How world progressive forces have reacted to war in Ukraine

By Leslie Evans

The war in Ukraine has drawn a clear line of divide among political forces on a global scale. The first line, particularly strong among progressive forces in the Global South, and socialist or socialist oriented countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and China, has rightly analysed that the fundamental cause of the war in Ukraine is the thirty-year-old US policy of aggressive expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe – including attempting to incorporate Ukraine into NATO. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of world countries, whatever their precise analysis of the war in Ukraine, has refused to join in sanctions against Russia – indicating they refuse to join the imperialist and NATO frenzy.

The second line is in the imperialist/Global North countries, including unfortunately parts of the left, which has supported the policy of NATO in blaming the war not on NATO’s aggressive expansion but on Russia.

In this war the US/NATO states have been directly aiding Kyiv’s military operations. However, the reaction of Global South countries and progressive forces in the Global North and South indicates that the line of the US/NATO campaign is encountering significant opposition.

In effect, the overwhelming majority of the world opposes US sanctions. This is true across the progressive forces in Latin America, the vast bulk of the African countries and both India and Pakistan. This represents the overwhelming majority of humanity.

In the imperialist centres and the NATO countries in general, the situation is reversed, with only a brave minority willing to oppose the imperialist manoeuvrings of their own governments. But they are important forces, and will become increasingly significant if the conflict is not resolved to the advantage of the US.

Global South countries

There is a huge divergence in the response of the Global North (i.e imperialist) and Global South (i.e, semi-colonial) countries to the US/NATO demands. Even many of the countries of the Global South which voted on 2 March at the UN General Assembly to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine are overwhelmingly not joining the NATO countries in imposing sanctions on Russia.

The map below, published by the Daily Mail when Russia’s military was advancing in the east of Ukraine, clearly illustrates which countries are implementing sanctions – the Global North and its Australasian offshoots (in pink). These are largely the same countries that have been implementing sanctions on Russia since 2014. The majority of countries in the world, almost the entire Global South, are not joining this economic warfare (in grey).

Progressive forces – Global South

There is very strong opposition to NATO’s expansion from progressive political forces in the Global South. Also, whilst there is significant confusion amongst left forces in the Global North, there are definitely people taking clear positions against the US/NATO’s advances to the east. Some examples of such progressive positions are set out below.


The Cuban government statement on the Ukraine conflict notes the following:

‘The U.S. determination to continue NATO’s progressive expansion toward the Russian Federation’s borders has brought about a scenario with implications of unpredictable scope, which could have been avoided.

‘United States’ and NATO’s military moves toward regions adjacent to the Russian Federation in recent months are well known, and were preceded by the delivery of modern weapons to Ukraine, which together constitute a military siege.

‘It is impossible to make a rigorous and honest examination of the current situation in Ukraine, without carefully assessing the Russian Federation’s just demands of the United States and NATO..

‘Ignoring the well-founded claims made by the Russian Federation concerning security guarantees for decades and assuming that Russia would remain defenseless in the face of a direct threat to its national security was a mistake. Russia has the right to defend itself. Peace cannot be achieved by mounting sieges or encircling states.’

Nicolas Maduro President of Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro, has pointed out that the actions taken against Russia show that the US and its European allies continue to think of the world from the logic that empires have towards their colonies. On 23 February he said:

‘We have been attentive to the events in Russia and Ukraine. We observe how NATO intends to end Russia and a multipolar world, which is already a reality,

 ‘Venezuela announces all its support for President Vladimir Putin in his defense of peace in Russia, his people, and his homeland. All our support for President Putin!

‘The peace of Russia is the peace of the world and we are going to defend it… Russia and all the peoples of the world must be respected.’

Daniel Ortega President of Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega, on 21 February, stated that Russia was right to recognise the two Donbass regions as independent and that Ukraine’s attempt to join NATO represented a threat to Russia from which it was ‘simply defending itself.’

Evo Morales Former President of Bolivia

Evo Morales’ tweets (here and here) are below:

The peoples and democratic governments of the world should encourage a campaign to denounce that the #OTAN is the main enemy of humanity, which threatens life, peace and the economy due to its expansionist, interventionist and warmongering policy.

