Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday, 10 March 2014
Double standards are on display as Western leaders attack Russia regarding Ukraine, while they themselves commit or endorse worse aggression on other countries.
World attention has focused on Ukraine recently. With President Victor Yanukovych making his exit and a new government formed, events shifted to Crimea, with accusations that the Russian military took over the region.
Yanukovych, resurfacing in a Russian town, said he left as his life was at risk, the new regime is illegitimate, and he is still the President.
Sizable crowds in Crimea (many of whose population are ethnic Russian) are showing anti-Kiev and pro-Russian feelings and the Crimean Parliament had decided to hold a referendum on whether to remain in Ukraine or break away and be part of Russia.
Western leaders have attacked Russia’s President Putin for his alleged invasion of Crimea. The Russian argument is that it has not invaded, that in any case it has a legitimate interest in Crimea due to historical links and the ethnic Russians who live there, who have asked for protection against the new and illegitimate Kiev regime.
Whatever the merits or otherwise of Russia’s position and actions, it is clear that there has been a long historical Russian-Crimea-Ukraine relationship. The complex condition requires a correspondingly complex solution.
The rhetoric of some Western leaders is aggressive. They accused Russia of violating sovereignty and international law, among other things.
The US plans to ban visas for selected Russian officials, followed by sanctions on Russian banks, freezing assets of its companies, and possibly trade measures.
The US President Barrack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have accused Putin of making use of false claims for its invasion, that Crimea is in danger.
“This is the 21st century and we should not see nations step backwards to behave in a 19th or 20th century fashion,” said Kerry. “It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve.”
Obama said “Russia cannot with impunity put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognized around the world”, adding that Russia is “on the wrong side of history.”
Listening to the American leaders lecturing Russia in their self-righteous tone, one is struck by the double standards and hypocrisy involved.
They don’t seem to realise how they have violated the same principles and behaviour they demand of Russia.
It was after all the United States that invaded Iraq in 2003, massively bombing its territory and killing hundreds of thousands, on the ground that Saddam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction.
The UN Security Council would not give the green light. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Many experts considered the war against Iraq a violation of international law, a view also expressed in a media interview by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal in 2011 found former US President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq war.
The US also waged war in Afghanistan, changing the regime, resulting in thousands of deaths. In Libya, the US and its allies carried out massive bombing, which aided opposition forces and led to the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Even now there are sanctions and the threat of military action against Iran on the suspicion it wants to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran has denied.
In contrast, the US turns a blind eye on Israel’s ownership of nuclear weapons. And when Israel conducted the blanket bombing of Lebanon and Gaza in recent years, with thousands of deaths, there was no condemnation at all from the US, which has also blocked Security Council resolutions and actions on its ally.
The US has also come under attack from human rights groups for its use of drones against suspected terrorists but which has also killed many civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.
Last week the UN Human Rights Council published a Special Rapporteur’s report which detailed the deaths of civilians caused by US drone attacks, and raised many questions of possible violations of international human rights law.
All these actions were done in the 21st century, which adds to many other actions in the 20th century.
It’s thus remarkable that Obama and Kerry could with a straight face accuse Russia of not acting in a 21st century manner, and being on the wrong side of history.
There appears to be still one law for the most powerful, and another for others. The former can invade and kill, while lecturing self righteously to others.
Whatever one thinks of Russia’s action in Crimea, it should be noted that no one has been killed because of it, at least not yet. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands or millions, who have died and suffered from past and present wars of the US and other Western countries.
Though much of the mainstream media also takes the establishment view, some Western journalists have also pointed out their leaders’ hypocrisy.
In an article, “America's Staggering Hypocrisy in Ukraine”, the well-known American journalist Robert Parry remarked: “Since World War II, the United States has invaded or otherwise intervened in so many countries that it would be challenging to compile a complete list…
“So, what is one to make of Secretary of State John Kerry's pronouncement that Russia's military intervention in the Crimea section of Ukraine – at the behest of the country's deposed president – is a violation of international law that the United States would never countenance?
“Are Kerry and pretty much everyone else in Official Washington so lacking in self-awareness that they don't realize that they are condemning actions by Russian President Vladimir Putin that are far less egregious than what they themselves have done?”
Parry concludes that the overriding hypocrisy of the media, Kerry and nearly all of Official Washington is their insistence that the United States actually promotes the principle of democracy or, for that matter, the rule of international law.