Hands off Ukraine

Hands off Ukraine. By Brendan O’Neill.

Vladimir Putin’s ordering of troops into the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine is an outrage. It is an outrage against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. It is a grave assault on Ukraine’s right to self-determination, which is a right every nation must enjoy. This right is non-negotiable. …

The Ukraine crisis is strange and complex. It is not, as foghorn anti-Russian voices in the Western media would have us believe, a simple case of Russian imperial nostalgia riding roughshod over Ukraine and threatening Europe itself. It is not 1939 all over again. It is not fascism.

On the one hand:

And the West is not blameless in this debacle. Nor is the Ukrainian government, for that matter. NATO’s eastward expansion, its 20-year militaristic approach towards Russia’s borders, its flirting with Ukranian officialdom in an effort to create yet another pro-NATO, pro-EU state on Russia’s doorstep, played a very significant role in stoking tensions in this part of Europe and inflaming all-out war in 2014. …

Then there is the extraordinary stench of hypocrisy in the Western commentariat’s condemnation of Russia for its militaristic incursion into Ukraine. These people have no shame whatsoever. The truth is this: what Putin is currently doing to Ukraine they have already done to many other nations, and with far deadlier consequences. …

From Afghanistan to Iraq, Syria to Libya, and in a milder way through the EU’s overriding of democratic decisions made in ‘problematic’ member states, these centrists repulsed by Putin’s disregard for Ukraine’s right to self-determination have spent the past 20 years throttling the right to self-determination, often with extreme violence.

Answer me this: why is Putin’s assault on Ukrainian sovereignty deemed any worse than Western governments’ destruction of Iraqi sovereignty or Libyan sovereignty?

Is Putin’s support for breakaway regions in Ukraine so much worse, apparently, than Western centrists’ support for so-called ‘rebel’ forces in Syria that included Islamist fanatics who slit the throats of teenagers and violently subjugated women? This is more than hypocrisy, of course. …

On the other:

The fact remains that it was Putin and Putin alone who made the decision to encroach upon Ukrainian sovereignty. … It was Putin who wrote that arrogant speech he gave yesterday, it was Putin who made fun of Ukraine’s right to self-determination, and it was Putin who sent troops into the eastern part of a sovereign nation. It was Putin who committed this intolerable act. …

So leave borders alone, and leave people alone to determine their own fates:

From the era of Western ‘humanitarian intervention’, during which Tony Blair and others openly questioned the principle of ‘non-intervention’ into other states’ affairs, to the fallout from the vote for Brexit, when the elites depicted the defence of national sovereignty as a species of racism and xenophobia, the right of nations to determine their own futures has been dramatically and sometimes violently subverted.

Whether it’s done with guns — the NATO way, the Saudi way, the Turkish way — or with pressure and threats — the EU way — the elite movement against the principle of national sovereignty has been gathering pace.

This has unquestionably emboldened someone like Putin to openly mock Ukraine’s sovereignty. Non-interference is nonsense, right? That’s what our intellectual betters have been saying for years.

Enough. We at spiked are no fans of the Ukrainian government. And nor do we have much in common with those in the Western media elite who are condemning Russia’s actions but who next week will be demanding that ‘we’ do the same, and worse, to some Middle Eastern or North African state.

But we do believe that national sovereignty ought to be an inviolable principle of world affairs. National sovereignty both empowers a people within an agreed territory to have a say in their nation’s affairs and it also protects that nation from the attentions and attacks of more powerful regimes.

If national sovereignty becomes a negotiable commodity, that can be erased at the whim of the Kremlin or the White House or the European Commission, then nationhood itself is called into question, and democracy and freedom will suffer. Putin’s forces have no right to be even an inch within Ukrainian territory. Russia, out.

Which is pretty much what the UN was set up to do. There has been considerable corruption of high ideals over time, as the powerful and corrupt take more because they can.