The hypocrisy of the West
By Gunnar Garbo
The western invasion of Yugoslavia gave Russia a precedent for doing something similar.
The dominant Western politicians and media are describing the conflict in Georgia without considering the responsibility of the US and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) for unleashing the crisis.
During the Cold War, my country Norway, a member of NATO, looked forward to a world in which both NATO and the Warsaw Pact would be shut down and replaced by an All-European Security Order.
The collapse of the Soviet system and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact made that a possibility, but instead of disbanding NATO, it then took on the role of volunteer army for US interventions in foreign countries. Contrary to repeated promises to the leaders in Moscow, NATO established military bases in country after country that had been part of the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact.
When Khrushchev installed missiles in Cuba, the world felt itself pushed to the brink of atomic war, and yet today, Western leaders are demanding that Russians see the installation of our missiles along their border as tokens of friendship.
In addition to this expansion into the heartland of modern Russia, NATO challenged Moscow with its unlawful war against Yugoslavia. After eight years of occupying Kosovo, Western countries found the time ripe to grant independence to that Yugoslav province. This was a violation of not only the UN Charter but also the 1999 armistice agreement with Yugoslavia, which promised to grant Kosovo substantial autonomy without violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Yugoslav federation. In addition, the West has systematically defended its war on Yugoslavia as a response to the forced deportation of the bulk of the Kosovar Albanians, which actually began when NATO started bombing the country.
US manipulations created the breakaway of Kosovo. Before Washington signed its promise to respect Yugoslavia's territorial integrity, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had quietly promised to support he independence claims of the UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army) rebels. And when negotiations about Kosovo's future status were underway, President Bush declared that the US would in any case approve full independence for the province. It was impossible for the negotiators to reach an agreement about substantial autonomy within the federation when the superpower had already announced its willingness to meet all the claims of the breakaway part.
One wrong does not justify another. But the Russian incursion into Georgia after Georgian troops broke into South Ossetia was actually modest compared with NATO's behaviour towards Yugoslavia and Kosovo. The Russians wanted to back up the compelling independence claims of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Stalin incorporated into Georgia.
Nothing in the recent armistice agreement would impede these claims. As American author and political analyst George Friedman recently pointed out, the invasion was primarily a response to the threatening military encirclement of Russia carried out by Washington. It was Western infringement on Yugoslav territory that gave Russian leaders a convenient precedent for doing something similar in the Caucasus. In view of the several US violations of international law, moral reproaches from Washington in this connection must seem both hypocritical and ridiculous to Moscow.
For many years, US leaders have been building up a global preponderance of military might. Now they have to recognise that Russia is once again a regional power that they can't continue to humiliate without bringing on a new Cold War. This can only be avoided if the US finally starts treating Russia on equal terms. It should stop taking actions that create the same fears and suspicions in Moscow which similar Russian actions would produce in Washington. It is necessary to promote a climate of trust and sincerity, not distrust and dishonesty.
A good beginning would be scratching the plan to grant NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia. The complaint that "Russia should not be allowed to decide who should be members of NATO" is beside the point. What will lead to peace and security even for these two countries is mutual trust and cooperation in all of Europe.