By Cynthia Chung
In times like these, it is especially hard to get a measured assessment of the situation. Many, who have been supporting Russia in its fight to defend and protect the sovereignty of nations in the face of western imperialism and its support for terrorism; promoting a multipolar governance in opposition to the Anglo-American unipolarity, feel betrayed by the actions of Russia and President Putin over the situation in Ukraine. Many now feel that the ceaseless warnings that Putin desires to establish an empire and wishes to take over all of Eastern Europe is justified. That Anglo-America had our best interests all along and that Putin is truly no different from Hitler.
What is the average person to do, to make sense of all of this? Many who are appalled by Russia’s decision to use force have now run back into the arms of those they know should not be trusted, whether it be certain media platforms or politicians, who have a long track record of lying about the lengthy list of butchery and slaughter their governments are responsible for.
We cannot expect to receive 100% accurate information on what is going on within Ukraine in “real-time” coverage, regardless of which side you follow. Much of the reason for this is because our media, including on the ground reports, is much too compromised. If we haven’t received reliable “real-time” coverage of the wars in the Middle East, we should not expect to receive reliable “real-time” coverage of what is going on in Ukraine either. “Real-time” coverage is among the most unreliable forms of reporting, and has often been used to sway emotion rather than understanding.
For this same reason, we also cannot expect to understand how Ukrainians, let alone people in Donbass and Crimea think about these developments over the next few weeks.
Crimea voted to rejoin Russia on March 18, 2014. This was done for the explicit reason of protecting the Crimean people who speak Russian and share a Russian heritage, which was what had come under attack after the coup in Ukraine February 2014. There is countless footage of western journalists visiting Crimea over the past 8 years, seeing for themselves that the Crimean people are very happy with this decision and yet mainstream media refuses to acknowledge this (see here for one example).
What we also will not hear in the west, amongst the blaring trumpets for a full-scale war, is that Ukraine was actually withholding water to the people in Crimea (who have been suffering needless economic hardship since their infrastructure is still, unfortunately, tied to Ukraine’s). When Russian forces entered Ukraine just a few days ago, this is one of the things that was corrected.
Reuters did a short blurb on this, but it is certain that most westerners will never hear about this:
“MOSCOW, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Russian forces restored water flow to a canal linking the Dnieper River in Ukraine to Russian-annexed Crimea, a Russian defence ministry spokesperson said on Thursday, as Russia pressed ahead with a vast military operation against Ukraine.
Ukraine cut off fresh water supply along the canal that had supplied 85% of the peninsula’s needs after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014. The Soviet-era waterway was built to channel water from the Dnieper to arid areas of Ukraine’s Kherson region and Crimea.” [emphasis added]
Does that sound like the present government in Ukraine was concerned for the welfare and safety of the Crimean people?
Ukraine’s cutting off 85% of the water supply to the Crimean people for the last 8 years was a move to hurt the Crimean people not Russia, the latter being completely unaffected by such a decision. It was done to increase the hardship and suffering of the Crimean people specifically, perhaps in hopes that they would buckle and want to rejoin Ukraine. But despite this hardship, they still feel safer with the Russians than with the present government in Ukraine, why do you think that is?
Although the government of Yanukovych was unpopular, it was a democratically elected government of Ukraine. The government that took over after the coup of Yanukovych was for the most part hand selected by the United States. Recall Victoria Nuland’s infamous “Fuck the EU” leaked telephone conversation, this was a conversation between Nuland who was Assistant Secretary of State and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt about who they would choose to make up the new Ukrainian government as if they were putting together their own sport’s team.
The whole point of why the Maidan Revolution (aka Revolution of Dignity) was supported by the “free world” was to give Ukraine a better future. Ukrainian protests began in November 2013 over Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the EU Deal.
BBC reported on the situation at the time:
Last week, Mr Yanukovych announced he was suspending preparations for signing an association agreement in Vilnius, which would have opened borders to goods and set the stage for travel restrictions to be eased.
He argued Ukraine could not afford to sacrifice trade with Russia, which opposed the deal. He also described an EU offer to lend Ukraine 610m euros (£510m; $828m) as inadequate and said it would need at least 20bn euros a year to upgrade its economy to “European standards”.
The EU was putting pressure on Ukraine to discontinue its economic relations with Russia, that is why Russia was not for it. Yanukovych, despite what you may think of him, rightfully stated that Ukraine could not afford to sacrifice business with Russia. This wasn’t for the benefit of Russia, this was for the benefit of Ukrainians. All we need do is look at Ukraine’s economy this past year to see this reality for ourselves.
