Yanukovich and Kabbah 320


My old boss Mark Lyall Grant, UK Ambassador to the United Nations, is a deeply unpleasant man.  But he was quite right to dismiss Russia’s legal pretext for invading Ukraine on the basis of an invitation letter from ex-President Yanukovich.

The problem is Mark Lyall Grant is the last person in world to have moral authority to do this, as he was directly involved in drafting an invitation letter from ex-President Kabbah of Sierra Leone inviting Britain to invade Sierra Leone, which Britain then did.  Mark Lyall Grant said at the UN yesterday about Yanukovich that:  “We are talking about a former leader who abandoned his office, his capital and his country, whose corrupt governance brought his country to the brink of economic ruin”.  Exactly the same things could have been said about Kabbah, whose government had been massively corrupt – and was again when restored, and who issued his invitation to invade from a five star hotel in London after living in exile in Guinea.

The unspeakable horrors of the Sierra Leonean civil war have led to a lazy mainstream media accepting Sierra Leone as the “good” invasion.  But the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone were not a spontaneous outbreak of human evil, they were caused by the massive corruption of ruling coastal elites in both Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia, compared to the appalling poverty and lack of basic services and education for those in the hinterland.  It is one of the ironies of history that the elites were the descendants of slaves returned with the very best of intentions by the US and UK, educated and given much charitable provision, who controlled the state and then set to exploiting the hinterland tribes ruthlessly from the “hut wars” of the 1880’s on.  The eruption of massive scale diamond mining from the 1960’s on escalated levels of corruption, warlordism and violence and almost continual military rule.  Laudable attempts to foster democracy did nothing to lessen corruption.  The dreadful atrocities of the RUF and Kamajors were a result of the tribal eruption that ensued.

What the British invasion did was simply to put the old corrupt elite safely back in place, and make the minerals secure for western interests.  Even more valuable than the diamonds is Sierra Leone’s rutile mine, the world’s single most profitable mine.  Following the British invasion guess who suddenly became a director of that mine? Valerie Amos, who was one of the ministers who authorized the invasion, and is now at the UN in charge of pushing for war in Syria.

I always opposed the doctrine of “liberal intervention” and still do.  But those who invented “the right to protect” were stupid enough to believe that they would forever be the only military power strong enough to seize assets in other countries.  For the historian, the “right to protect” and “liberal intervention” are precisely the same as excuses given for imperial grabs throughout the millennia.

Invading another territory is wrong when the British do it, and it is wrong when the Russians do it.  It is quite simply untrue that ethnic Russians were under threat in the Ukraine.  International law always recognizes and deals with the government actually in power in the country.  If ousted leaders are accepted as having in the right to call in freeing invasion to restore them, the world would be in a state of perpetual war.

Plainly Russian actions are illegal.  They do have an agreed right to station forces in Crimea.  It is impossible to tell at the moment if the agreed numbers have been exceeded, but the Russian production of Yanukovich’s letter would certainly appear to indicate that.  But Russian actions in blocking roads and blockading Ukrainian military bases on Ukrainian soil are plainly illegal.

Russia is behaving as what it is, an imperialist thug.  The British and the United States indeed lack any moral authority to make such a statement.  But I do not suffer from that handicap, and nor do you.

 

 

PS The story of my Sierra Leone involvement is in my book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo.  This is available for free download in a number of places around the web, including here.

 

 


320 thoughts on “Yanukovich and Kabbah

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  • Clark

    Yes the UK and other governments make a fuss about Russian military action, but UK PLC remains open to Russian oligarch Business As Usual:

    BBC: Ukraine: UK rules out Russia trade curbs?
    The government will not curb trade with Russia or close London’s financial centre to Russians as part of any possible package of sanctions against Moscow, according to an official document.
    The document, which was photographed as a senior official carried it into a meeting in Downing Street, says that “the UK should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians”, while it confirms that ministers ARE considering – along with other EU countries – visa restrictions and travel bans on key Russian figures…
    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-26426969

    The “Good Guys / Bad Guys” posturing is essentially a distraction. Big Money know that their pet politicians will make whatever decisions are necessary to keep the money flowing. “Visa restrictions and travel bans” may be inconvenient, but they don’t stop that all-important flow of money.

