Thursday 20 February 2014

Exquisite Hypocrisy: The West's Response To The Ukrainian Crisis

Dead Man Rioting: Try to imagine what US law enforcement would do to someone trying this in the National Mall, Washington DC. The West's exquisite hypocrisy over President Victor Yanukovych's response to what is unfolding in Ukraine is truly breath-taking.
KIEV IS BURNING. The democratically elected government of Ukraine is under attack from an armed, Western-backed minority. The extreme right-wing organisation, “Right Sector”, equipped with firearms, Molotov Cocktails, explosive devices, shields, iron bars and paving stones has shattered the painstakingly constructed peace agreement which only a few days ago seemed set to end the occupation of Kiev’s Independence Square and secure a general amnesty for all those protestors who had broken the law in their confrontation with the Ukrainian state.
This sudden escalation of violence has already cost the lives of 26 citizens – 10 of them police officers. In an even more ominous development, opponents of the government of President Yanukovych have raided police and security forces armouries in provincial Ukrainian cities and seized an unknown quantity of offensive weapons. The country teeters on the brink of Civil War.
It is worth reiterating that these deadly attacks are directed against a head of state and a government chosen by the Ukrainian people less than four years ago in free and fair elections. The ostensible cause of the protests – the Ukrainian President’s decision to look to the Russian Federation, rather than the European Union, for desperately needed economic aid – was a perfectly legitimate political decision, no different from the decision of the US Government to join NAFTA, or our own government’s decision to sign a free trade agreement with China.
Can you imagine the reaction of the US Government if in 1994 the opponents of NAFTA had marched into the heart of Washington DC carrying all manner of offensive weapons, occupied the Lincoln Memorial and demanded both the abrogation of the treaty and the resignation of President Clinton? What do you think would have happened if, as barricades went up around the National Mall and clouds of black smoke from burning tyres drifted over the White House, the FBI had then released evidence showing that a number of the protest leaders had taken part in training sessions organised and funded by an agency of the Russian Government? How do you think the US media would have reacted? Would Clinton’s Attorney General, Janet Reno, have insisted that, notwithstanding the multiple police fatalities, neither the US Army nor National Guardsmen from the adjoining states of Maryland and Virginia would be permitted to intervene?
Remember, this is the same Janet Reno who, on 19 April, 1993, ordered the militarised FBI assault on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, resulting in the deaths of 76 men, women and children.
With images of fiery revolt filling their television screens, how do you think the American people would react to calls from the Russian Foreign Minister that the US Government “avoid the use of excessive force” against civilians?
Not much imagination is required to envisage the response of the United States (or indeed any Western nation) to the sort of provocations the Ukrainian government has to endured for the past three months. At both the state and federal levels American authorities have never hesitated to resort to deadly force against those perceived to be challenging the forces of law and order.
The example inscribed forever on my memory took place at Kent State University in Ohio on 4 May 1970. That was the day Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on hundreds of unarmed students protesting the US invasion of Cambodia. The Canadian artist, Neil Young, immortalised the incident in his song Ohio:

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio
The exquisite hypocrisy of American politicians urging Ukrainian politicians to “pull back” the Riot Police so as to avoid civilian casualties is truly breath-taking.
More chilling, however, is the steady escalation of tension between the European Union and Ukraine. Robbed of its prized EU-Ukraine FTA by Yanukovych, the EU countries (with US connivance) have announced the imposition of “smart” sanctions against leading Ukrainian politicians. The response from Yanukovych's allies in the Russian Foreign Ministry has been swift:
“The Russian side demands that leaders of the [opposition] stop the bloodshed in their country, immediately resume dialogue with the lawful authorities without threats or ultimatums.
“Ukraine is a friendly brother state and a strategic partner, and we will use all our influence in order for peace and calm to reign.”
For the moment, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has refrained from personally adding fuel to Kiev’s raging fires. He is anxious not to jeopardise the success of the still proceeding Winter Olympics at Sochi – upon which his government has expended billions. In a few days, however, the Games will be over and Putin will be able to devote his full attention to restoring “peace and calm” to his country’s most important “brother state and strategic partner”.
At that point the West’s exquisite hypocrisy may end up ruling the fate of many.
This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.


Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Chris

If there is one thing we appear to agree upon, it is the disaster that is American foreign policy. Where ever they engage they seem to cause bloodshed and mayhem.

It's shameful.

I'm glad to see you supporting the concept of the soverign nation state, and the freedom of its citizens to choose its own leadership free from outside inteference.

The EU of course has no love for soverign nation states, preferring instead a confederation of European nations under their leadership and direction. No wonder the Ukraine has resisted joining their club.

Davo Stevens said...

Gosh there is so much mis-info on Ukraina. The country is NOT on the verge of a civil war at all. The troubles in Kiev are mostly contained in that city. The majority of Ukrainians want to connect to Europe with the exception of a few ethnic Russian Settlers in the east.

I have friends on both sides of the Dnieper River and all they want is peace to prevail.

Yes Brendan, you're right about the Yanks, everything they touch turns to poison. And yes, they are involved in this conflict as are the Russians.

But you're wrong about the EU. It was set up to unify all the sovereign states and put an end to the disastrous wars that have plagued that troubled continent for hundreds of years.

Yanokovich was ready to sign off the deal with Europe when he was summonsed to Moscow and did an about-face that has angered the people there.

Why the change? well. it could have been a bit of bribery or a threat, perhaps a mix of both.

markus said...

Precisely, Chris.

I'm also reminded of Thailand's wealthy urban (and supremely anti-democratic) elite.

Anonymous said...

"It is worth reiterating that these deadly attacks are directed against a head of state and a government chosen by the Ukrainian people less than four years ago in free and fair elections. "

Well, that election was rather "close", and it did not resolve the problem that Ukraine is a totally divided country, between a west wanting closer ties with the EU, and the east being populated my mostly Russians, or their descendants, who want to align themselves with Russia.

I am agreeing with some of what you write, but your suggestion that Putin has so far withheld his influence is misleading. Putin and the Russian government operate behind the scenes, they have secret service agents on the ground at all protests and so forth, they are certainly doing all to support the present Russia friendly Ukrainian government, as that is in their strategic interest.

I also agree that the US and EU will have some persons there that work for an agenda to get Ukraine opened to trade with the west, and to distance itself from Russia.

At least most of the EU is democratic, which Russia is only to a degree, being a rather nationalistic, patronising system and country now, tightly controlled by Putin and his lot.

I think that discrediting this revolution in Kiev is making you a bit of a hypocrite, Chris. There is more to it, and it is justified, but also, yes, there are forces involved (Ukrainian nationalists), who should not be supported.

This post by you leaves me to think you are a bit pro Russian biased, I am afraid. But good try, we need diverse comments and posts.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Davo

Yes, I understand why the EU was set up, to abolish nation states and nationalism that was percieved to be the cause of wars in Europe. However this was always a utopian dream. Germans will never be Greeks economically or in their cultural outlook anymore than Kiwis will be Tongans or Samoans. (struggling to find a local analogy).

The EU will unravel as all utopian political constructs eventually do. It is predicated upon a view of mankind that is not based in reality. Eventually reality must surface.

Davo Stevens said...

Vlad Putin is a petty dictator nothing more, nothing less, who likes to prance around showing off his muscles and 6-pack abs.

He spent $50B on a bunch of people sliding downhill on sticks when the infrastructure of Russia is falling apart. Roads with bloody great potholes, schools that are cold and leaking, hospitals that are a mess. When we were there last year we were shocked at the state of the infrastructure in Russia today for a country that has such a huge wealth in oil revenues!

Vlad has just forced the last independent TV station to shut down because it was critical of him. He has closed all the independent radio stations critical to his govt. too. Hardly a benign democrat!

Ukraina is an "Oh Crap" country. Ethnic Ukrainians are both European in outlook and culturally and the largest majority want closer ties with Europe. It's only the few ethnic Russians that want to stay with Russia.

Davo Stevens said...

