Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Western hypocrisy in Ukraine

By Martin Khor (China Daily) Updated: 2014-03-18 07:39

Double standards are on display as Western leaders attack Russia for its stance on and "actions" in Ukraine, while they themselves endorse or commit worse aggression on other countries.

The world's attention has been focused on Ukraine. Russian official media said Sunday's Crimea referendum has polled an overwhelming majority of approval for "reunification" with Russia, while Western powers and the new Kiev government denounce the referendum as illegal. US President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Crimea's vote "would never be recognized" by the US. The US and EU were expected to announce sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Events shifted to Crimea after Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych was ousted and a new government formed, with accusations that the Russian military had taken over the region. Yanukovych, resurfacing in a Russian town, said he left because his life was in danger. He also said the new regime is illegitimate and he is still the president.

Western leaders have attacked Putin for his alleged invasion of Crimea. The Russian argument is that it has not invaded Crimea, it has a legitimate interest in the region because of historical links and the ethnic Russians (a significant part of the Crimean population) who live there sought protection against the new and illegitimate Kiev regime.

Countries where separatist forces are active may choose a prudent stance to prevent misuse of "self-determination" from leading to domino effect.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean the Western powers are the messengers of international justice. The rhetoric of some Western leaders is aggressive. They accuse Russia of violating sovereignty and international law, among other things. The United States plans to ban visas for selected Russian officials, followed by sanctions on Russian banks, freezing assets of its companies and possibly trade measures. Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry have accused Putin of using false claims (that Crimea is in danger) for "invading" the region.

Listening to the American leaders lecturing Russia in their self-righteous tone, one is struck by the double standard and hypocrisy involved. They don't seem to realize how they have violated the same principles and behaviour they demand of Russia.

It was after all the US that invaded Iraq in 2003, massively bombing its territory and killing hundreds of thousands, on the grounds that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction. No weapons of mass destruction were found, and many experts consider the war against Iraq a violation of international law, a view also expressed in an interview by the then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

The US has also waged war in Afghanistan that has caused thousands of deaths. In Libya, the US and its allies carried out massive bombing, which aided opposition forces and led to the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Even now there are sanctions on and the threat of military action against Iran because the West suspects Teheran wants to develop nuclear weapons. In contrast, the US turns a blind eye to Israel's possible ownership of nuclear weapons. Also, when Israel launched blanket bombing on Lebanon and the Gaza Strip that caused thousands of deaths, the US did not condemn it and even blocked the UN Security Council from taking action.

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