Ukrainian neo-Nazis, Islamist militants and CIA-supported insurgencies

Staff writer at Jacobin magazine, Branko Marcetic, makes an important point in a recent article– the United States military-industrial complex has a long history of supporting right wing insurgencies around the world, and this background has contemporary relevance.

As Marcetic notes, the CIA has a long history of funding and supporting ultranationalist rebel forces. The latest example is the CIA’s training of Ukrainian paramilitary forces, the latter being infested with neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

This programme of arming and financing right wing foot soldiers in the Ukraine follows a longstanding pattern of behaviour by the CIA. In the 1980s, the United States, through various conduits in the Middle East, supported and trained ultrarightist fanatical Afghan mujahideen units in an anticommunist insurgency in Afghanistan. The ideology of these foot soldiers for US imperialism formed the reservoir out of which grew Al Qaeda and ISIS. Ideologically similar bedfellows were deployed by the US in the recent civil war in Syria.

It is no secret that Miami was transformed into a home base for the anticommunist Cuban terrorist gangs, receiving training and support for their activities from the CIA. According to former intelligence and national security officials, the CIA has been secretly training Ukrainian forces at least since 2015, in preparation for war with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region. The latter, largely Russian-speaking region, politically separated from the Ukraine after the rise of the far rightist regime in Kiev in 2014.

The active presence of ultranationalist and white supremacist groups in the government and military forces of the Kiev regime since 2014 is well known. Stepan Bandera, the wartime Ukrainian Nazi collaborator and political leader of Ukrainian ultranationalism, is lionised as a hero in Ukraine today. The horrific legacy of his organisation’s ethnic cleansing and racism is being sanitised by the followers of Maidan Ukrainian nationalism today.

This is not the first time that the US has utilised neo-Nazis as foot soldiers in the service of its imperialist goals. Thousands of ex-Nazis, among them Baltic, Ukrainian and Eastern European collaborators, were recruited by the United States in the immediate aftermath of World War 2. Deployed as saboteurs, agents and infiltrators of the Eastern bloc, they were rewarded with a peaceful life in the West – never having to face accountability for their crimes.

The Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian ultranationalist group doing much of the frontline fighting against the Donbas – and against the Ukrainian regime’s domestic opponents – is thoroughly saturated in neo-Nazi ideology. One soldier from the battalion helpfully clarified his way of thinking; they had nothing against Russia per se, but were opposed to President Putin. Why? Because Putin is a Jew in the estimation of the Azov soldier. The homicidal kernel of Ukrainian nationalism – antisemitism – raises its ugly head.

It is not surprising that a number of Islamist militant groups – soldiers from Chechnya in particular – have lined up alongside Ukrainian ultrarightist forces. Regarding Moscow as a common enemy, Islamic State-type units have fought for the ultranationalist government in Kiev. CIA patronage of Islamist fundamentalist groups is not new, but drawing attention to the ideological correspondence between far right white supremacists and fanatical Islamist groups is something the corporate media would have us ignore.

In a way, we are witnessing a repetition of history. The 1980s Afghan CIA-insurgency template is being applied again – only this time involving the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region of China. The US authorities have constructed a World Uyghur Congress, a collection of regime-change loyalists advocating the establishment of an East Turkestan state in Xinjiang, politically detached from China. Viewing Uyghurs as a prong of an enlarged pan-Turkic empire stretching across Central Asia has been an important element of ultranationalist Turkic ideology.

Willing foot soldiers of the US empire, the Uyghurs of the Americanised variety are following in the footsteps of a similar Islamist rebellion against Beijing – the 1950s Kuomintang uprising, supported by American intelligence agencies. The Uyghur leader of this rebellion, Isa Alptekin, worked to prevent intermarriage between Uyghurs and ethnic Chinese, and declared his enthusiastic support for the US war on Vietnam. Since this rebellion was suppressed, Beijing has been closely watching for any pan-Turkic and extremist ideology flaring up in the northwest of the country.

The job of a good investigative writer is to shine a spotlight on the darkened corners of US foreign and domestic policies. CIA insurgencies involving the cultivation of extremist groups are done in the dark, away from public scrutiny; but they have glaring and widespread public consequences.

Imperial propaganda is an inevitable accompaniment to such secretive activities; after all, it is necessary to disguise the goals of imperialist planners with high-sounding rhetoric. It is high time that such criminal foreign policies are cancelled, because it is the public that pays a high price for manufactured insurgencies.

