Hypocrisy seems to be massively in fashion. This from William Hague renders me speechless: “Be in no doubt, there will be consequences. The world cannot say it is OK to violate the sovereignty of other nations.”
Then today we have the British Establishment at a closed event in Westminster Abbey in memory of Nelson Mandela. Prince Harry, David Cameron, all the toffs. I was never more than a footsoldier in the anti-apartheid movement, but I trudged through the rain and handed out leaflets in Dundee and Edinburgh. I suspect very few indeed of the guests at this posh memorial service did that. David Cameron was actively involved in Conservative groups which promoted precisely the opposite cause.
My first appointment in the Foreign Office was to the South Africa (Political) desk in 1984. The official British government line was that the ANC was a terrorist organization. I faced hostility and disapproval even when I tried to get action on appalling human rights abuses like the case of Oscar Mpetha (thanks here to Tony Gooch and Terry Curran, they know why). I got in big trouble for asking how many black guests had been received in the High Commissioner’s residence in Pretoria.
Every day, on a day to day basis, my job involved dealing with members of the British establishment, its political, business and professional communities. The entire tenor of those meetings was how to prevent economic sanctions, circumvent existing sanctions and prolong the economic advantages to the UK of white rule. Support for PW Botha was axiomatic. I have no doubt many of those people or those who worked alongside them are in Westminster Abbey today.
The final extraordinary outbreak of hypocrisy is on the British left. Russian military invasion of Ukraine is approved by them, because it is an invasion by Russia, and not an invasion by the West. They are precisely as hypocritical as Hague. Both think it is OK to violate the sovereignty of other nations, but only by their chosen side.
Until 1917, Russia was an Empire, avowedly so. Thereafter the Soviet Union was a non-avowed Empire. The Crimea, and the rest of the Caucasus, was not colonized by Russia until the 1820’s onward. The reason Crimea has a majority Russian population is that Stalin deported the Krim Tartars as recently as the 1930’s. That was an old fashioned, wholesale colonial atrocity, precisely similar to the British clearing parts of Kenya for white settlement.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Russian statesmen like Nesselrode appealed to the British in particular, not to oppose their expansion in the Caucasus, because as he said like the British they were white Christian Europeans engaged in a civilizing mission among savages and Muslims. It was precisely the same colonial motivation the British used. There is no moral difference, or even overt difference in justification at the time, between British colonization of India and Russian colonization of Chechnya. Because Britain happens to be an island, we think of Empires as something you get to by ship. Russia’s Empire happened to be a contiguous land mass. But Dagestan, Chechnya, and Tartarstan were none the less colonies, exactly as were Kokhand, Bokhara and Khiva, formed to make Uzbekistan. Yet left wing anti-colonialism does not demand decolonisation by Russia, only the West. Gross hypocrisy.