It’s been Democrats’ favorite refrain for years now. Don’t like something? Call it Russian.
For years, Democrats labeled Donald Trump a Russian agent. Despite multiple investigations yielding no evidence to support this lofty claim, they cling to it. Or what about when Hillary Clinton accused Tulsi Gabbard of being groomed by Russia for a spoiler presidential run? Clinton’s theory was little more than a petty attack against someone who called her “the queen of warmongers.” Gabbard suspended her campaign in March 2020 and immediately endorsed Joe Biden.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also parroted her party’s go-to smear during a recent CNN interview. As Israel genocides Gaza, Pelosi accused pro-ceasefire demonstrators of Kremlin ties.
“For them to call for a ceasefire is Mr. Putin’s message,” claimed Pelosi. “I think some of these protesters… are connected to Russia.”
Pelosi’s soundbite raised eyebrows. With over 27,000 Gazans dead, calling for an end to Israeli aggression just seems morally prudent if not obligatory. But morality probably matters little to someone whose most durable commitment is to an apartheid state.
That Vladimir Putin supports a ceasefire doesn’t mean demonstrators must be in cahoots with him. It’s easy to lose sight of the truth in the imperial core, but the world stands against Israel’s war crimes. At the United Nations, 153 member states — over 80% of the entire body — voted for a ceasefire. Are they all Russian operatives? A whopping 113 of those 153 states voted to condemn Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. Being pro-ceasefire and pro-Russia can and do come apart.
But there is a connection between the two positions — though not the one Pelosi asserts. Each represents an opposition to fascism and ethnic supremacy. In this sense, countries that both voted for a ceasefire and condemned Russia are inconsistent.
During World War II, the Soviet Union was the world’s preeminent bulwark against fascism. The Soviets were willing to sacrifice millions of their own to almost single-handedly destroy the expansionist Nazi regime. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt admitted to General Douglas MacArthur:
“I find it difficult to get away from the simple fact that the Russian armies are killing more Axis personnel and… destroying more… materiel than all the other [25 Allies] put together.”
Americans often like to goad Europeans by saying, “if it wasn’t for the United States, you’d all be speaking German.” Replace “United States” with “Soviet Union” and that might be true.
Much has changed since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. But steadfast Russian opposition to the far Right has not. As filmmaker Oliver Stone explains, Russia hasn’t been at odds with Ukraine for long. Prior to 2014, the two countries had friendly relations. Then an American-backed coup deputized ultra-conservative Ukrainian nationalists to overthrow their government and install a right-wing puppet government. In a tasteless display of imperial hubris, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland even handed out cookies at far right Ukrainian riots. Overnight, the fascist menace came to Russia’s border. They’ve understandably struggled to cope, with the ongoing special military operation being the last tool in an exhausted arsenal.
Ukraine runs the fascist gambit. It glorifies Nazis and builds statues honoring them. There’s even a sizable, openly Nazi contingent in the Ukrainian military known as the Azov Battalion. Ukraine’s economic system, defined by parasitic relations between oligarchs and state actors, is characteristic of fascism. The country also lacks a free press. For all the chat about Russia persecuting journalists, Ukraine is a far worse offender. Just last month, Ukrainian authorities tortured and murdered dissident blogger Gonzalo Lira for criticizing Volodymyr Zelenskyy and “spreading pro-Kremlin ideas.”
Though a longtime resident of Ukraine, Lira was never a citizen. As his father notes, the Ukrainian government could’ve just deported him. But fascist regimes are sadistic. The cruelty is the point.
Fewer than 20 degrees south of Ukraine resides another far-right supremacist state. Israel is the world’s foremost apartheid regime and a close ally of Ukraine. Zelenskyy is a proud Zionist and supporter of Israel’s ongoing genocide against Gaza. He has analogized Hamas to Russia, calling both unprovoked aggressors.
Like Ukraine with its Azov Battalion, Israel’s military is a hotbed of extremism. In fact, terrorist groups like Irgun and Lehi — infamous for massacres including hotel bombings — consolidated to become the so-called Israeli Defense Forces. Zionism animates Israel’s military crimes, with perpetrators using it to excuse their worst atrocities. Similarly, in Ukraine, malfeasance finds solace in Banderaism — a Ukrainian nationalist ideology that advocates the killing of Poles and non-fascists.
Ukraine and Israel thus represent similar politics. To support one and not the other therefore makes little sense.
Pelosi, to her credit, is consistent. She backs both Ukraine and Israel. Her overarching commitment is to promoting fascism and ethnic supremacy abroad.
Huge swaths of the global masses are on the opposite side of this ideological divide. They support Russia and Palestine. Their overarching commitment is to defeating the far Right and ensuring freedom and equality for all.
Riley Miller is an American Marxist writer specializing in imperialist geopolitics. Their writing centers decolonization, the rise of multipolarity, and socialist development in the Global South.