The US Secretary of State, Kazakhstan and anti-Russia hysteria

US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, launched an unhinged tirade at Moscow, denouncing the decision by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to deploy troops to Kazakhstan at the invitation of that nation’s president. The CSTO is a post-Soviet military-political alliance involving six former Soviet republics, committed to military cooperation. The political situation in Kazakhstan has stabilised after a tumultuous few days.

Others have deeply analysed the turmoil in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic which has a large continuous land border with Russia. It is worthwhile for our purposes to examine the reasons behind the loud denunciations by the US administration of Russian intervention, because it throws light on imperialist hypocrisies. Blinken, while on the subject of the CSTO’s intervention, commented that once Russian troops are stationed in your nation’s territory, it is very difficult to get them out.

The boorish hypocrisy of his statement is staggering, considering the numerous countries which have been the target of US interventions, and the spreading of American military bases around the world. However, a few days after the CSTO deployment to Kazakhstan – from which nation CSTO troops have already begun to withdraw – news reports from the US made clear that the CIA was quite prepared to assist an insurgency inside the Ukraine. The latter is embroiled in a dispute with Moscow, and has become a base for European white supremacist groups.

Kazakhstan, like all the ex-Soviet republics, has structural economic inequalities. Its socialist assets, in similar fashion to other former Soviet states, were privatised back in the early 1990s with the restoration of capitalism and market mechanisms. Under the leadership of long term former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan opened up to transnational corporations, including American energy companies.

Nazarbayev also cultivated friendly and cooperative relations with both Moscow and Beijing. Kazakhstan eagerly participated in the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative, an inter-state economic project to expand Chinese investment and infrastructure projects around the world. Kazakhstan has extensive natural and mineral resources, and is the host of the Baikanour cosmodrome, the space and astronomy port built by the Soviets in the 1950s. It still plays a crucial role in the Russian space programme.

It is relevant to highlight the extensive experiences Russia has in participating in peacekeeping efforts, both in former Soviet republics and overseas under the auspices of the United Nations. In 2020, Russian peacekeepers were deployed to the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, as part of a Moscow-brokered ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Since 1992, Russian troops have maintained a peacekeeping role in the self-declared republic of Transnistria. The latter, a Russian-speaking region of Moldova, did not want to secede from the USSR in 1991. Moldova, an ex-Soviet republic, gravitated to its larger neighbour, Romania, with whom Moldovans share linguistic and cultural ties. With armed clashes breaking out, Moscow arranged a ceasefire and deployed peacekeeping soldiers.

In numerous African nations – the Sudan, Chad, Sierra Leone – Russian troops have participated in peacekeeping missions, and maintaining order between armed groups. Moscow is not a novice when it comes to following international law. Russian intervention in Syria, while militarily significant, was largely defensive in origin and sought to preserve Russian interests only in that nation. That is only a brief evaluation, and can be debated, but this article is not the forum for an extensive discussion on Syria.

There is no doubt that pervasive inequalities prompt large-scale protests and uprisings by the disadvantaged. It is also true that Kazakhstan – a country closely watched by Moscow – borders the Chinese region of Xinjiang, which has become the target of Islamist rebels and Uyghur militants. Kazakhstan is not immune to these developments.

Blinken is upset, not because the Kazakh people are struggling in difficult conditions, but because the CSTO intervention in Kazakhstan put an end to the prospect of a colour revolution. The latter is a tactic of the US to effect a ‘soft power’ change in a particular country, and install a pro-Western amenable regime – such as the 2014 Maidan ‘revolution’ in the Ukraine.

The structural inequalities in Kazakhstan are the result not of any ethnic or racial failings of the Kazakh people, but the deliberate consequence of years of implementing capitalist economic programmes, supervised by the IMF and the World Bank. The experiences of all the other ex-Soviet republics bears out this view. In Russia itself, in the wake of capitalist restoration in the early 1990s, there followed mass pauperisation, criminality, rampant ethnic conflict and humanitarian dislocation.

Instead of wasting our time and energy on faux outrage about Russian troops in Kazakhstan, let’s focus on the original crime – the economic policies promoted by the West which resulted in a humanitarian and social collapse. Blinken should turn his attention to the internal rot of the capitalist system in the United States before shouting condemnations of other nations.

