Editorial from the March 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
As the crisis in the Gulf escalates, it is noticeable that the Russian ruling class is busy lining up behind Saddam Hussein`s Iraq. This is not because of any love affair with Saddam, but due to Russia`s transparent need to counter United States influence in the region while simultaneously exploiting divisions between the "old alliance" of the western states.
Just like the French, Russia also wants to bring Iraq back into the world economy (not least of all because Russia wants to recover its Iraqi debts). The current stand-off between the Russians and the Americans--including the recent diplomatic contact--has only served to promote the anti-Yeltsin extremes in Russian politics such as the neo-Fascist leader Zhirinovsky, currently making much noise about "solidarity with Saddam". And these are precisely the type of forces which have the largest influence on the Russian Duma.
But this is not all. The current plan to expand NATO into eastern Europe is highly antagonistic to Russian interests as it considers this to be an incursion into its traditional "sphere of influence". If this situation progresses and NATO eventually grows to include the Baltic states, a latter-day cold war scenario is again on the cards. The recent rapprochement between the Russian and Chinese ruling classes has demonstrated that Russia`s possible membership of the World Trade Organisation (with millions of dollars of aid) and Yeltsin`s observer status at the G7 meetings will not placate a wary Russian ruling class.
Given all this it is no wonder that Boris Yeltsin has indicated that a further demonstration of US firepower in the Gulf could be the precursor to a "third world war". Russia may not be the superpower it once was, but in this apparent phase of each nation state against all, the outlook of its ruling class faced with threats from another imperialist force demands attention from the working class. For the working class have been led sleep-walking into wars before--they should not, and cannot, let it happen again.