The United States has been trying to isolate Russia and has accelerated its sanctions regime since the start of the military operation in Ukraine. Washington has also tried to rally the world behind its position, harvesting rejection from several countries.
One of those is South Africa, with a population of 60 million one of the leading countries of the African continent and – more importantly, founding member of the BRICS.
The country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on blamed NATO for the war in Ukraine and said he would resist calls to condemn Russia.
And Ambassador Mathu Joyini, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, presented on March 24 a resolution to the General Assembly, competing the draft presented by France and Mexico that was condemning the Russian operation.
The Communist Party of South Africa is member of the ruling Tripartite Alliance alongside the African National Congress and the Congress of South African Trade Unions and thus exercises influence on the government. I spoke with Chris Matlhako, the Second Deputy General Secretary of the SACP on his party’s views on the Ukrainian crisis and beyond.
What is your analysis of the origins of crisis in Ukraine?
Our analysis of the origins of the crisis in the Ukraine is a historic one: It focuses on the imperialism, anti-communism, unilateralism and its efforts to construct a global system reflecting its image in all aspects. The end of the Cold War coincided with the ascendancy of neoliberal socio-economic and political thought which the US and imperialism sort to impose on the globe.
This crisis has it origins in the Cold War era and increased its intensity in the post-1990s with the breakup of the Soviet Union. Even certain guarantees were made by those who sought to integrate the former-Soviet Union republics into the global system dominated by the United States’ imperialist project of neoliberalism. The US agenda of following through with what its apostles regarded as the ‘end of history’ (as per political philosophy of one Francis Fukuyama) strove to force every region and peoples across the globe to embrace the American-western way of life, culture. Therefore, it advanced its geostrategic interests at the expense of the local peoples and their languages, culture and history.
In the final analysis, the US is seeking to obliterate any opposition to its hegemonic role in the globe. The instability and different kinds of hybrid wars instigated military coups, colored revolutions against those who stood (and continue to stand) against the interests of the US. These measures are employed and create the conditions for the intervention and so-called development aid and rebuilding infrastructures by US-inclined institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.
However Russia, with a huge history over the last century, has not backed down despite the capitulations of the early 1990s and has regained its fortitude and dignity. Russia’s capacities inherited from the Soviet Union in many spheres of industry – aerospace, military and others – survived the counter-revolution of the fall of the Soviet Union and pose the greatest threat to the US-NATO imperialism.
“Russia’s proposals must be included into final solution for a lasting peace”
What is your position concerning the current of the conflict?
We think its important to seek a lasting solution to the crisis, which is encapsulated in much of what Russia and Putin are putting forward. That list of proposals, which include a neutral Ukraine and stopping the eastward expansion of NATO, are some of the key positions that must be integrated into the package that will constitute the solution.
Anything outside of that will perpetuate the crisis, as we’ve seen in the last ten or so years. Russophobia has defined the history of the US in Eastern Europe alias the former Soviet Union republics. This poses a great threat too. This implies multipolarity should be advanced and respect for the history and territorial integrity of nations is a must and key ingredient towards any proposal for a solution.
How would you describe the African perspective on the conflict generally?
Africa’s perspective regarding the crisis in the Ukraine has been swing-swang depending on the evaluation the continent’s countries made at the time. The voting to rebuke Russia for its military incursions and implementation of sanctions describes the picture clearly. Even though historically the Soviet Union stood with the struggles of those fighting for national liberation and anti-colonialism, some sought to side with the dominant global power because of the ramifications of the economic and other issues.
However, others demonstrated unequivocally their disdain for US dominant power play by voting against the motion and siding with Russia. This was as part of the assertion against what the US and the West has wreaked upon them. An example is Eritrea, which has been under severe US sanctions since it’s founding, only because of having chosen a development trajectory away from the capitalism.
South Africa “explored a middle-road”
Countries such as South Africa sought to explore a ‘middle road’ between the US and Russia. There are many reasons for this position, among them the fact that South Africa is also part of BRICS, whose founding was based on forging multipolarity and an alternative to the dominant US-West rationale.
Even though this project was disturbed by the shifts in Brazil and India, there is still the belief in many circles – inside SA and elsewhere, that the BRICS will come back as the weathering of the neoliberal and its global institutions loose both efficacy and utility as an alternative. The nature of that alternative will be important as a major point of reference beyond this current devastating global system. This alternative will lead through its multiplicity and taking into account the variances that exist across the world.
There is US pressure on other countries to impose sanctions on Russia and cut economic and political ties. What is the stance of the South African government on that demand?
South Africa is seeking to define itself in the context of BRICS and has also historic ties with Russia that are rooted in the struggle for national liberation. Russia is not the Soviet Union. But ignoring that history will be tantamount to selling out your soul because those who sacrificed themselves for our struggle’s victory still constitute the largest majority of ordinary people in Russia.
South Africa is opposes sanctions due to its efforts for multipolarity
We are also aware that the early manifestations of counter-revolution have changed, as many people in Russia (including the leadership) harbors thoughts and sentiments around the Soviet Union in different way. South Africa has put itself forwards as potential mediator due to its role on the continent and its historic ties with both the US and Russia.
SA is principally opposed to unilateral imposed sanctions, given both our own history but also our efforts to build multipolarity against dominance and hegemony. In times of Apartheid, South Africa was sanctioned only because the majority of the oppressed people called for the imposition of sanctions against the illegitimate regime of Pretoria. This majority of the oppressed people sought the assistance of the world to avoid bloodshed, while the national liberation war gained momentum and the apartheid regime’s repression became more brutal and inhumane.
However the US’ unilateral imposed sanctions against countries such Iran, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Nicaragua and (now Russia) lack support from the international institutions and community. They are taken unilaterally at the behest of the rulers of the imperialist US. In the case of Russia, these sanctions will not work, because Russia is not a small economy and had achieved self-sustainability during its recent history. During that period, it was able to build huge capacities that included matching the imperialists in the space race.
It is no easy task to just say impose sanctions against Russia – Russia which has made huge advances in the recent years with its relations with China, the former Soviet Union republics in eastern Europe and in Africa, where a Russia-Africa platform was created and increased the trade and related matters between Russia and the continent were entertained and agreed upon.
Some argue that the conflict reaches beyond Ukraine and takes place between US claims of a unipolar world and opposing initiatives of a multipolar world. What s your opinion about that argument?
We agree that the implications of the crisis in the Ukraine go beyond the specific geographic region, spanning wide swathes across the globe. The US efforts to create instability across the globe and it’s wars of regime change reverberate in the minds of many – despite the elite and military-oil-industry complex in the US charging for full on military exchange with Russia.
They have been clandestinely sending small arms to the Banderas in the Ukraine and urging them on, because this has huge implications for their profits. But the world has changed significantly since the end of the Cold War and as such, the institutions and praxis of that era doesn’t hold in today’s period. In the face of deepening global inequality and grinding poverty and inequity, the majority of the global population that suffers at the hands of the ruling classes and elite, confronts the climate devastations and seeks an alternative to the existing system.