When it comes to separatists, irony abounds

Will Freeman at ThinkProgress notes that Vladimir Putin’s Russia tends to take a dim view of separatists within its own borders, even as it cultivates them in places like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, which seems odd for a guy who claims to care so much about hypocrisy:

Over the years, President Vladimir Putin has made it his trademark in speeches and even New York Times op-eds to call out the U.S. on flouting the principles of international law when they don’t align with national interests. Just a brief glance at the history of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, or more recently the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses of having weapons of mass destruction, make his biting allegations of hypocrisy hard to ignore.

But Putin’s government has its own record of flaunting tenets of international law, like rights to self-determination and sovereignty, when they run contrary to Russian interests. As Russia continues to pump guns and fighters into a conflict that is destabilizing not only Ukraine, but now all of Europe as well, Putin’s government hardly has the ability to claim the moral high ground.

Russia’s praise for separatists outside their borders and harsh condemnation of those within is obviously pretty ironic. But beyond making for hypocritical policy, the contradictory standards Russia applies to separatists may also threaten the nation’s stability.

It’s only really ironic if you were expecting Putin to be intellectually consistent on the subject of separatist movements, but of course he’s not. And he’s not alone or even in a small group as far as that particular kind of hypocrisy is concerned. Every country supports (within limits) separatist or revolutionary movements that can destabilize their enemies, while opposing similar movements that threaten allies or (worse) the homeland. The Saudis are the Jason Bourne of this kind of thing, backing rebels in Syria and unhappy Sunni tribes in Iraq, for example, while looking considerably less favorably on unrest in Bahrain and Yemen. Speaking of Arabs, a big part of Britain’s WWI strategy rested on the idea of convincing the Arab tribes under Ottoman control to revolt, but you didn’t see the Brits welcoming Indian independence movements, did you? Turkey supports, or at least used to support, Chechen independence, but the Kurds? Not so much. You could fill a pretty hefty book with every case of a country’s hypocrisy when it comes to separatists or rebels.

And we haven’t even touched on the US, which does this kind of thing all the time. Texas wants to secede from Mexico? We’ll gladly take them in and then go to war with Mexico for good measure. Texas wants to secede from the Union? Whoa, hold on there a minute. US neocons used to support Chechen rebels as a way to needle Russia, at least until they found out that the Chechen rebels were closely tied to Al-Qaeda, but they’re obviously not so keen on Iraq being partitioned, or a Boko Haram-led Islamist state in northern Nigeria. Haven’t warmed up to the idea of an independent South Ossetia or Donetsk People’s Republic, either. But we sure were OK with Yugoslavia splitting up. We’d be so happy to see the Baluchi people get their independence from Iran that we’ve probably helped to fund the terrorist group working on that very goal. There are many more examples, but I think you get the idea.

So, you know, Vladimir Putin isn’t the only hypocrite on this particular subject. Though admittedly, his constant complaints of American hypocrisy on any and every issue, even though he’s got a point about some of them, get old coming from a guy who isn’t without sin on this score himself.


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