If you’re going to present yourselves as USSR and Russia fanboys, can you at least get the grammar in your name right? The Stalinist “US Friends of the Soviet People” group calls itself “США друзья советский народ [SShA druzya sovetskiy narod].” This is extremely bad Russian. I know only a little Russian myself, but I know just enough to tell that this is wrong. Russian has a case system, so the idea of “of” is expressed using the genitive case. The way it is now, it’s “USA Friends Soviet People” with no clear relationship between the words. I think the correct version would be Американские друзья советского народа or Друзья США советского народа. They should have had this checked by someone who knows Russian, but then again, I think these people like to LARP as Soviets without doing any research.
The trouble with tankies
There is a disturbing tendency among some leftists and progressives—derisively called “tankies”—in America, Britain, Germany, and other Western countries to defend Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. To do so, they often echo Putin’s lies about wanting to “denazify” and “demilitarise” Ukraine. But Putin’s goal is not merely to “denazify” and “demilitarise” Ukraine. It is the product of a tsarist wet dream. Well before the invasion, Vladimir Putin made his intent loud and clear. In July 2021, just over half a year before his invasion, he wrote:
I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia. Our spiritual, human and civilizational ties formed for centuries and have their origins in the same sources, they have been hardened by common trials, achievements and victories. Our kinship has been transmitted from generation to generation. (emphasis mine)
And Putin isn’t the only Russian official to make these kinds of claims. More recently, Oleg Stepanov, the Russian ambassador to Canada, said in Russia in Global Affairs:
Russia reaffirms the goals of the special military operation. And they all will be achieved. Ukrainians will live in a federal, multilingual, multicultural, democratic, stable, prosperous country free from internal conflict where every citizen feels free and safe. And Russia will provide it. (emphasis mine)
Kiev shall announce that it ceases hostilities, orders its troops and nationalistic units to lay down arms, voluntarily subjects itself to demilitarization and denazification. This is the only way to build a healthy society in Ukraine in accordance with the interests of its people. (emphasis mine)
Stepanov is even blunter than Putin: the “special military operation” is not intended merely to defeat Ukrainian Nazis or ensure its military neutrality. It is to reabsorb Ukraine into the Russian state.
Tankies defend Vladimir Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine, blame the Russian invasion on the United States and its NATO allies, and ignore or outright deny Russia’s oppressive acts against its own people and the people it has conquered. Time and again, they defend Russia’s government and spread its propaganda.
I support Ukraine’s side in its fight against Russian aggression, though this support comes with serious reservations. Keep reading to find out what those reservations are.
It’s hard being a leftist who’s critical of Ukraine but doesn’t support Vladimir Putin’s chauvinistic, revanchist, far-right, corrupt, brutally repressive, capitalist, neoconservative regime. It’s especially hard when you’re critical of Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelensky’s government but also want them to receive military support to quash Putin’s ambitions to reconquer former Soviet states, since most “Ukraine-critical” leftists would rather withdraw aid and push for a peace settlement.
Some on the left—the tankies—support Russia’s invasion as a form of resistance against the imperialist NATO powers. Others—typically pacifists and Trotskyists—want a peace deal to be brokered immediately. Others promote a solidly pro-Kiev* position, advocating the use of more and more sophisticated arms for Zelensky’s forces. I fall into none of those groups. My position is complicated: I am an enthusiastic supporter of ordinary Ukrainian people who are suffering because of the Kremlin’s attacks, but I have harsh criticisms of the government and ultranationalists who use justified anger at Russia to promote regressive policies and justify neo-fascist elements within the Ukrainian armed forces. Regardless, Putin must be driven out of Ukraine for national-security and humanitarian reasons alike.
Of course, it’s hard to know the whole story if you can’t see everything on the ground. But I think I’ve read enough to have an informed opinion.
*A note on nomenclature—I use Russian names for predominantly Russian-speaking areas and cities (e.g., Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov, Lugansk) and Ukrainian ones otherwise (Lviv, Ternopil, Zhytomyr, Ivano-Frankivsk).