And Evo Morales also tweeted: “We call for an international mobilization to stop the interventionist expansionism of #OTAN and #EEUU . Humanity cries out for pacification, conflagration is not the solution. Arms and imperialist hegemony puts world peace at risk.”

African National Congress Youth League

The ANC Youth League has published a statement including the following points:

‘The unwarranted economic embargoes against Russia, the freezing of its Central Bank assets, the weakening of its currency, censoring of Russian TV and Sputnik are a reminder of Europe’s once demonic detriment of countries that wanted independence in Africa.

‘We call on the Youth in Africa to reject this despotic nature of European Union and USA’s conduct. Africa has a bad experience with NATO, Libya is still a war zone since the events in Tripoli, 2011 led to the murdering of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. We are hounded by US military bases, Tigray in Ethiopia is still unstable, Somali, Sudan, and many other African countries still breath the wrath of Yankee capitalism. The charlatanic war talks by both Boris Johnson and Joe Biden force Moscow to defend itself.

‘The ANCYL says no to NATO fascist expansion to the East! The ANCYL calls for the permanent expulsion by any means necessary of US formed Africa Command (Africom) military bases.’

In the belly of the beast

In the Global North, that is the imperialist countries, naturally their governments have done everything possible to conceal the aggressive expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe, and the attempt to expand it into Ukraine – and to place all the blame for the war on Russia, Unfortunately parts of the left have gone along with this imperialist pressure. There are, however, forces in the Global North which have refused to go along with this imperialist narrative and distortion. A determined minority is opposing its own imperialism, not least in the US itself where peace activists and socialists are to the fore in focusing on US policy. Below are listed some of the most notable.

Monthly Review

This month’s editorial of the US socialist magazine Monthly Review sets out to explain the aggressive international policy framework that US administrations have been following for the past three decades. It notes a number of US foreign policy analysts and particularly analyses the way in which aggressive US foreign policy has been following the analysis of Zbigniew Brzezinski – a key architect of the US’s geopolitical strategy from President Carter onwards. The editorial details a US strategy that includes the following key points:

‘In order for the Atlantic Alliance under U.S. leadership to dominate Eurasia, it was first necessary for it to gain primacy … to diminish Russia to the point that it could no longer claim great power status.

‘The key “geopolitical pivot” on which this turned … was Ukraine.

‘a Ukraine that was incorporated as part of NATO would be a dagger at Moscow’s heart.

‘This then required the “enlargement of NATO,” extending it all the way to Ukraine, shifting strategic weapons to the East, with the object of eventually gaining control of Ukraine itself. The enactment of this grand strategy would likewise make Europe, notably Germany, more dependent on the United States, undercutting the independence of the European Union.

‘Complete U.S./NATO dominance of Ukraine was a virtual death threat to Russia … China then would also be destabilized from its Far West.’

Others in the Global North

The New York Times attacked the Democratic Socialists of America for their opposition to NATO, including their call to leave it altogether. Fox News and the White House chimed in with denunciations. The response of some has been to step up their activity and broaden their alliances, notably with branches of the CPUSA.

This is echoed in Britain with attacks on Young Labour. Other anti-NATO voices have refused to be silenced, even though many have also come under attack. These include numerous political currents and their leading representatives including Margaret Kimberley and Brian Becker in the US, ‘Radio Free Amanda’, Patricia Dowling, Lowkey, Mary Dejevsky, John Wight, Wolfgang Streeck in New Left Review, and many, many more. (Apologies to all those important voices not mentioned for reason of space, or lack of awareness).

One of the great tricks of imperialism is to pretend that it represents ‘the whole world’. This is reproduced across society in language and institutions. The BBC is currently running ads claiming it represents the whole of society.

In reality, the world is overwhelmingly, over 80%, non-white. It lives outside the rich countries. And in this case the clear majority of humanity is in countries that are either explicitly against imperialism in Ukraine or have refused to join in US sanctions against Russia.