Correspondence - Defending Russia?
3 September 2008
I would like to address a number of issues raised by John McAnulty's article on the war in Georgia (Georgia – A new front for US aggression - 25/08/08). While I agree with John's assessment of the wider causes of the conflict between Russia and Georgia - primarily US expansion in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus - I think he is wrong to carry this over into a defence of Russia. John says that socialists "should defend Russia". The inference here is that Russia as a nation is being oppressed by US imperialism. I think this characterisation of Russia and its conflict with the US is mistaken.
In my view Russia, almost twenty years on from the collapse of the Soviet Union, is now fully capitalist and pursuing an imperialist policy beyond its borders. This is most evident in Russia's "near abroad" where it has been using the presence of ethnic Russians or Russian speakers to intervene in neighbouring states. Georgia, where Russia has been supporting separatist movements to undermine that state's sovereignty, is a good example of this strategy. Other aspects of Russia’s imperialist policy are the building up its military capacity and the use energy exports to influence the political situation within other states.
The conflict over Georgia is therefore not the result of Russia defending itself from US aggression but of the rivalry between two imperialist powers. While Russia may weaker than the US in terms of global power it is no less predatory. The conflict in Georgia shows that Russia, despite recent advances by the US, is still the strongest power in the Caucuses and that wherever it has the whip hand will act in just as brutal a manner as its rival. John does acknowledge this in his article when he says “Russia has the same aims in rivalry with the US”, but he does follow through by defining the conflict as inter-imperialist. In such a conflict socialists do not take sides – we are for the defeat of imperialism of whatever stripe. This is the historic position of revolutionary socialism.
A defence of Russia also carries the danger
of making concessions to the argument of some on the left that a “multipolar
world” made up of different power blocs would somehow how have progressive
consequences. Blinded by nostalgic for the Cold War or dumb anti-Americanism
they are blinded to the reality that the only consequence of such a formation
would be to intensify imperialist rivalry and bring closer the possibility
of world conflagration.