquarters of the Communist Party of Ukraine in Kiev and in other towns in the country. Reaching the extreme of demanding the outlawing of the CP itself, this conduct leaves no room for doubt as to the nature of the forces that have acquired power in the Ukraine.

The Communist Party of Spain therefore calls for solidarity with the Communist Party of the Ukraine, denouncing the hypocrisy and cynicism of those who have supported if not directly encouraged the coup carried out in the Ukraine, and demanding of the European Union the greatest possible involvement in a peaceful and democratic solution to the situation.

At the same time the PCE warns of the danger that the advance of neo-Nazi forces, encouraged by the complicity of the West, represents in the Ukraine, denouncing the threat entailed to real democracy, rights and freedoms, not only in the Republic of the Ukraine but in Europe as a whole.

Finally, the PCE denounces this latest attempt by international capital to subject the future of the Ukraine to the mandate of NATO and the IMF, with all that we know that means in terms of growth of unemployment, non-payment of wages and pensions, price rises and the widespread impoverishment of the bulk of the population.

It reaffirms its solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and with the Communist Party of the Ukraine in its struggle for peace and well-being and for the sovereignty and independence of its country.


Die Linke's Gregor Gysi: 'Diplomacy is the only way'

Text and translation from The Bullet

The following is the text from a speech delivered on March 13, 2014, by Gregor Gysi, prominent member of the German Left Party (Die Linke). As the chair of the largest opposition party in the Bundestag, Gregor Gysi has the right to be the first to respond to Angela Merkel. In his address to the Bundestag, Gysi sharply criticises Germany and other Western countries, as well as Russia, for their intervention in Ukraine. He points to a new power struggle between the United States and Russia and to violations of international law by all sides. In addition, he draws specific attention to the positions of power obtained in the new Ukrainian government by known fascists. The speech was given just days before Crimeans voted in a referendum to secede from Ukraine; a referendum Gysi considers to be illegitimate.

* * *

Mr. President! Ladies and Gentlemen! [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to solve the entire crisis in Ukraine militarily. He has not understood that humanity's problems are to be solved neither with soldiers nor with guns, quite the contrary. Even Russia's problems cannot be solved like this. His thinking and actions are wrong and are strongly condemned by us.

It is however the same thinking that dominated and dominates in the West: in the cases of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The confrontation between systems has been replaced by the conflicts of interests between the USA and Russia. The Cold War is over but such conflicts of interest can lead to similar traits.

The USA wants to gain more influence and defend existing influence, and Russia wants to gain more influence and defend existing influence. For Russia I use the keywords: Georgia, Syria, Ukraine.

Even though we condemn Putin's action we must see how it has come to this entire escalation and confrontation. I'll tell you quite clearly: Everything that NATO and the EU could have done wrong, they did do wrong. Common European Home?

I'll begin with [former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail] Gorbachev in the year 1990. He proposed a common European home, the disbanding of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and a concept of “Common Security” with Russia. NATO rejected this. It said: Disbanding the Warsaw Pact is okay, but NATO will remain. And out of the defensive alliance NATO, an alliance for intervention was created.

The second mistake: in the preparation for German unity the US foreign minister, our then former foreign minister [Hans Dietrich] Genscher and other foreign ministers declared to Gorbachev that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO. This promise has been broken. There was a forceful expansion of NATO in the direction of Russia.

The former US defence secretary Robert Gates described the hasty absorption of the Eastern European states into NATO as a serious mistake, and the attempt by the West to invite Ukraine into NATO as a serious provocation. Not I, but the former US defence secretary said this.

And third, is the decision to station missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russian government stated: This affects our security interests; we do not want this. This did not interest the West at all. It was nevertheless done.

Furthermore, in connection with the war in Yugoslavia, NATO seriously violated international law repeatedly. This is acknowledged now also by the then Chancellor [Gerhard] Schröder. Serbia had not attacked any other country, and there was no resolution from the UN Security Council. It was nevertheless bombed with the participation of Germany for the first time since 1945. And the residents of Kosovo were permitted to decide on secession from Serbia in a referendum.

