Ukrainian Sports Bar (Image: BBC Panorama 2012 documentary "Stadiums of Hate")
The Biden administration is dusting off the same playbook that gave arms and money to jihadists in Afghanistan and Syria. Now the beneficiaries of American foreign policy largesse are white supremacists from around the world who have made their way to Ukraine.
Hilary Clinton declared during a February 28, 2022 interview with MSNBC that the model for Ukraine should be Afghanistan where the U.S. armed the Afghan mujahideen as part of the U.S. strategy to create a “Vietnamese quagmire .” For Clinton and some elements of the foreign policy community, it is of little concern that the training and real-world military experience and political networking that resulted from bringing radical right-wing Islamicist together created al-Qaeda, the Taliban and later ISIS.
But for African and other colonized people on the receiving end of the U.S. and Western self-centered and opportunist policies, illusions about the real intentions of the White West have usually proven to be deadly. This is even more true in the current crisis of legitimacy and generalized decline of the Western colonial/imperial project. The proclivity of Western imperialism to resort to naked, direct violence to advance its interests and to use anyone and everyone, the possibility that the U.S. would allow extremist right-wing white nationalists and neo-Nazis real-world training, combat experience and networking represents an existential threat.
European colonial history is replete with examples of the divide and conquer tactics of the colonists using one segment of the people to colonize against the other. And since there has been no break with colonialism, no “post-coloniality,” we have witnessed a continuation of those tactics, which today also include the manipulation of nations to wage war against their own national interests in order to advance the interests of the colonial West.
A sad and pathetic contemporary example of this phenomenon is the people of Afghanistan, abandoned and left to starve as the U.S. has moved on. That is why it is so incredible that the people of Ukraine would allow themselves to become the latest cannon fodder for Western imperial vanity and the narrow interests of U.S. capital.
Baiting the Russians into military action was not just a result of miscalculation, no more than the revelation by the Defense Intelligence Agency’s report in 2012 that the Obama Administration’s support for right-wing jihadists in Syria was the result of a “willful” decision. In both cases they understood the possible ramifications, and didn’t care about the consequences.
As soon as the Biden Administration took power, the plan to escalate the situation in Ukraine was executed — a plan that included a clear understanding of the nature of forces behind the newly elected presidential front man for the right-wing Ukrainian oligarchs and U.S. forces that engineered his election. The Biden Administration also understood that the most effective military forces in Ukraine were grouped around and/or associated with various ultra-right and neo-Nazi elements. But who cared when the commitment to “full spectrum dominance” and interests of U.S. finance and corporate transnational capital are driving U.S. policy in Ukraine?
We, the colonized, the working class, the oppressed, must be as cold-blooded and sober in our analysis and actions. Look at how they lied to the public on the existence of ultra-right forces in Ukraine and the nature of that corrupt regime. We will not lie to the people, but we have to separate ourselves from the propaganda when attempting to understand the world.
The U.S. press loudly proclaiming that there was no neo-Nazi influence in Ukraine even though it was common knowledge in the United States and Europe for years that there was always a problem with the extremist nationalist elements in that country. Because of that, the line taken by the U.S. state and the capitalist press after the U.S. engineered coup in 2014 with the extreme right and neo-Nazi forces at the center of the action, was that while those forces’ presence in the street actions was never disputed, the line was that their political significance in the government was minimal.
That line was taken because the historical record was replete with references to the role of the ultra-right in Ukrainian politics since world-war II. And that not only did Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and literal neo-Nazis end up in the new post-coup government in 2014, but the press, human rights organizations, the governments of Europe, and the U.S. were aware of the nature of those forces
That is what made the new line by the liberal corporate press that there was not an issue with the extreme right in Ukraine so bizarre. Apparently, to buttress their drive to war, the new narrative required that the Ukrainian state be represented as the innocent victim of the mad Vladimir Putin, and the presence of ultra-right forces, including neo-Nazis, as a figment of his imagination.
Yet, there is always a method to the madness, in this case the real madness of U.S. imperialism.
The Opportunism of the Neoliberal Right: From al-Qaeda to White Supremacists in the Service of the Lords of Capital
Victoria Nuland, under-secretary of State for Eastern Europe and the primary on the ground coordinator of the 2014 coup, with Joe Biden as the overall point person for the Obama Administration, were all absolutely clear about the nature of neo-fascist forces in Ukraine like the Right Sector and the Azov Battalion.
