The political economy of the Ukraine crisis

Photo from ILPS Facebook page.


The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is a reflection of the worsening inter-imperialist conflict in a multi-polar world. It is a byproduct of an evolving global situation wherein the US, in a quest for preserving its world hegemony, has shifted its policy from the global war on terror in 2000s, to targeting sovereign conflicts with Russia and China — major powers that embody particular political, economic, and military strengths. The US government’s behavior towards Russia and China differ in a sense that China has now emerged as its largest economic rival, and Russia has maintained its hands-down authority when it comes to building a powerful military industrial complex.

We have seen through the course of recent history how China has positioned itself as a major global power in terms of political economic initiatives like the Belt and Road, but it has also kept up with the arms race arena because of continuous US aggression. Regardless, the US has never defeated Russia as the most powerful country in terms of armaments and new generation nuclear weapons. Therefore, despite the undefeated military presence of the US in almost all parts of the world, its formula of aggression towards Russia is streamlined through entering the larger rivalry of European imperialist powers inclined to a more diplomatic approach such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. After all, the US’ assertion of its global hegemony will never be maintained without struggling to keep both its military and economic dominance in place.

To understand the core of the crisis in Ukraine, there needs to be a clear landscape of the political economic foundations involved. In so doing, it should be viewed not just as a conflict of narratives between Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “interfere with the Russian action and this would lead to the consequences you have never seen in history” versus US President Joe Biden’s “the world will hold Russia accountable”. It has always been about how the sovereign people of Ukraine have suffered from the long-time armed conflict of the Russian and Ukrainian regime — a conflict engineered by none other than the US government and the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).

US-NATO, Russia, and Ukrainian regime as key players 

Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, as the founders of the Soviet Union, decided to co-sign the original Minsk Agreement in 1991 as a modern-revisionist response to take the road of capitalist restoration claimed to put an end to the threats of the Cold War.

“It is a matter of history that the Soviet modern-revisionists from Khrushchev to Gorbachov and Yeltsin had the illusion that, if the Soviet Union took this road, Russia would go back to the European homeland, join the Council of Europe and enjoy the “dividends” of peace like the US and its NATO partners,” International League of Peoples’ Struggle Chairperson Emeritus Prof. Jose Maria Sison said in a statement.

“The Minsk Agreement in 1991 aimed to dissolve the Soviet Union and form the Commonwealth of Independent States in exchange for the assurances of the US, NATO and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)  that the human rights and democratic rights of the former Soviet republics would be respected and that NATO would not recruit from the former Warsaw Pact members and expand to the borders of Russia,” Sison added.

The 1991 Minsk Agreement did not prevent the US strategy to take over the republics of the former Soviet Union through economic aids, investments, and geopolitical and trade alliances. This strategy has been effective in commanding the US influence over the East bloc countries such as Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania. It has also been effective in attracting former republics such as Moldova, Latvia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. The others which were not drawn by the US and have been more aligned with Russia – like Belarus, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, and Tajikistan. This redivision of major global alliances with the help of NATO has not only heightened US military presence in all of these republics, but it has also prompted constriction policies against Russia as the largest US military rival. To prevent Russia’s global economic interests, the US has imposed sanctions which have significantly deprived Russia of refurbishing its military hardware. All of these are the geopolitics of monopoly capital of all sides.

Launching pad of West vs Russia proxy wars

Ukraine is called the breadbasket of Europe for good reason. It produces 16% of the world’s corn and 12% of its wheat, as well as being a significant exporter of barley and rye. Russia considers Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence as Ukraine is also the lead global producer of metals such as nickel, copper, and iron. It is also involved in the export and manufacture of essential raw materials like platinum, neon, and palladium.

Under the framework of the Soviet Union, there was a shift in geopolitical resources and advantages between Russia and Ukraine. Soviet-era dinosaur enterprises have dominated the southern and eastern provinces of Ukraine. Similar to Russia’s, they were all built in Soviet times as part of a single, integrated energy-abundant economy. But manufacturing in Russia is weak, most of the advanced systems and science on this were channeled to Ukraine. Russia may have held gas and oil fields, but they do not have Ukraine’s manufacturing capacity. Thus, Russia is dependent on the export of gas that goes through Ukraine.

The US sees itself as defending Ukraine against Russia and it has postured to do so through levying economic sanctions to deter the latter from further aggression in Ukraine. Case in point is the building of a new gas line directly from Petrograd to Germany. Russia can’t access this because of US-imposed sanctions absorbed by the Ukraine regime.

On the other hand, Russia sees Ukraine as a front in this war that’s being waged by the West against Russia. Ukraine’s lurch away from Russian influence felt like the final death knell for Russian power in Eastern Europe. Russia is asserting to profit from Ukraine’s gas exports, and because of US sanctions, it is now pinning down Ukraine. On the other hand, the US is using Ukraine to further constrain Russia.

Turning point: 2014 US-instigated coup

At the end of the day, it is Ukraine’s economy, not Russia’s, that is eroding the fastest under the threat of war. Ukraine, like Belarus, has been functioning as a buffer area between US-NATO powers and Russia.

The turning point of the Ukraine crisis was in 2014 when the US succeeded to engineer a coup d’etat to topple the pro-Russian Ukrainian government which had ties to the pro-Nazi party during the World War II and had been at the forefront of bloody repression against the anti-fascist rebellion from the masses. The US and its NATO allies have installed a pro-Western and neo-fascist Ukrainian government after the coup; and it has always ignored the Minsk Agreement that was supposed to create self-governed regions and would have assured stability in the region.

But the Russian-speaking nationalist forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have declared independence from both Ukraine and Russia after a public referendum in response to the US-backed coup and have not initiated any violence since this declaration.

With its continuous violation of the Minsk Agreement, the now US-controlled Zelenskyy government in Ukraine continues its wars of aggression against the declared independent governments of Donetsk and Luhansk as well as Crimea which has voted to rejoin Russia.

“The Ukrainian fascists have been able to kill so many Russians and destroy their homes and workplaces and cause the reduction of the overall Russian population in Ukraine from more than 22  to 17 per cent (or by more than three million) by forcing them to seek refuge in Russia and other countries as refugees,” Sison said.

Ukraine: A prize neither Russia nor the US can’t win

The Ukraine conflict is an example of how sovereign countries become launching pads of inter-imperialist proxy wars mainly because of their geopolitical and economic positions. Consistent with the Cold War era’s doctrine of “divide and rule”, the US has strategically recruited many more NATO members to constrict Russia’s political, economic, and military influence.

In its defense of its own hold of power, Russia is preemptive of the US design and intention, that is why it continues to demand to uphold the Minsk Agreement. Either way, desperation on both ends have prompted Russia to declare the invasion over Ukraine – and this is not necessarily different from the long-time wars of aggression masterminded by the US. Both of these are interventions that will never guarantee the people of Ukraine their genuine national liberation and self-determination.

The crisis in Ukraine indicates the start of a dangerous tension all over the world. The people of Ukraine, now more than ever, are faced with the challenges of conflict between Russia and the Western powers, and against the puppet Zelenskyy regime.

Accepting the Russian invasion will never be an option. Being pawns of the US-imperialist agenda against Russia is not the solution. There are no benefits from both major powers whose real main objective is to assert and parade their global dominance. The people of Ukraine’s territorial and social integrity lie only on the strong global anti-imperialist solidarity in the face of intensifying conflict, instability, and threats of war. (RVO) (

Share This Post