  • DoNNyDarKo

    What Russia has done is maybe wrong, but then so are the countries who have been orchestrating the event.Russia has simply Reacted to the situation and in a most expected way.It’s their border, it’s Nato,the enemy !
    Just watched Putin answer a number of questions…. no teleprompter, no hesitation. He is a very cool customer. I can’t think of any western politician that could joust with him.
    And by using the West’s tools against themselves,he can always wave the precedent later on.
    Very interesting times.

  • craig Post author

    Yes – Alisher Usmanov, Roman Abramovic etc won’t be subject to any visa restrictions either, you can bet on that. They will pick on some civil servants and military officials with not much money and ban them.

  • N_

    International law always recognizes and deals with the government actually in power in the country

    There can be dual power.

    Or a government on the hind foot can relocate abroad with its tail between its legs, as several did to London during WW2. De Gaulle was ‘recognised’ by London long before the whole of France was occupied by Germany. The Vichy government for a long time operated in unoccupied territory. It was recognised by the US. It was not recognised by the UK.

    ‘International law’ doesn’t tell a state what government it must recognise in another country.

    ‘Taiwan’ held the Chinese seat at the UN for decades.

    Ukraine is currently without a recognised ambassador at the UN. The UN Security Council does not have to accept recommendations from the Security Committee. It is obvious that the putschist government in Kiev is not in a position to assume the Ukrainian seat.

    The question of whether foreign powers were involved in putting the putschists into power in Ukraine is very relevant, and the answer is completely unambiguously and unequivocally YES.

  • N_

    Correction! I typed

    The UN Security Council does not have to accept recommendations from the Security Committee

    What I meant to type was:

    The UN Security Council does not have to accept recommendations from the Credentials Committee

    I was trying to make the point that if the putschist government tries to assume the Ukrainian seat at the UN, they will be vetoed by Russia – and Russia is empowered by international law to exercise that veto.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    DoNNyDarKo

    “Just watched Putin answer a number of questions…. no teleprompter, no hesitation. He is a very cool customer.”
    ___________________

    That sounds a little like hero-worship to me. “Coolness” as a sign of non-thuggishness – now there’s a novel criterion! 🙂

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    N_

    “Or a government on the hind foot can relocate abroad with its tail between its legs, as several did to London during WW2.”

    _________________

    Most inconsiderate and unsporting of them! They should have let themselves be taken by the Nazis and shipped off to one of those nice KZs.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Craig

    Another good post and I’m glad that you’re hanging on in there. Predictable reactions so far, of course.

    BTW, (cf. third line from the bottom), I wouldn’t over-estimate many commenters’ moral compass if I were you.

  • craig Post author

    N_

    Yes, one of the governments forced to flee to London was the Polish one after Poland had been invaded by Hitler and Stalin acting together. That fact is completely absent from the history books in Uzbekistan. I very much doubt it is much taught now in Putin’s Russia. Does it exist in your own historical consciousness?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    PS

    “Most inconsiderate and unsporting of them! They should have let themselves be taken by the Nazis and shipped off to one of those nice KZs.”
    ___________________

    Or in the case of the Polish govt, to Uncle Joe’s nice GuLag or Katyn.

  • Joe

    I understand what you are saying here Craig, but I think we should assess the rights and wrongs of Putin’s actions not in idealist terms but in terms of the world we live in (which isn’t ideal). We live in and under an American Empire that has established all sorts of new and unofficial “laws”, that in practice take precedence over old fashioned ideas like “international law”. If Putin and Russia are to play the game with any real effect rather than resigning themselves to being one more client of Empire, they can’t be expected to abide by the law as it is written down but rather by how it is ‘interpreted’ by the other players. In that context, there is absolutely nothing illegal about Putin’s partial and strategic invasion of Ukraine.