Yo' Brendan,

Yes you're right, Europe could never be completely integrated, it was a wet dream of Truman that somehow Europe could be another US of A. The two are so completely different.

The US was settled by people who basically had the same language and cultures (within reason)and all were driven by a common purpose. Europe has animosities that in some cases, goes back millenia. That is not going to change much for many generations.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

You must be joking Davo – just check what percentage of Americans are Hispanic. And remember that America was actually settled originally by the English and Scots, but there was later a huge number of Irish, Scandinavians, Italians, Germans – all Europeans amazingly enough with the animosities you mentioned.

Robert M said...

Don't really agree, Chris. In some ways much more difficult to free strategically and geographical than the Baltic states, the Ukraine does have a legitimate case for independence. In strategic reality, it s close to impossible, as Russia is still very much nuclear armed and conventionally capable and only the usually reckless, John McCain even flirts with the idea of US aid to those wanted to join the EEC. But Putin's rearming and reasserting Russian power is already creating dangerous networks of old style alliances, abeit due to the stupidity of romantic westerners supporting the Arab spring which in most cases in the Middle East guarantees brotherhood rule. Even a decade ago the Russian intelligence effort in the west was back to the levels of the cold war, one should note that effort in NZ has been full on the since the mid 1920s when the Soviet embasssy arrived in Mezines road the richest st in Karori and good looking illegals arrived in NZ schools and universities, preaching such doctrines as even opponents like my ma incorporated, 'you can't make an omlette without smashing eggs' which can be interpreted in hitlerite terms, as all real social change is achieved by extreme violence.
But in terms of the Ukraine it does in many ways seem to be two nations not just in political belief but in social, physical and economic geography and demography.

Davo Stevens said...

Yes Surgeon, but are you describing America or the US? Canada is part of America so is Brazil.

The settlers in the US colonies had a common purpose: to carve out a new life for themselves and protect themselves from unruly natives.

A common cause buries animosities into the background. After several generations those animosities tend to disappear.

Europe doesn't need to put aside animosities to survive but the EU does. Their biggest mistake is to unify all those differing cultures under one currency. The more powerful economies over ride the weaker ones and we can see the result.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Further to that, now that I've had a bit more chance to reflect – what makes you think that America is more unified in Europe? I suspect that without the Constitution there would have been a number of secessions by now :-). There's a huge polarisation in the US at the moment between red and blue states, and there are also animosities there that go back a century and a half :-). They still use the Confederate flag a lot in the South for instance. Personally I think animosities can often be overcome by prosperity, and by localism, but one of these is in short supply in the U.S. at the moment.

Victor said...


It's fashionable these days to decry or seek to belittle the achievements of the European Union. But this flies in the face of more than sixty years of successful cohabitation, during which member states have enjoyed an unprecedented degree of prosperity, peace, freedom, human welfare and democracy. Where else on earth has ever been able to boast such a record?

These achievements had their genesis on a continent ravaged by what were probably the worst wars of human history. And they were later sustained as the collapse of a neighbouring empire sent profound waves of instability and dislocation flowing westwards.

I know you to share my scepticism about the ability of our species to ever get anything right. That's all the more reason to recognise human achievement when it is palpable, solid and sustained. But perhaps the problem with the palpable, the solid and the sustained is that we tend to take it a bit for granted.

That doesn't, of course, mean that the EU is without its problems. The introduction of the Euro was always, in my view, a mistake, as you simply can't have a common currency without a common fiscal policy. And you can't have a common fiscal policy without virtually identical social policies. This was never going to happen. It was a bridge too far.

Those troublesome offshore islanders are also a problem (and I'm not referring to the Irish). And, unfortunately, the myopic delusions of my fellow Poms are starting to prove contagious as the EU, along with the rest of the planet, battles with the consequences of global depression.

A further issue is the inevitable preponderance of Germany and that country's increasing willingness to use its huge influence to promote policies that suit both its interests and the sentiments of its voters. But did anyone ever truly expect Germany to always remain the self-denying, guilt-ridden economic giant and political dwarf?