Today, amongst an energy crisis in Europe, Ukraine is by the far the poorest nation in all of Europe and has no economic sovereignty. In addition, despite the economic hardships Ukraine is experiencing all thanks to the Anglo-American/EU/NATO prescriptions, it is being told to take out loans to buy expensive military equipment while their people have hardly enough food to put on the table. Does this sound like the EU or Anglo-America actually care about the welfare of Ukrainians? A country that used to be known as the bread basket of Europe and a leading industrial nation when it was still a part of the Soviet Union. You may not like to hear those facts, but they are indeed economic facts. You can view Oliver Stone’s documentary “Ukraine on Fire” for those details.
This is why President Zelensky himself has shown that he is very upset with the conduct of the United States, NATO and the EU during these past few weeks and has not simply kowtowed to the absurd and reckless provocations that are being made by those quarters.
This was made clear during his speech at the MSC 2022 in Germany a week ago, where he made no qualms of the fact that Ukraine is being used in this escalation and that the pretense that this is all for Ukrainian safety and welfare is fallacious since Ukraine has been left to defend and deal with its economic hardships by itself. There is no support for Ukraine, despite the constant pressure to do the bidding of US/NATO/EU demands.
When will it stop? It will not stop until these lies are finally stopped. It is enough. This game that is being played by the west, that they can say whatever they want in the face of their own hypocrisy and yet are never held accountable for the destruction and butchery they invoke.
The Ukrainians have been played.
Putin hasn’t started a war, the war has been going on for 8 years. Putin is attempting to end a war. A war that the western people, for the most part, have absolutely no comprehension of.
We need to do better than to be consistently swayed by the deliberate manipulation of our emotions. Whether it is the claim that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, that Gaddafi was a threat to western security while he was pushing for African unity and large development projects, or that Assad was killing his people with chemical weapons, or that the American occupation in Afghanistan was justified as “humanitarian aid” in rebuilding the country. [Libya was one of the richest countries in Africa and a major energy supplier in Africa, when the US invaded with its backing of terrorists, Libya was laid to ruin and a great energy deficit was created.] Are we really going to be so foolish as to rush back into those arms? The arms of a mouthpiece that has been telling us lies all along of why we need to support butchers and destroyers, of people, of cities, of cultures? All because we are ignorant and confused as to how the other side thinks and is motivated?
There is a well done interview that was published on Sputnik today that I would like to share with you. It focuses on lessons of history around eastern Europe in particular, and international law. If Russia is going to be held accountable using these laws, than NATO and the US military also need to be held accountable for the last 22 years and on.
The interview is with retired UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, the title of the Sputnik article is “Ukraine: NATO Bloc Has Neither Moral Authority Nor Credibility to Judge Russia, Ex-UN Expert Says.”
Sputnik: The US and European press have called Russia’s “special operation” to protect Donbass “the biggest European assault since 1945.” Have they forgotten about NATO’s bombardment of Yugoslavia between 24 March 1999 and 10 June 1999? Does the collective West have any moral authority to lecture Russia?
Alfred de Zayas: The corporate media publishes what it wants, disseminates “fake news” and suppresses dissenting opinions. Double standards are common, and hyperbole as in the quote above demonstrates that the media has little interest in the truth and prefers to advance a political agenda of sensationalism and vulgar Russophobia.
On the other hand, and as a professor of international law, I must affirm that any use of force without the approval of the UN Security Council entails a violation of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. [Russia’s special operation invokes Article 51, Chapter VII, of the UN Charter, with the sanction of the Federation Council of Russia and in pursuance of the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – Sputnik].
At the same time, I must recognise that NATO has breached the UN Charter on numerous occasions.
An unidentified Serb woman inspects debris of her home, destroyed in NATO air-strikes in the village of Vidrici, near Sokolac, some 50 kms northeast of Sarajevo Wednesday Aug 30 1995 © AP Photo / STR
In fact, NATO is not a “defensive” organisation but on the contrary, an organisation for offensive actions. NATO countries have committed the crime of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
Not only does NATO lack moral authority, it also lacks credibility, since it has disseminated “fake news” and false narratives in preparation for all its wars of aggression. As such it would be interesting to examine the possible application of the Nuremberg principles and the Nuremberg judgment to NATO. Article 9 of the London Agreement of 8 August 1945 laid down the statute of the Nuremberg Tribunal and established the legal concept of a “criminal organisation.”
To the extent that the land, navy and air forces of NATO countries have engaged in activities contrary to the Statute of Rome, the International Court of Justice may have to investigate whether these countries and NATO have breached Articles 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the Statute.
Bombing of Belgrade by NATO forces © AP Photo / Dimitri Messinis
Sputnik: Does Russia’s recognition of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics have historic and juridical precedents? Why did the US lash out at Russia for re-unifying Crimea and recognising Donetsk and Lugansk, while it recognised Kosovo and redrew the map of Yugoslavia in 1999? What’s behind this historical amnesia?
