The Russian war in Ukraine is illegal, of that there can be no doubt. There was no UN Security Council mandate, no resolution brought to the toothless General Assembly to even be rubber-stamped, and to be frank, though people in the Donbas are Russian citizens, Ukraine wasn’t going to invade Russia proper anytime soon.
What is also true is that de facto, Ukraine was becoming a NATO member equipped with NATO arms and trained by NATO officers embedded in their army. It is also true that the nation, while not run by Nazis and fascists, is heavily influenced them and their forces hold key positions in the civil service, representative politics, and the security forces. It is also true that these people have openly spoken of invading Russia and engaging in ethnic cleansing.
The war in Ukraine has shown us many things, among them is that context means nothing to people who insist on easy soundbite answers. It shows us that we retain the idea that the world is black and white, good vs evil, but it is a murky grey in reality. It has also shown us the raw and rank hypocrisy of the West which wails over the actions in Ukraine and shows us the weakness and uselessness of Global South leaders as they sing more or less the same tune as the western powers. This event has smoked out the rats and shown the friends for the enemies in the fight ahead.
Western countries have reacted with shock and disgust at the actions taking place in Ukraine. Understandable, as the war is literally on the border of the EU. They have been welcoming refugees left, right, and centre, and have been at pains to ensure that the refugees (which they are in the literal sense) are treated well. The images of these refugees are heartening and inspiring, the tales told in media give one hope that humankind can get over its barbaric state. And then we see — as if, like a bolt from the blue — African, Caribbean, and Asian students and workers who are also trying to flee the conflict on the literal land border of the EU, being called nigger, thrown off trains and left to fend for themselves as they sought to get out of an active war zone.
This hypocrisy is disgusting but not new on the part of the EU. They accept these refugees not because they are war victims but, as Polish and Bulgarian representatives have stated, because they are white and Christian. A few short kilometres from Italy is the coast of Libya, and every day the shores of the Mediterranean swallow up hundreds of refugees (classified as migrants by the EU) with nary an eyelid batted except to send boats out to stop people from fleeing conflicts and poverty inflicted by the very same EU states.
The hypocrisy is disgusting, shameful, and shocking. The same thing is happening (bar a few changes for historical accuracy), to refugees fleeing violence en masse, but one is accepted with open arms everywhere, while the other is left to drown at sea or have their money and jewellery confiscated by the State which “generously accepts” their status. It is shocking, this newly found moral compass, but it is not surprising, these people after all engaged in chattel slavery for centuries only to then turn around — after the wealth was made — and condemn the people selling the human cargo that, up until recently, they had been first in line to get.
What is surprising is the reaction from broad swaths of the Global South. Our leaders and top diplomats are not only condemning this action (all small nations should condemn this, precedent is a thing and once set is difficult to undo), they go beyond and call for supporting the full sanctioning and isolation of Russia economically, politically, and culturally.
Have we lost our minds? Have our leaders done their homework, or are they so far up the western backside that they are willing to cut all our collective throats to please western masters? Now, our leaders have found their voices, focusing on the Caribbean for a bit, the JLP and the Antiguan ambassador to the UN are both championing sanctions and isolation of Russia, focusing solely on economics.
UC Rusal is a Russian company — the Rusal standing for Russian Aluminium. Are we really calling for the shuttering of UC Rusal (after it just came back online), are we just going to seize it (that would mark the second time the avowedly capitalist JLP engaged in actions it consistently decried). How will the lost revenue from the bauxite levy be replaced if we follow the western powers and say ta-ta to Rusal? Would JISCO feel comfortable in such an environment and if the company left, how would we replace it?
How are we going to respond to increased wheat prices? They are already going up due to port blockages. If we sanction the Russians are we as a people prepared to accept bread at $500 to $600 due to our government’s newly found conscience?
Taking a birds-eye view of the Global South, however, gives us even more shock and surprise at the hypocritical responses to the actions by Russia. Small nations rightly condemn the carving up of a neighbouring country by a bigger one. Okay, understandable. Where was this condemnation when literally, on the same day, the illegal Saudi-UAE-US-UK war in Yemen, aimed at carving off pieces of the small country Yemen, raged and rages on? Where were the calls for sanctions on those countries, the walkouts when they took to the podiums, the letters of condemnation from our leaders, the hours on radio devoted to how and why we must stand up to the aggressor and the sympathy for the innocent Yemenis who are courageously standing up to both regional and global powers?
Where was this when East Jerusalem was illegally recognised by all major world powers (either de jure or de facto) as the capital of Israel? Where was the rallying around BDS, the calls to expel Israel from sports organisations, etc after it annexed the Golan Heights? Who said anything or demanded economic and cultural isolation of the US for what is essentially a rape colony in Okinawa and a torture colony in Guantanamo? We now have the backbone to talk about imperialism. Who spoke about the French president installing the new president of Chad in total contravention of their constitution?
