On the invasion of Ukraine

A statement from the rs21 Steering Group on the inter-imperialist war currently being waged in Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers train with javelin missile systems in Donbas. These are arms supplied to Ukraine by NATO.
Ukrainian soldiers training in Donbas with javelin missile systems, arms supplied to Ukraine by NATO.

Russia has invaded Ukraine. The imperialist rivalry between the key NATO powers and the Russian state has spilled over into war and a deepening crisis.

We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We join the international call for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops to end the hostilities. 

We send our full solidarity to the working class of Ukraine, caught in a conflict driven by the ruling classes of competing imperialist states. The Ukrainian people, including ethnic Russians and other ethnicities can live together in peace. Together they could confront the rival imperialisms which stoke the fires of nationalism.

Russian imperialism is not a ‘lesser evil’ in this conflict. Over the past decade Russia has had a series of expansionist successes. The Russian state has reasserted its post-Cold War geopolitical role through its military intervention in Syria. Russia was able to annex Crimea and set up proxy states (the ‘People’s’ Republics of  Donetsk and Lugansk) in Eastern Ukraine. Even more recently the Russian armed forces have played a reactionary key role in suppressing the just rebellion of the working class and wider population of Kazakhstan against an authoritarian regime responsible for the deterioration of living standards, the arrest of trade unionists and banning of trade unions. A similar suppressive role was played by Russia in supporting the corrupt Lukashenko regime in Belarus.

The imperialist expansion of NATO is also part of this conflict, and we condemn NATO entirely. It has always been an offensive bloc, not simply a defensive one, and exists to further US imperialist policy. Accusations that it has been seeking to encircle Russia by expanding NATO Eastwards since the end of the Cold War are well-founded, even if Putin is now exploiting these concerns as cover for his aim to dominate the region. For over 70 years NATO has been responsible for violence and brutality visited upon the peoples of other countries, including Serbia and Afghanistan. NATO has bombed and dismembered countries, causing war, hunger and death throughout the world. It should be disbanded.

We join those calling for full de-escalation of this conflict. For that reason, we oppose the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia. The use of sanctions here is a ruling class weapon which heightens the conflict, and  which will bring suffering to the working class who have nothing to do with the conflicts of their governments. Sanctions will not end this conflict, only prolong it. This war can be stopped not by NATO machinations, but by mass resistance on the part of ordinary Russians, who are already coming out to protest at great risk to themselves.

Socialists across Europe should fight for the opening of borders to those displaced by this conflict. Regardless of what else happens, war brings violence and death to civilians, with gendered and racialised violence usually being the sharpest edge. It is a feminist and anti-racist obligation to fight to eradicate borders in general, but at this moment a focus must be to welcome refugees from Ukraine. Socialists must also stand in solidarity with the growing anti-war movement in Russia and with the ordinary Ukrainian people fighting occupation. 

This war is another tragic and deadly outcome of the current cycle of crises, including climate change and the pandemic, caused by capitalism. We must hope and struggle for peace in the short term but the only lasting peace that can ever be found must be won through the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist ruling class across the whole world. 


  1. Yo0u are right to say that “Russian imperialism is not a ‘lesser evil’ in this conflict”. It is obviously the greater evil in this case. I don’t think NATO has invaded Ukraine. To talk about NATO expansaionism denies the agency of the Ukrainain people, there is a reason they looked to NATO, they want self-determination which with Putin’s greater Russia outlook is obviously copromised. I dont think Westen sanctions on Russia are hurting the Russian working class quite as badly as Russian bombs, missiles and bullets are hurting the Ukrainian working class.Campism at its worst. Shame on you.

    • Who is “they”? Why do you take for granted that Ukrainians wanted to join NATO? After all, no one has any right to join NATO, a murderous aggressive alliance. Not UK, not US, not Germany, not anybody.

      Most importantly, why do you identify Ukrainians with the Ukrainian government, that had been killing hundreds of Russian speaking Ukrainians in Donbas-Lukhansk since 2014 and has based its rule on terrorizing the dissidents (e.g. the Odessa massacre in 2014) and on cooperation with openly nazi organizations (Right Sector, Azov Battalion etc)?