At the time I strongly criticised the violation of international law and told you: You are opening a Pandora's Box with Kosovo; for if this is permitted in Kosovo, you will have to allow it in other regions. You insulted me. You did not take it seriously, and indeed because you believed that being victors in the Cold War the old standards no longer apply to you. I can tell you: The Basques are asking why they are not allowed a referendum on whether they want to belong to Spain or not. The Catalans are asking why they are not allowed a referendum on whether they want to belong to Spain or not. Naturally the residents of Crimea are also now asking that.

Through the violation of international law via customary law you can also create new international law; this you know. I remain of the opinion however that the secession of Crimea would be contrary to international law, just as the secession of Kosovo was.

But I knew Putin would refer to Kosovo, and he has indeed done so. Ms. Chancellor, you now say: The situation is however a completely different one. That may be. But you fail to recognise: Violation of international law is violation of international law. My dear Ms. [Claudia] Roth, just ask a judge, whether theft for a noble motive in comparison with theft for an ignoble motive is not theft. He will tell you: It remains theft. That is the problem.

At one time Mr. [Peter] Struck declared: Germany must protect its security in the Hindu Kush. Putin now declares: Russia must protect its security in the Crimea. Incidentally, Germany did not have a navy in the Hindu Kush and was also considerably further away. Nevertheless I say: Both propositions were, and are false.

Yet the following also remains: When the many violators of international law accuse international law violator Russia, of violating international law, this is not particularly effective or credible. This is the fact with which we are dealing.

[US President Barack] Obama spoke just like you Ms. Chancellor, about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Yet both these principles were violated in Serbia, in Iraq and in Libya. The West believes it can violate international law because the Cold War is over. We have grossly underestimated Chinese and Russian interests. You no longer took Russia under Yeltsin, who was frequently drunk, seriously. Yet the situation has changed. Much too late you now again invoke the principles of international law that emerged in the Cold War. I am very much in favour that they once again apply – but for everyone! It is not possible otherwise.

Tug-of-war over Ukraine

Then there was the tug-of-war between the EU and Russia over the Ukraine. Both think and act alike. Barroso, the head of the EU Commission said: Either a customs union with Russia or treaties with us! He did not say: “Both” but “Either -– Or!” Putin said: Either treaties with the EU or with us! Both thought and acted similarly. This was a disastrous mistake by both sides.

Not one EU foreign minister attempted to speak with the Russian government and to even take note of the legitimate security interests of Russia.

Yet Russia fears that after closer ties with the EU, NATO will come to Ukraine. It feels increasingly encircled. But what took place was only the tug-of-war over Ukraine.

The EU and NATO foreign ministers took absolutely no account of the history of Russia and Ukraine. They never understood the significance of Crimea for Russia. Ukrainian society is deeply divided.

Even that was not taken into account. This division was already visible in the Second World War and is visible now. Eastern Ukraine leans toward Russia. Western Ukraine leans toward Western Europe. There is at the moment no political personality in the Ukraine, who could represent both sections of society. This is a sad truth.

Then there is the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE. You have badly neglected them in recent times, Ms. Chancellor and Mr. Foreign Minister. The funding for these organisations was repeatedly slashed because you thought they are not important. Yet these are the only European organisations in which Russia as well as Ukraine are members. We must therefore strengthen these organisations again, also financially, and we must not babble on about an exclusion of Russia; this is completely off the mark.

We also witnessed a sharp escalation on Maidan. We witnessed snipers and many dead. There are many rumours. In such a situation many lies abound. Therefore we propose implementing an international investigation committee. We, but above all Ukrainians, have a right to learn what happened there and who is responsible for what. I am glad that you, Ms. Chancellor, support this.

