March 17, 2014

Odious people with a repugnant ideology, 17 03 14

The following is from a commentary in the Los Angeles Times, The Toronto Star, etc this week by Robert English, director of the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California:

It’s become popular to dismiss Russian President Vladimir Putin as paranoid and out of touch with reality. But his denunciation of “neo-fascist extremists” within the movement that toppled the old Ukrainian government, and in the ranks of the new one, is worth heeding. The empowerment of extreme Ukrainian nationalists is no less a menace to the country’s future than Putin’s manoeuvres in Crimea. These are odious people with a repugnant ideology.

Take the Svoboda party, which gained five key positions in the new Ukrainian government, including deputy prime minister, minister of defence and prosecutor general. Svoboda’s call to abolish the autonomy that protects Crimea’s Russian heritage and its push for a parliamentary vote that downgraded the status of the Russian language are flagrantly provocative to Ukraine’s millions of ethnic Russians, and incredibly stupid as the first steps of a new government in a divided country.

These moves, more than Russian propaganda, prompted broad Crimean unease. Recall that this crisis began when Ukraine’s then-president Viktor Yanukovych retreated on a deal toward European integration. Are the Europe-aspiring Ukrainians who now vote to restrict Russians’ cultural-language rights even dimly aware that as part of the European Union such minority rights would have to be expanded, not curtailed?

Why wouldn’t we ease the fears of the Russians by forcefully denouncing the ethno-nationalists and embracing minority rights as vital to the stable Ukrainian democracy that we seek to promote? Given our own hypocrisy — don’t violate agreements (except the one not to expand NATO eastward), don’t invade countries on phony pretexts (except Iraq) and don’t support minority secession movements (except Kosovo) — why wouldn’t we want to restore U.S. credibility by living up to our principles in this critical case?

The European Parliament in 2012 condemned Svoboda’s racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia as “against the EU’s fundamental values and principles.” The U.S. should not hesitate to do likewise now. It is not only the right thing to do, it would also open a door to compromise with Russia over this dangerous crisis. To remain silent sends exactly the wrong message to extremists on both sides.

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/03/14/neofascists_are_as_much_a_menace_to_ukraine_as_putins_aggression.html

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