Who batted an eyelid, called for sanctions, isolation and the opening of criminal investigations when leaked documents revealed the US, UK, EU complicity in the carving up of Sudan into South Sudan? Maybe I am too young, but I can’t recall news on the radio in the 90s condemning the US, UK, Canada and EU for their role in the second Congo war that only ‘ended’ after a joint operation by SADAC forces pushed out western-backed troops fronted by Rwanda and Uganda.
Where are the sanctions on the US, Canada, and the UK which openly break international law in making the Caribbean a zone of conflict with their constant war games in the region aimed at Venezuela and Nicaragua?
The brainwashing job of western powers has been successful. We are physically free but as Marcus Garvey said, mentally, we are in chains. We can condemn Russia easily because the US etc have trained us to do so. We are trained from birth to think, nay believe that we are just like those people in the US, UK, Canada, etc and more specifically that their interests are our interests. Understandable due to slavery, colonisation and a large portion of our brethren living there. Understandable but fatally incorrect.
We are not them, their issues are not our issues, their war is not our war. If we need any proof of this we just need to look at the Windrush scandal (which is continuing), the abhorrent treatment of people of colour in Ukraine, and the fact that the government that does nothing to stamp out such activities is begging Africans in Ukraine to fight and die for that country.
If we really want to make this our war, our issue, then we actually must hav morals and call a spade a spade. Call for the disbanding of NATO, call for Europe to actually be a zone of peace, call for US troops to leave Europe and return to base in the US, and insist that Europe deal with their issues through dialogue rather than conflict. That should be our goal — an immediate cessation of hostilities. The arrest of Nazis and other far-right members, the break-up of NATO and sending American troops back home, nothing less should be on our agenda. If not, we are hypocrites and the runners for US imperialism.
It is shocking to me in so many ways to see leaders of the Global South parroting the racist, jingoistic, xenophobic lines coming from Whitehall, Washington, and Brussels. We the coloured and poor folk should be worried in the most at the rehabilitation of Nazis and fascists, the ease with which powerful people in the West can slip into not just racist talk, but painting a whole people with a brush and condemning them to death. As a people who have been colonised, enslaved, and abused based on thoughts such as those being espoused now over the Russian conflict, we should pause and reassess things, but our newfound morals won’t allow for that. Our leaders’ newfound morals will not allow them to mention the Azov Battalion, Svoboda or other Nazi/fascist movements operating openly in Ukraine and integrated into their State apparatus. However, those leaders endorse the racist nonsense coming from western media. One has to wonder seriously if they would cheer on these actions if they were aimed at people of colour?
If we really have found our morals, then good, let us act on them. Condemn the war, but context is needed and we must condemn the arch aggressor, NATO, and call for its disbanding. We must sympathise with the refugees in Ukraine, but we must focus on the refugees leaving Haiti, Guatemala, Colombia and work round the clock to ensure that those issues are dealt with. We want sanctions, even though the US, UK, and others practice warfare in ways that make this current operation look like a joke.
Condemn them for condemning the majority of the world to pauperism through schemes such as the IMF, World Bank, and reigning terror on our people through insidious organisations from major powers which are nothing but networks for spies and saboteurs and which are set in motion to destroy once a government not to the liking of the powers is elected.
If we are going to get moral, ethical, legal, and begin condemning let us condemn those who have wronged us and then focus on the others. Condemn those who slap and spit in your face before moving to condemn a person who, though acting violently, is reacting violently in a totally different context to that which you are experiencing.
But let us put ethics and idealism aside. Simple realism gives us the raw hypocrisy on show because Russia is simply doing what all Global South and third world countries wish they could do and that is stand up to the empire and say, this much and no more. If we could, we would, but we can’t, so we don’t. To my estimation, the last time a Global South country whipped and put to shame an imperial power was India when they re-took Goa from fascist Portugal.
This war shows us once again that the western powers will use you and abandon you when the first chance comes. As we say in Jamaica, ‘Tek sleep mark death.’ They will abandon us and not supplement us or aid us when we begin starving, just as they have abandoned Ukraine and the Kurds. We must realise that we are not them, our interests are materially and concretely different just as the interests of the rich and poor are vastly different.
We must fight for ourselves, think for ourselves and act in our own interests and that means calling out not the aggression of Russia but the aggression of the west, which has and continues to use and abuse us, expecting us to be the fodder in their wars, the bodies that produce the raw material bringing them uber profits while our countries burn and we starve.