There were many democratic forces on Maidan, but also fascists. The West was involved directly and indirectly.

Foreign minister Steinmeier, the French and Polish foreign ministers concluded an agreement with [former President of Ukraine, Viktor] Yanukovych and the opposition. Now you say, Mr. Foreign Minister, that Yanukovych invalidated the agreement with his flight. This is false. The people on Maidan rejected the agreement with a huge majority, and you, Mr. Foreign Minister, also, did not campaign on Maidan for this agreement.

Only after the rejection did Yanukovych leave Kiev.

Then the parliament convened and voted him out of office with 72.88 per cent. Yet the constitution stipulates 75 per cent. Now Mr. Röttgen and others say: Well, in a revolution one cannot adhere strictly to the constitution. A few small percentages more or less... you can indeed do anything. Yet, Putin invoked it and said: “There was no constitutional majority for the removal,” and relied on correspondence that Yanukovych sent him.

Moreover, during the vote in parliament gunmen mingled about. That is not particularly democratic. In the referendum this coming Sunday [March 16] in Crimea armed soldiers will also mingle about. That is also not particularly democratic.

It is interesting, that you, Ms. Chancellor, say, that such a referendum is prohibited by the Ukrainian constitution. When does it apply and when not? It does not apply for the removal of the president, but for the referendum on Crimea it suddenly applies. You need to decide: Do you accept the Ukrainian constitution completely or only certain sections when it is convenient for you? That is the kind I know, and do not like.

Then a new government was formed and immediately recognised by Obama, also by the EU, and the German government. Ms. Merkel! The deputy prime minister, the minister of defence, the minister of agriculture, the minister of environment, the attorney general, these are fascists. The head of the national security council was the founding member of the fascist Svoboda party. Fascists hold important posts and dominate, for example, the security sector. Fascists have never voluntarily given up power, once they seized even a portion of it.

The German government should at least draw a line here, particularly due to our history.

When Haider's Freedom Party entered the Austrian government, there were diplomatic contact freezes and similar measures. But with the fascists in Ukraine we do nothing? Svoboda has close contacts with the NPD and other Nazi parties in Europe. The head of this party, Oleh Tyahnybok, said the following word-for-word: I am now quoting; you must listen to what he said: “Grab your weapons, fight the Russian pigs, the Germans, the Jew swines and other vermin.”

I will repeat. This man said: “Grab your weapons, fight the Russian pigs, the Germans, the Jew swines and other vermin.”

There are now attacks on Jews and the Left. And to all this you say nothing? You talk to these Svoboda people? I think this is a scandal. I must tell you this very clearly.

Now you want -– and have announced –- to impose sanctions, if there is no other way, as you say. But they will not impress Putin. Indeed this will only worsen the situation. Kissinger, the former US foreign minister, was correct. He said sanctions are not the expression of a strategy but the expression of the lack of a strategy. This holds also for the escalating military flights over Poland and the Baltic republics. What is the point of this?

The bank accounts of Yanukovych and his followers are frozen, because they are said to be stolen state funds. My question: You did not know this before? Second question: Why only their accounts? What about the billions of the oligarchs who support the other forces? Why do you not do anything about that? Why is everything done so one-sidedly?

Diplomacy is the only way.

First. The West must recognise the legitimate security interests of Russia in Crimea, which by the way US foreign secretary Kerry also recognised. A status must be found for Crimea with which Ukraine and Russia, and we can live.

Russia must be guaranteed that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO.

Second. The prospect for Ukraine lies in a bridging function between the EU and Russia.

Third. A process of understanding and reconciliation must be implemented in Ukraine between east and west, perhaps by means of a federal or confederal status, perhaps also by means of a dual presidency.

I blame the EU and NATO for the fact that up to today no relationship with Russia has been sought or found. This must fundamentally change.

There will be no security in Europe without, or in opposition to Russia, rather only with Russia. If the crisis is resolved one day, one advantage could be that all sides finally respect international law again.