  • craig Post author

    Joe,

    But if you accept realpolitik as the mark, then the same has to apply to everybody. So there is nothing illegal about the UK’s deportation of the Chagos Islanders also, for example. I prefer ethics to might is right.

  • A Node

    “It is one of the ironies of history that the [corrupt ruling] elites were the descendants of slaves returned with the very best of intentions by the US and UK, educated and given much charitable provision, who controlled the state and then set to exploiting the hinterland tribes ruthlessly from the “hut wars” of the 1880′s on.”

    What were these “very best intentions”?
    Were these Western-educated African leaders taught/encouraged to resist Western exploitation of their countries?
    If not, best for who?

  • Ангрысоба

    King of Welsh Noir!

    Hello there, tovarish!

    Yabloko? Я́блоко?

  • Clark

    Putin is just supporting the richest oligarch in Ukraine:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Yanukovych

    Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych […] has an estimated net worth of $12 billion, which he is widely accused of plundering from Ukraine’s treasury.[5][6][7][8]

    As opposed to the third and fourth richest; see Oddie’s comment s starting here:

    http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2014/03/the-fashion-for-hypocrisy/#comment-443990

    I genuinely wish well for the people of Ukraine and their popular revolution; they have made huge efforts with much risk and personal sacrifice. But I strongly suspect that rich people have been paying for some of the public protest on both, or should that be all, sides:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euromaidan#Pro-government_rallies

    Pro-government rallies during Euromaidan have largely been credited as funded by the government. Several news outlets have investigated the claims to confirm that by and large, attendees at pro-government rallies do so for financial compensation and not for political reasons, and are not an organic response to the Euromaidan.

    That’s on the pro-Yanukovych side, but you don’t get such well equipped or well ordered opposition protesters as these, nor indeed such good video production, without funding:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54uq_-5tkcY

    Those who are accusing the US government of influencing or creating the Ukrainian revolution have identified the wrong target. Money overrules politics, and that’s the problem worldwide.

  • Ba'al Zevul (See You, Jimmie)

    Martin Rowson’s got it as usual…

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cartoon/2014/mar/03/crimea-ukraine-russian-putin-rowson-cartoon

    I’m neutral on this one. Under the target’s an old Red Flag and an old Nazi armband. Morality has been abandoned by all parties in pursuit of realpolitic. As usual. So it goes. Cue selfrighteousness on all sides.

    But I wonder whose troops might be surrounding Faslane in the event of a ‘yes’ vote on devolution’s being followed by the ousting of Salmond?

  • Joe

    It’s a sticky wicket for sure, although I think that the party that responds to aggression rather than initiates it can be seen as holding some semblance of a moral high ground. If, as I currently understand it, Putin is taking action *in response* to an illegal US/EU-backed coup in Ukraine that threatens to disenfranchise a large section of the Ukrainian population that are ethnically Russian and which would ultimately be disastrous for all Ukrainian people, and at the same time acting to protect *existing*, tangible and legal Russian economic and military interests in Ukraine (rather than seeking to create new ‘interests’ at the expense of the Ukrainian people), I don’t think that can be compared to the many blatantly aggressive, destructive and entirely self-serving invasions of other countries in which the UK and US (and France) have engaged over the last several decades and which have left sovereign nations utterly destroyed.

    Basically what I am saying is that ‘the devil is in the details’ and I have repeatedly found that I cannot hope to understand what is really happening if I rely on broad definitions of what is right and wrong to understand what is really going on. Our ‘modern’ civilization appears to be far too fucked up, and involves forces far too duplicitous and covert, to expect to make any sense of it via that approach.

  • Ангрысоба

    King,

    Indeed, but I was attempting a play-on-words, by offering you an apple which also happens to be the name of a political party in Russia. Just trying to be funny, I was.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    The UN Security Council is not a court of law, and international law at best is quite a fuzzy bunch of stuff, so Putin has beaten the West at their own game when it was trying to pull the final rugs out from under him, and there is now little they can do about it, especially since he can bring about chaos if something causes him to cut off natural gas to the Ukraine and beyond or to intervene more in the Ukraine.

