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Reflecting On The Law

Published: Thursday April 3, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday April 3, 2014 MYT 7:37:24 AM

Double standards on Crimea

Whichever superpower wins, Ukraine will be the loser of this East-West tug of war.

THE Russian incursion into Ukraine’s region of Crimea has, understandably, drawn strong critical response from the United States and the European Union. However, an impartial observer cannot fail to note the staggering hypocrisy evident in the Western response to Russia’s military actions.

International law: It is alleged that the Russian military intervention is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty under international law. It probably is.

This is despite the fact that the Russian expedition was at the behest of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s democratically elected and unlawfully deposed President.

What is noteworthy is that Russia acted under grave provocation and in circumstances that the US would never tolerate.

Background: Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been encircling Russia with military and missile sites including one in Ukraine.

Nato has enlisted many former Soviet republics into its fold.

Russia is understandably sensitive about its Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine and Nato’s presence on its borders.

This is no different from President John F. Kennedy’s alarm when the USSR, under Nikita Khruschev, ins­talled missiles in Cuba in the Sixties.

In addition to military encirclement, a US organisation, namely the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), was operating in Ukraine and funding 65 projects, grooming replacements for President Yanuko­vych and resorting to psychological warfare.

The NED was founded in America in 1983 to promote its foreign policy objectives abroad.

In recent times Ukraine was mired in an economic crisis and Russia and the EU were in a bidding war to salvage it. Russia earmarked US$15bil (RM49bil) in economic assistance. The EU offered US$800mil (RM2.6bil) plus access to EU goods and services.

When Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych aligned with Russia against the EU proposal, the Western backed opposition took to the streets.

The US-funded National Endowment for Democracy was complicit in fuelling the disorder. Radical forces gained ascendency and violence begat violence.

Yanukovych, Ukraine’s democratically elected President, offered to set up a unity government, bring electoral reform, effect constitutional changes and call early elections.

Unfortunately, negotiations broke down. He was then ousted in a US-supported coup and replaced with US chosen stand-ins.

The Ukrainian Parliament then acted foolishly to enact a series of draconian laws offensive to ethnic Russians in provinces that were carved out of the old Soviet Union. Yanukovych sought Russia’s help to protect the ethnic Russian population.

Under these circumstances, the Russian Parliament authorised Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops inside Ukraine to protect the Russians living there.

US exceptionalism: The US has a long history of similar and even bloodier interventions as Russia’s. It has bombed or invaded 30 countries since World War Two.

In the last decade itself, there were full-scale invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq on trumped up charges plus bombing of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

US drones blow up “enemy combatants” in many parts of the world with sickening regularity.

The US keeps Syria and Iran under constant threats.

It refuses to join the International Criminal Court lest its international crimes be prosecuted.

Despite its professed belief in democracy, Washington has a sordid record of collaborating with right-wing military officers to overthrow elected leaders who do not do Washington’s bidding.

A partial list would include Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran (1953), Jacobo Arbez in Guatemala (1954), Salvador Allende in Chile (1973), Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti twice, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela (2002), Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (2009), Mohammed Morsi in Egypt (2013) and now Yanukovych in Ukraine (2014).

A close parallel to the Russian intervention was President Bill Clinton’s invasion of Haiti in 1994 to reinstall Haiti’s elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Russia has not gone that far regarding Yanukovych.

Besides the US, France is notable for its recent military interventions in its former colonies of Mali and Central African Republic.

Unconstitutionality: The US alleges that the Crimean referendum that resulted in an overwhelming vote to join Russia was contrary to the Ukrainian Constitution.

In fact, the trampling of the Ukrainian Constitution was equally evident in the ouster of the democratically elected President, which the US lustily cheered.

Under the Constitution of 1996 (which was restored by Yanukovych in 2010) Parliament has the right to impeach a President for treason or other crimes by a three-fourths majority.

This majority was not obtained. The impeachment must be reviewed by a Constitutional Court and it is not clear whether this mandatory procedure was complied with.

Also, it is the PM and not the Speaker of the House, who should under the Constitution fill the vacant presidency.

Secession: If Crimea’s secession is illegal, can the US explain its support for the secession of Bosnia, Kosovo, Slovakia, the Falkland Islands, East Timor, Scotland and Catalonia?

In fact the West was delirious about the break-up of Sudan.

One could point to Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) that “all people have the right of self-determination”.

Cold war: The Crimean crisis reignites the Cold War between Russia and the West. At stake is Ukraine’s return to the Russian sphere of influence or its drift towards the West.

Alternatively, the country will split into two – its Western part drifting towards a reluctant Europe and the South and the East remaining aligned with Russia.

Whichever superpower wins, Ukraine will be the loser of this East-West tug of war.

The Crimean Tartars face an uncertain future in Russia.

In the meantime, one cannot but marvel at the breathtaking hypocrisy of all sides – the US and EU on Ukraine and Russia on Chechnya.

William Blum puts it well: “Hypocrisy of this magnitude has to be respected”!

> Shad Faruqi, Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM, is a passionate student and teacher of the law who aspires to make difficult things look simple and simple things look rich. Through this column, he seeks to inspire change for the better as every political, social and economic issue ultimately has constitutional law implications. He can be reached at prof.shad.saleem.faruqi@gmail.com. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Shad Faruqi

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