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Pot That Called the Kettle Black

In fact it is the United States that has run most rough shod over the security council, frequently blocking motions from even coming to a vote.

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Pete Souza/The White House Pete Souza/The White House

There is nothing like a crisis to expose the hypocrisy and dishonesty that is intertwined in international relations and what masquerades as international law. The Ukraine conflict is laying bare the fault lines of both Russia and the West.

Ukraine is one of several breakaway regions of the former Soviet Union, which declared independence in 1991. It is the largest country in Europe and not surprisingly both the West and Russia have been vying for influence over its strategic spoils, including, most notably, access to the Black Sea. Russian and Western backed political parties have been locked in a battle for supremacy, miring the country in political gridlock for the better part of a decade now.

The latest crisis was sparked when Pres. Viktor Yanukovych, who was elected in 2010, rejected a union agreement with the European Union, sparking civil unrest by his opponents, forcing him to flee to Russia for personal safety. His parliamentary opponents have installed an acting president and prime minister, who have been recognized by the West. Russia, on the other hand, has declared Yanukovych’s ouster as a coup and rejected the new leaders as illegitimate.

The crisis escalated after Crimea, a Russian dominated region, which had been gifted to Ukraine in 1954, held a referendum to secede from Ukraine, in which nearly 97 percent of voters supported joining Russia, which has sent troops into Crimea and exercises virtually complete control over the region.

This is where the fun begins.

The European Union and the United States have repudiated the democratic outcome of a referendum, arguing that it had not been authorized by the central Ukrainian authorities. They have imposed travel bans and asset freezes of Russian and Crimean officials for undermining “democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine.” The uncomfortable side note, of course, is that the current Ukrainian regime had deposed an elected president, who happens to support Crimea’s move.

Russia, which seems to be preparing the groundwork to annex Crimea, of course, touts the democratically exercised will of the people. Pres. Vladimir Putin, whose government routinely represses and hounds critics, did end runs around the Russian constitution to run for reelection for a third time, and then intimidated his opponents with machineries of the state, simply can’t tear away from democratic expressions of a free people. He would not though tolerate similar democratic exercises in other restive regions of Russia or its erstwhile empire — say Chechnya or Georgia.

Ukraine just happens to be the latest pawn in this disingenuous game of international chicanery. The same hypocrisy has played out over Egypt and Syria and Iran and Israel for decades now. In Egypt, the United States is backing a military junta that ousted a democratically elected president. In Syria, Russia is propping up a brutal tyrant.

Recently, the United States mocked Russia’s international isolation after it vetoed a security council resolution on Ukraine. In fact it is the United States that has run most rough shod over the security council, frequently blocking motions from even coming to a vote. Between 1996 to 2012, it exercised the security council veto far more frequently than any other permanent member of the council and almost twice as frequently as Russia.

So the next time Pres. Barack Obama or Pres. Putin take the stage, can we please be spared the moral hectoring.


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Commentary | Politics | March 2014

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