Western hypocrisy could lead to global conflict

Scott Taylor

Scott Taylor

As events rapidly unfold in Ukraine, the hypocrisy of the United States and western powers would be hilarious if it was not for the sobering reality that their brinkmanship is pushing us toward a global conflict.

Canada has been the most strident and bellicose of all partic-ipants, with the exception of the self-appointed interim Ukrainian government. On his trip to the streets of Kyiv in the immediate wake of president Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird made it clear that Canada “is not a referee” in this crisis. We are firmly on the side of the anti-Yanukovych faction.

Such a knee-jerk, impulsive declaration immediately excludes Canada from playing any sort of peace-pursuing mediator role in this equation, and it bone-headedly over-simplifies what is a very complex situation.

Baird also championed the self-appointed interim government as being pro-freedom and pro-democracy. This somehow ignores the fact that Yanukovych was elected through a democratic process and that the interim leadership seized power through violent demonstrations and parliamentary procedure.

Baird’s simplistic proclamation of support also ignores the fact that the Svoboda Party now in power in Kyiv contains ultra right-wing nationalists and anti-Semites. There is also a clearly pro-Russian faction emerging — particularly in eastern Ukraine and Crimea — and they are making it abundantly clear they want nothing to do with the interim government in Kyiv.

They too must be democratic freedom lovers, by Baird’s calculation, because they are now using the same tactics used by protesters to oust Yanukovych. In eastern Ukrainian cities like Donetsk and Kharkov, angry crowds have stormed and seized government buildings while brandishing Russian flags.

In response to the Russian military exerting control of airfields and harbours in Crimea, Baird invoked the ultimate in rhetoric by comparing Putin’s move to that of Adolf Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Nothing works better when demonizing someone than a comparison to Hitler.

Canada also yanked its ambassador out of Moscow immediately after Russian troops deployed in Crimea, yet another brilliant move on the part of Canada to cut off communication at the outset of a complex and extremely sensitive international situation.

Still not satisfied that Moscow was getting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s message of discontent, Baird took the extreme step of expelling nine Russian officers who were in Canada on exchange programs and language training. In true Baird tough-guy style, he apparently gave the Russian soldiers 24 hours to pack their bags and get out of Dodge.

Baird also spent a lot of time beating his chest and sputtering on about levelling sanctions against Russia. This was probably why Canada was not invited to any of the big boy emergency discussions on the Ukraine crisis that were held last week by the U.S., Russia and major European nations.

The Europeans know that sanctions are not an option in this equation, as western Europe currently imports 40 per cent of its natural gas and oil from Russia through pipelines across Ukraine. So while it is easy for Baird to heave around the sanction hammer, the Europeans have no desire to be left freezing in the dark.

It would be unfair to paint Harper and Baird as the only two beating the war drum. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry actually rebuked Putin with the warning that he cannot invade a country “on a completely trumped up pretext.”

Many U.S. talk show hosts repeated Kerry’s words, pointed to a map of Iraq and pilloried the irony.

The other major hypocrisy in NATO’s current stance relates to the Crimea region’s right to self-determination. Last week, the Crimean governor declared he would hold a referendum next Sunday to decide whether or not residents wished to join Russia or remain part of Ukraine.

This has, of course, set off the western powers into fits of rage with declarations that such a move would be an illegal violation of Ukraine’s sovereign territory (about 60 per cent of the Crimean population are ethnic Russians). This is the same NATO that bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days in the spring of 1999 to ensure the right to self-determination for the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, both Albanian and Serbian.

As much as Harper, Baird and Kerry want to smear Putin with a war crime label, it must be remembered that, to date, not a single Russian bullet has been fired in the crisis. And if what Putin is doing in Crimea is wrong, then NATO leaders who led the campaign against Yugoslavia should be indicted for committing the same crime of violating sovereign territory.

There are no statutes of limitations on war crimes — just hypocrisy in labelling them as such.