      This is a proxy war organised of NATO-Ukrainian oligarchs vs Russia for spheres of influence. The question how to support the Ukrainian people without supporting “their” tyrannical government. A marxist organization worth its name INSIDE Ukraine, whether able to organize an independent resistance to the russian army or not, should not stop criticizing the government for its responsibilities for this war, warning people that it is totally unreliable to establish peace or democracy.

  2. Thanks very much to rs21 for the excellent statement put out on February 25th. It is very hard to get the balance right with this statement does it very well. We need an anti-war movement across the world. In the US, we are building an anti-war movement which unfortunately is quite small at this point. One of the main obstacles we face is that some of the largest groups in the anti-war movement are apologetic towards Putin. Some of them are formally opposed to The invasion but repeat Putin’s talking points and justify the need for Russia’s quote legitimate security interests. In order to build an effective anti-war movement we need to strongly counter the pro Putin elements in the movement even while we strongly impose the US military buildup sanctions etc. Keep up the great work comrades! Seattle Revolutionary Socialists

  3. Hi Mark I’d like to reply to you as an individual member of RS21. Firstly we have been attending the protests for solidarity with the workers of Ukraine. I personally was in attendance (online) at the international meeting which declared the day of action in solidarity and at the subsequent demonstration in Glasgow in my own case.
    For the demonstration we produced a leaflet written by one of our Scottish comrades. That included the following:
    But we can take heart from the fact that Putin isn’t having it all his own way. Ukrainian resistance has slowed down the Russian forces’ advance, with unconfirmed reports of Russian soldiers surrendering. And inside Russia anti-war protests have exploded in almost every city, with tens of thousands continuing to protest despite mass arrests.
    We can best support all those opposing the invasion by demanding that our government allow all Ukrainian refugees who want to come here immediate entry without a visa, and by building the strongest possible anti-war movement here in Britain.
    The Leaflet continues:
    NATO and Western politicians will only exploit the crisis for their own advantage. They don’t care about Ukrainian lives any more than Putin does. Threats of military action, or the expansion of NATO only escalate tensions and do nothing to stop the threat of the war spreading. And economic sanctions that hit ordinary people in Russia will do nothing to help them build a movement that can challenge Putin and his war-mongering. If the UK government valued the lives of Ukrainian citizens they would welcome refugees and facilitate safe passage into Britain.

    I don’t want to make the contribution over long by pasting in more of the leaflet but I’m hoping you get the gist that we support the struggle of Ukrainian workers against the invasion by Russian forces, by supporting the workers in Russia who have been bravely going out on the streets at great personal risk to oppose the invasion, by arguing that borders should be opened up to refugees fleeing from the conditions of war.
    Finally as socialists we have to advance the idea that the enemy in any given imperialist conflict is always at home, our own ruling class. The continued growth of nato surrounding the Russian imperialist state is a factor in escalating this war which can’t be ignored. The leaflet concludes
    Russian imperialism is part of a world system of competing capitalist states, and British governments have attacked many other countries in the same way as Russia is attacking Ukraine – the Tories are hypocrites when they try to claim the moral high ground. The government and its NATO allies are worsening the situation by engaging in brinkmanship, making reckless statements and moving more soldiers onto Russia’s western border. We should demand that Britain withdraws from NATO and abandons nuclear weapons as steps towards a world free from the threat of war.

    From the tradition that we have grown from I want to end with a quote from the late Tony Cliff ‘Neither Washington or Moscow but International Socialism’.

  4. You stand back while Ukraine burns. You should support Ukraine’s fight to defend its right to self-determination.
    Ukraine’s war is a just war.
    You blame NATO for a war in which it adamantly refuses to fight in. Which is ridiculous.
    Of course socialists don’t support NATO. But neither should socialists draw an equivalence, here, now, between NATO and the force that is actually destroying Ukraine, and which intends to partition it and impose a political treaty that abolishes Ukraine’s independence.
    If Putin wins the regime that exists in the LPR and DPR – totalitarian, gangster-terror where Ukrainians are driven out, and unions are suppressed – will be the norm across Russian-occupied Ukraine.
    You should start attending the mass protests for Ukraine and rally the labour movement to defend Ukrainian democracy and trade union rights.


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