As to your preference for sovereign states, these are all just as much the product of contingency as the EU. There was no nation state (as we now understand the term) called Germany before 1871. Nor, of course, was there between 1945 and 1990. There was no Italy before 1861, no Belgium before 1830, no Czech Republic before 1993 etc. etc. We should not assume that such states are necessarily more fixed, permanent or legitimate than the Union of which they're part.

Relations with a resurgent (nationalist and authoritarian) Russia are also, of course, a problematic issue for the EU. As far as the Ukraine is concerned, it seems to me unrealistic to expect either Moscow or the EU to butt out completely. Both have significant and unavoidable interests there. Let us hope that both of them use there influence wisely and cautiously in the weeks ahead.

Davo Stevens said...

No argument from me there Surgeon, your comments are valid.

Montana has more in common with Ontario than Washington as does Colorado with Brit. Colombia.

Most of what holds the US together is the incessant patriotic jingoism that pervades their culture much to our bemusement. We may be patriotic Kiwis but we don't shout it from the rooftops or stand around beating our chests.

It's possible maybe even probable that the US will split up some time in the future and a Constitution won't stop that.

In Europe we don't see that depth of Jingoism, we don't see the French along with the Germans or the Germans with the Dutch all shouting "Hail Europa!" Not likely to happen either.

btb said...

I think your comparison/contrast with the level of civil disobedience tolerated by the US is interesting. In the US they would have been dealt to in smart fashion, in my opinion there would have been no hesitation in the application of deadly force. The comparisons with kent state killings and waco are justified, and the recent killing of that unfortunate woman with her child in the car in washington exempilfy how ruthless the US is when its government is slightly threatened. Anyone with a molotov cocktail in washington monument area would have gone down in a hail of lead, end of story. Fox news would have been laughing their asses off.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"In Europe we don't see that depth of Jingoism"

Thank god :-).

Ennui said...

As a follow up to this story I suggest people read where there is some excellent commentary that contradicts several of the comments to date.

In effect Orlov without saying so points out the Ukraine from an ethnic and political viewpoint is an artificial construct, as he notes 2/3rd of the population are ethnic Russians and Orthodox, and live mainly in the east. The other third are Ukrainian and Catholic, more akin to the neighbouring Poles and live to the west. I suspect the east and the Crimea will join the Russian Federation, leaving a rump state. Who knows? The one hing for sure is western (US and European) meddling in the area.

To me this meddling has all the appearance of imperial over reach, that is creating trouble in another powers sphere of influence by proxy. The US and Europe are doing this without the ability to actually deliver on the ground, should Russia decide to intervene in Ukraine short of a nuclear threat there is little the "West" could do to oppose Russia.

Anonymous said...

What about the luxury the president lived in?

Victor said...


Thanks for another excellent web reference.

However, I think that the item somewhat overstates the percentage of native Russian speakers in Ukraine.

A number of other sources suggest that the country is around 60% ethnic Ukrainian, although that's also probably an exaggeration.

As I understand the situation, many of the ethnic Russians live in overwhelmingly Russian-speaking areas (e.g. the Crimea, which, incidentally, isn't contiguous with Russia).

Others, however, live in ethnically-mixed areas and their secession would probably involve the ethnic cleansing of non-Russians. It would almost certainly be both bloody and messy.

Putin's telephone conversation of yesterday with Angela Merkel reinforces the impression that he isn't interested in a land grab but wants Ukraine in one piece, nominally independent but subservient to Moscow and probably integrated into his projected Eurasian Union.

But, a decade and a half since Putin swam into our consciousness, he remains something of an enigma. Moreover, events on the ground are moving with some speed and there's now a strong chance of parts of Ukraine moving off unilaterally.

Meanwhile, I agree with Chris that impotent grandstanding in Washington can only make a complex and dangerous situation more complex and dangerous.

Victor said...

One further brief comment:

The EU should obviously also avoid grandstanding.

But, unlike the US, it's not got the luxury of extracting itself totally from a mess that it's helped to create.