    Despite all the pious claims by Western powers at the Security Council, Putin has the initiative, as the lack of any real action by them, and the recovery of the markets and the ruble show.

    This does not recall now the Cuban Missile Crisis, but its aftermath where JFK’s covert operators had to figure out how to get back at its survivors.

  • Realist Peacenik

    I’m not buying your argument here.

    In a world where powers far stronger than Russia don’t live by the principles of international law, it seems unrealistic to demand slavish obedience to said principles of a regional power like Russia. That’s because Russia has its own security concerns vis a vis much stronger powers that don’t follow these principles.

    There are the rules of the game as they are and the rules of the game as we all wish them to be. The de facto rules have been set by the U.S. and its allies, and it’s not within Russia’s power to rectify them on its own. Who the hell are you as a non-Russian to lecture Putin about playing by your wished-for rules when Western governments aren’t playing by their own rules? In the despicable context our governments have established, who the hell are we, as Westerners, to say Russia’s security concerns are invalid?

  • ESLO

    While I can take the point that a lot of “liberal intervention” and “right to protect” actions are no such thing, and I would agree that the Russian invasion of Crimea doesn’t get to first base, I am not sure that makes the case against “liberal intervention” never ever being acceptable. It is certainly not a position that many liberal philosophers would subscribe to. Would such a position have allowed Britain to declare war on Germany when it invaded Poland, would it allowed Tanzania to move into Uganda to remove Amin, would it allow action by 3rd parties/allies against those invading other countries, would it allow action to prevent the persecution/genocide of minorities in a particular country. And what is meant by “intervention” – are we just talking about what should be the last resort of military force or are we talking about the whole range of

    Yes I would like a world where the United Nations were the only arbiter on these matters but as currently constituted with each member of the security council being able to veto actions it really isn’t a position to stand up to any of the superpowers. It perhaps also ought to be recognised that international law as it stands really isn’t fit for purpose as it is either ignored or contains so many ambiguities that a helpful interpretation can usually be found – I would think that we need to get the ethical principles right first as generally I prefer the law to follows ethics rather than the other way around.

  • Ангрысоба

    This comes from “Realist Peacenik”:

    There are the rules of the game as they are and the rules of the game as we all wish them to be. The de facto rules have been set by the U.S. and its allies, and it’s not within Russia’s power to rectify them on its own. Who the hell are you as a non-Russian to lecture Putin about playing by your wished-for rules when Western governments aren’t playing by their own rules? In the despicable context our governments have established, who the hell are we, as Westerners, to say Russia’s security concerns are invalid?

    And this comes from George Orwell:

    The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to the taking of life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration of totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of western countries. The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia or China.

  • ESLO

    “I understand what you are saying here Craig, but I think we should assess the rights and wrongs of Putin’s actions not in idealist terms but in terms of the world we live in (which isn’t ideal). We live in and under an American Empire that has established all sorts of new and unofficial “laws”, that in practice take precedence over old fashioned ideas like “international law”. If Putin and Russia are to play the game with any real effect rather than resigning themselves to being one more client of Empire, they can’t be expected to abide by the law as it is written down but rather by how it is ‘interpreted’ by the other players. In that context, there is absolutely nothing illegal about Putin’s partial and strategic invasion of Ukraine.”

    Have you read 1984? You really have Newspeak down to a tee.

  • ESLO

    Thanks Angrysoba for pointing out another example of Newspeak – we do seem to have attracted a whole new group whose skills in this regard are at a much higher level that those of regular “useful idiots”. I wonder who sent them?

  • ESLO

    On the evil BBC website

    “Putin denied Russian troops had besieged Ukrainians based in Crimea – they were pro-Russian “self-defence” forces.”

    Good to see that the old Soviet tradition of bare faced lying is being maintained.

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