In fact, that was precisely why those elements were used as muscle during the violent street fights leading up to the coup. It is also why they were unleashed against their fellow Ukrainian citizens in Eastern Ukraine when they rejected the legitimacy of the coup government.
U.S. authorities also understood then as they understand today that those neo-fascist forces represented a dangerous, if one is concerned about violent right-wing white supremacists, development for the global white supremacist movement that saw Ukraine as a liberated territory after 2014.
A 2018 FBI affidavit asserted that Azov “is believed to have participated in training and radicalizing United States–based white supremacy organizations,” including members of the white supremacist Rise Above Movement, prosecuted for planned assaults on counter protesters at far-right events, including the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally.
The danger was seen as so serious by some members of the U.S. Congress that in 2019 New York Rep. Max Rose, who chairs the counterterrorism subcommittee, submitted a letter to the State Department, co-signed by 39 members of Congress, that urged the department to add the Azov Battalion to the list of “Foreign Terror Organizations.”
Also in 2019, Jewish groups accused the Canadian government of training neo-Nazi organizations in Ukraine, despite warnings in 2015 from the same organizations that track the ultra-right that the Ukrainian military was saturated with neo-Nazi elements.
In 2020, FBI director Christopher Wray revealed that the agency was “monitoring very closely a trend that may be starting to emerge, … of neo-Nazi actors here in the US who are communicating online with similar like-minded individuals overseas.”
Yet, in 2021 it was clear that the Biden Administration, along with their Canadian and British allies, could not care less about organized white supremacy as a threat. Their objective was to mobilize public opinion to support their hybrid war against Russia.
To do that, they portrayed the war in Ukraine as a struggle of liberalism against authoritarianism, good versus evil. As Zelenskyy played his greatest role, appealing to “freedom fighters” to come and fight in Ukraine, it did not matter to him or Westerners that while the foreign fighters who arrived were a mix of radical Islamists, naïve liberals, and pan-Turkists, the overwhelming majority were ultra-right supremacists and neo-Nazis from across Europe and the U.S.
According to the Kiev governement, by March 6 at least 20,000 foreign fighters from 55 countries had entered Ukraine to fight against Russians. And just as in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the CIA is also involved in training special Ukrainian forces, that includes elements from the Azov forces, even though current and former intelligence officials predict a new “al-Qaeda,” a “transnational white supremacist network,” with alleged ties to the Ukraine conflict will be the next global catastrophe to befall the world as the threat of COVID-19 recedes.”
The U.S. oligarchy is clear. The war they baited the Russians into signals a return to waging wars of domination in Europe to augment the imperialist wars waged for the last 77 years in the global South. Now members of the European proletariat are dying on all sides and the people are shocked.
Violence has been key to the parasitic reality of the European project. The West under bourgeois rule has demonstrated it is prepared to maintain global hegemony through “any means necessary.” If that means the establishment of a cross-class white supremacist coalition under the political rule of the petit-bourgeois that they control (the classic fascist European configuration of class relations under fascism), they will do that.
The dog and pony show with their fake concerns about Trump and then aligning with neo-fascist, white supremacist forces in Ukraine should under normal circumstance result in a shift of consciousness that rejects all of the crude ideological attempts to hide the reality of white minority class rule. But these are not normal times. The power of the capitalist class to control narratives, and the objective reality that millions of people have been moved to global information platforms owned and controlled by capital that is now involved in systematic thought policing and suppression, is creating a narrowing dystopian counter-reality for the radical anti-capitalist forces.
And for those of us in the African revolutionary movement, it is becoming quite clear that, along with Palestinians, we are alone. We cannot depend on the petit-bourgeois settler white left that consistently demonstrates a conservative and collaborative tendency toward national chauvinism ,the class struggle and the ongoing fight for national liberation and self-determination of peoples and nations. It is also blind to the existence, let alone the influences, of normalized white supremacist ideology. For them white supremacy is representative of people like Trump as opposed to Obama.
But colonial/capitalist white supremacist patriarchy is not reducible to race or any other socially ascribed categories. It is a system of power that must be overthrown if we are to survive.
Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the U.S. based United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) and the Steering Committee of the Black is Back Coalition.