The Left Grapples with Ukraine Invasion
The political left was generally skeptical of the U.S. State Department warnings about the impending Russian invasion of Ukraine. On shows like Breaking Points and podcasts like Chapo Trap House, they pointed out a recent history of misinformation coming from official U.S. sources on matters such as Russiagate, the Afghanistan Papers, and an imminent nuclear attack from North Korea. Reasoning that the notoriously calculated Vladimir Putin would know better than to repeat a boondoggle like Moscow’s invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, progressives generally dismissed the possibility that the military invasion would come to pass.
When faced with the reality of Putin’s invasion, those on the left like Hasan Piker were forced to admit that they were wrong.
didnt think a regional power would act so irrationally. ik putin doesn’t care abt lives but these actions also directly harm his geopolitical interests- energy projects, legitimize nato/cold war agitprop. i’ve admitted my mistakes. i got things wrong. i hope ukranians are safe https://t.co/2WARoDLLeP
— hasanabi (@hasanthehun) February 24, 2022
However, people such as The Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill pointed out what they view as important nuances:
It is intellectually dishonest to ignore the broken promises from the US & NATO regarding NATO expansion. It is lunacy to deny that Russia has legitimate security concerns posed by this expansion even if its response to these concerns is a heinous invasion. Both can be true.
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) March 2, 2022
Progressive pundits like Kyle Kulinski have argued that the West should retaliate strictly with sanctions, not direct military intervention in the way of NATO troops, and that said sanctions should be targeted to punish Russian oligarchs, as opposed to innocent Russians. Another major unorthodox contention they’re making is that the condemnation of the invasion is very selective. The Russian offensive is being condemned because, among other reasons, the victims (Ukrainians) are white and Christian, and the belligerent (Putin) has been one of America’s biggest boogeymen for two decades. This has been elaborated on in pieces such as the following essay from Tamara Nassar:
“Whereas almost any show of sporting or cultural solidarity or boycott in support of Palestine is prohibited, ostracized or punished, protesting Russia is quickly becoming compulsory.” Excellent piece by @TamaraINassar https://t.co/ZXNJWD9Yco
— Nora Barrows-Friedman (@norabf) March 2, 2022
Others have pointed out some unsavory elements of the Ukrainian resistance, such as the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. On a similar point, many have pointed out that refugees fleeing to bordering NATO countries have been racially profiled, with people of Indian, East Asian, or African origin being denied asylum in countries such as Hungary and Poland. This is part of a larger point that those on the left have been making about refugee rights in the EU for years, such as analyst Liam Meisner:
Remember when Poland deployed 15,000 troops to keep out refugees from the Middle East and let them freeze to death? I’m sad for people in Ukraine under attack right now, but this conflict is another stark reminder of what kind of lives really matter to Europeans and Americans. https://t.co/vAuJ2TVd87
— Liam φ (@Hezbolsonaro) February 25, 2022
Overall, people on the left have been critical of both Putin’s illegal invasion of a sovereign nation, while also condemning some politicians and people with defense industry ties who want to bring the world to the edge of nuclear war by committing NATO ground troops to Ukraine. They’ve pointed out important contextual information about how Russia has felt besieged by NATO since the 1990s and how media outrage at the invasion has been hypocritical, in lieu of similar wars waged by the West in countries like Yemen and Afghanistan.