Whoâ€™s killing whom in Ukraine? The secessionists in the southeast obviously declared independence from a government which they considered illegal, hostile and even dangerous to them and their Russian language, culture and religion. Thus they occupied buildings, obtained arms and built barricades. But they didn’t kill anyone.
â€œWeâ€ (US and EU) had no objections to the violent street coup in Kiev spearheaded by neo-Nazis, who then got important seats in the resulting new government (with a Prime Minister picked by US diplomats). Nor did we react towards blatant anti-Russian statements and decisions made by that government and directed towards their own citizens living in the southeastern part of the country.
During this phase we could easily have calmed down the situation, since the Ukrainian leaders were completely in our hands. We did the opposite. After each visit by characters like the US Vice President, the head of CIA, the notorious John McCain and others, the Ukrainian military made new attacks, though in the beginning rather futile. But we helped instigate the atrocities to come.
The regular Ukrainian army had qualms against killing their own fellow countrymen. It was not until the ruthless neo-Nazi elements in the so called militia were engaged that the indiscriminate murdering of civilians took off. Shelling and bombing hit the population (a war crime, by the way) leading to what must be called ethnic cleansing, forcing by now probably one million Ukrainians to leave their homes; many of them their country. Still we had no objections to this tragic part of the conflict and its perpetrators.
We see only one villain, whom we harass with defamation and sanctions: Vladimir Putin. His administration had from the beginning a reluctant attitude towards the rebels, making them disappointed by denying them open support. In our Goebbels-like propaganda, though, it’s Russia and Putin who are waging the war in Ukraine. Russian hawks naturally prevent Putin from denying the rebels at least some real help, but still probably no decisive backup that could be pictured as waging a war.
To evaluate the moral content of the Russian behavior we have to compare with our own actions in similar situations. There happens to be a case as close to equivalent as history can provide, namely Kosovo, where an Albanian minority wanted the enclave seceded from Serbia. They got western support for this action and to implement the secession US bombed Belgrade and other parts of the country for 78 days, without UN authorization, killing an estimated 3,000 people. One pretext for the bombing was Serbiaâ€™s ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians, although these really started as a response to the US attacks.
Not only are we morally prevented from criticizing Russia for the secession of Crimea, since we have done exactly the same thing (at that expecting praise for it), we would neither possibly be in a position to morally condemn Putin if he got the bizarre idea to order bombing of Kiev for 78 days, as punishment for the obvious and lethalÂ atrocities against civilians performed by Ukraine. But moral has no place in power games performed by militarily superior states. Putin cannot do the same things we have done; he has to do what we tell him.
This lack of moral principles is something that makes normal people sick, and we really donâ€™t have to endure it. We just have to organize and overrule our governments. The problem is that power not only has the means of violence, but also has the propaganda tools that create our world view, unless we enlighten ourselves – together with others.