Alfred de Zayas: The US applies international law à la carte. Today so, tomorrow so. The US understands international law as a geopolitical tool, which is to be used and abused as necessary. The right of self-determination of peoples is anchored in Articles 1 and 55 of the UN Charter and can be considered peremptory international law, i.e. jus cogens.
Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights stipulate the right of self-determination of all peoples. Certainly the populations of Crimea, Lugansk and Donetsk are “peoples” for purposes of the ICCPR and ICESCR.
2 of July 2014. Donbass, Kondrashovka and Luganskaya village © Eugeny Romanenko
Sputnik: Why did the US, UK, and EU snub the Minsk Agreements, which they themselves approved and quoted on multiple occasions, for a whopping eight years?
Alfred de Zayas: The political calculation behind the systematic violation of the Minsk Agreements was to prolong the conflict, perhaps in the expectation that the governments of Lugansk and Donetsk would collapse or give up. Article 11 of the 2015 Agreement obliged Ukraine to negotiate with the authorities of Lugansk and Donetsk. It did not envisage recognition of their right to secede, but it did require adjustments that would grant autonomous status to these provinces.
Unfortunately, OSCE failed to ensure implementation of Article 11 of the Minsk Agreements, and President Zelensky himself said he would not implement it because it was “favourable” to Russia and unfavourable for Ukraine. However, that entailed a violation of the principle pacta sunt servanda (art. 26 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). Such a material breach of the treaty by Ukraine made it legal and legitimate for Russia to withdraw from it (art. 60 VCLT).
Sputnik: Why have the Western media been silent on the Ukrainian government’s atrocities in Donbass? Several Western independent journalists and freelance photographers chronicled the disaster in Eastern Ukraine. What’s behind this “selective humanity” and “selective justice”?
Alfred de Zayas: The Western media is not what it was 50 or 60 years ago. The media conglomerates are there to support the geopolitical agendas of governments. A journalist who publishes what is not “politically correct” will be fired. One must rely on “alternative” media such as Grayzone, Truthout, Consortium News, Counterpunch, Democracy Now, Push Back, etc. in order to access information that is systematically suppressed by our “free” press. I say “our” because I am an American citizen. But even in Switzerland, and I am Swiss since 2017, the mainstream media such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Le Temps and La Tribune de Genève are largely aligned with and play the game with CNN, Fox, New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, Deutsche Welle, etc.
Unveiling a monument to Stepan Bandera in Lviv © Sputnik / Miroslav Luzetsky
Sputnik: Why did the Western media and politicians turn a blind eye to the glorification of Nazism in Ukraine as well as making Stepan Bandera, the infamous leader of the OUN-UPA, the Ukrainian “patriot” and “hero,” despite well-recorded crimes by the OUN-UPA against Jews and Russians, and the massacre of Poles in Volhynia and Galicia?
Alfred de Zayas: As there are “fake news” there is also “fake history.” George Bernard Shaw once wrote in his book “Everyone’s political what’s what” that manufactured heroes, myths and political lies were “die hards” – and would only die from a natural death, only after they were no longer of political use. But as long as a myth – as that around Bandera – could deliver useful political results, it would be repeated ad nauseam until people took it for granted, as second nature.
Worse even than fake history is fake law, because by sanctifying a political leader like Bandera, his actions acquired an aura of “legality” and a kind of metaphysical legitimacy.
Fighters of the Azov Battalion in Kiev © Alexander Maximenko
Sputnik: What’s your take on the fact that regardless of all these controversial issues, the US and its NATO allies provided weapons and military training to the Ukrainian government?
Alfred de Zayas: As Professor Jeffrey Sachs recently wrote in the Financial Times: “The US would not be very happy were Mexico to join a China-led military alliance… Neither the US nor Russia wants the other’s military on their doorstep.”
A week ago at the Munich security conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “if Russia wants less NATO at its borders, they get the opposite, they get more NATO.” This was a needless provocation, throwing down the gauntlet at Putin.
Meanwhile, the US and NATO have been adding fuel to the fire since the illegal Maidan coup d’état, which is at the origin of all this misery. Obviously the delivery of tonnes of weapons to Ukraine was a very clear threat against Russia and contrary to the UN Charter, article 2(4) of which prohibits not only the use of force, but also the “threat” of the use of force.
In this sense, Russia had reason to feel threatened and could invoke pertinent provisions of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. As an American, who feels vicariously responsible for decisions of my government, my heart goes out to the people of Ukraine and of the Donbass. It is a disgrace that the Ukrainians have been abused and misused by NATO, sacrificed on the altar of imperial geopolitics.
Alfred-Maurice de Zayas is the author of “Building a Just World Order” (2021).
Originally published on Cynthia Chung’s substack: Through A Glass Darkly.
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