Antifa and the false equivalence with the Alt-Right

When Antifa – an abbreviation of anti-fascist – gets lumped into the same category as white supremacists and neo-Nazis, it is time to demolish this malign and false equivalence. No, Antifa is not one single organisation; no, it is not the ethical equivalent of the far right.

Slanderously cynical and egregious falsehoods – equating those who advocate genocidal racist violence and those who promote ethnic equality – cannot remain unanswered. The ultranationalist Right, an agglomeration of white supremacist and ultrarightist groups, incites violence against the majority of humanity, and dehumanises nonwhite peoples. Opposing such an outlook, and the economic system that perpetuates racial divisions, is the diametric opposite of the pinstripe-suited Alt-Right.

Antifa is not a single group, but a description of loosely-organised, community based autonomous groups united by a common platform of opposition to racism and ultrarightist groups. The latter make no secret of their desire to attack migrant communities and minority religious groups. Ultranationalist terrorism has been, and still is, a fact of life in Britain and the United States.

Accusations of external fundinga tired old cliche

Ultranationalist groups, when confronted by movements for racial and economic equality, resort to an old, worn tactic – accusations of funding by controlling self-interested and malevolent forces. In the heyday of the US civil rights movement, the usual scapegoat trotted out as a ‘secret financier’ was the Jewish people. Portraying egalitarian movements as the dupes of malign external forces serves to delegitimise the goals and motivations of the accused groups.

In this era of updated antisemitic vitriol, liberal billionaire George Soros is targeted, accused of bankrolling Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and similar antiracist groups. There is zero evidence that Soros is contributing to any Antifa group, but that has not stopped the ultrarightist camp from using Soros as a convenient bogeyman, replacing the role of Rothschild in the right wing imagination.

Accusing Antifa of being the brainchild of a ruthless, conspiratorial billionaire derails the serious conversations we need to have about racism and economic inequalities in settler colonial societies. In fact, in a kind of mirror image way, ultranationalist groups are projecting their own trajectory and origins onto their opponents; ruthless billionaires have financed ultrarightist and white supremacist organisations as a counterweight to the organised labour movement.

When Antifa groups, drawn from their local communities, march in the street, they do so to promote an inclusive society – one that welcomes ethnic and religious minorities as equals. When the far right marches in the street, they do so to promote a racially exclusive society, intending on starting a race war to drive out nonwhite communities.

Rebranding political extremists is a practice of the corporate media

Since the early 1990s, the ultranationalist Right in the US has received international support – from their co-thinkers in Eastern Europe. Nazi collaborators from the World War 2 period have been systematically rehabilitated, along with their doctrines. American rightist groups have become emboldened by the success of their fellow white supremacists overseas.

We should also be mindful of the role of the corporate media in helping to rebrand Nazi collaborators as freedom fighters. American and British ultranationalist groups have marched alongside their neo-Nazi political brethren in Poland, the Baltic republics and Eastern European nations. While xenophobic groups despise those they view as foreigners, they actively support foreign-born racists.

This makes the necessity of Antifa more urgent; when the far right demonise migrants, and call for racist violence, it is ineffective to simply respond with centrism or blaming ‘both sides.’ Antifa draws from a longstanding and much ignored history of antiracist organising, confronting fascist groups wherever they arise.

The doctrines of the far right are deployed today

The far right has tried to revamp its image from that of bullyboy skinheads to that of pinstripe-suited intellectuals. However, scratch beneath the surface, and we can find the same inhumane ideas that motivated the fascist parties of old. When the director of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, suggests that the current Covid morbidities are largely acceptable because they occur among the already elderly and differently-abled, she is drawing from the long history of eugenics in the United States.

Resurrecting the spectre of eugenics in the US, rationalising the fatalities caused by Covid in the elderly and differently-abled as the inevitable deaths of a burdensome segment of the population, directly descends from Nazi-era eugenical,thinking. In fact, prior to World War 2, the United States was a world leader not only in legalised racial stratification, but also in legislating eugenics measures to control people deemed to be the ‘surplus’ population.

No, Walensky is not a fascist – but being of the sensible centre, she should know what kind of ideas she is circulating. In fact, all of us require a political education to understand the kinds of ideologies advocated by Antifa and its ultranationalist opponents. Drawing a false equivalence between the activists of Antifa and neo-Nazi groups only serves to obfuscate the rising problem of racism today.