In Other Parts of the World: Business as Usual in Crimea

I’m not an expert on Russo-Ukrainian politics, so I opted not to weigh-in too much on the matter. One thing I do know is that it is just international politics as usual, states playing each other to ensure their “national interests”, and that the issue is mostly about gas, military installations in Crimea, and access to the Black Sea. Without further ado, here is a very good piece by Neil Macdonald at the CBC (of Canada, if you don’t know already):

Listening to U.S. President Barack Obama bang on this week about the importance of world opinion and obeying international law and respecting sovereignty and being on the right side of history, you had to wonder whether he didn’t have a little voice in his head whispering: “Really? Seriously? I’m actually saying this stuff?"

This is the commander-in-chief of a military that operates a prison camp on Cuban soil, against the explicit wishes of the Cuban government, and which regularly fires drone missiles into other countries, often killing innocent bystanders.

He is a president who ordered that CIA torturers would go unprosecuted, and leads a nation that has invaded other countries whenever it wished, regardless of what the rest of the world might think.

Stated motivation aside, though, what Putin is doing is really no different from what other world powers do: protecting what they regard as national self-interest.

And so far, he’s done it without bloodletting.

Imagine, for a moment, what Washington would do if, say, Bahrain’s Shia population, covertly supported by Tehran, staged a successful uprising and began to push itself into Iran’s orbit.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain, just as Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is parked at its huge naval bases in the Crimea.

To pose the scenario is to answer the question of how America would react.

In Obama’s case, sitting beside him on Monday as he gave his lecture on international law from the Oval Office was close ally Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister, having just engaged in a protracted, robust handshake for the cameras, presides over a country that operates a military occupation in the West Bank, violating the “international law" Obama was demanding Putin obey.

The U.S. insists that Israel’s occupation can only be solved by respectful negotiation between the parties themselves, and it vehemently opposes punishing Israel with the sort of moves currently being contemplated against Russia.

It’s easy to go on and on in this vein —Britain’s prime minister, who leads a nation that helped invade Iraq on a false pretext, denouncing Putin’s pretext for going into Crimea. The NATO powers that helped bring about the independence of Albanian Kosovars complaining about the separatist aspirations of Russian-speaking Ukrainians, etc.

But that’s diplomacy. Hypocritical declarations and acts are woven into its essence.

Money and hard power count, and that’s that. The big players have it, and the smaller players play along. If we need the anaesthetic liquour of self-delusion to deal with it, well, drink up.

That is no good guy and bad guy in this crisis, at least at the international level; there is only power and interests, the usual ingredients of political intrigues.

While we can be supporters of democracy, we must understand that some protesters, anti-government groups, or resistance movements have ulterior motives in mind, be it ultranationalism, fascism, religious fanaticism, market fundamentalism, Marxist-Leninism, or whatever ideologies they adhere to. They want to reap benefits at the expense of others, and demand others to submit fully to their “visions”. It is imperative that we keep our guards up against the trap of false dichotomy: Not all anti-government movements are good.

We need to understand the real implications of the situation and what impacts are there going to be, so we can come up with judicious solutions without saying black is white and distorting reality, for that would only cause more harms down the road.

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