How could we so easily forget the A-word? For over two years, Russia has been berated non-stop by Western states over its alleged «annexation» of Ukrainian territory. Over and over, we have been browbeaten with a media mantra deploring the crime of foreign annexation, supposedly perpetrated by Russia when the Ukrainian southern peninsula of Crimea seceded in March 2014.
Never mind the fact that the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to re-join their historic motherland in the Russian Federation. Western focus instead has sought to define that development as an illegal annexation. Reading any Western media news outlet today one will be informed as a seeming matter of unerring fact that Russia «annexed» Crimea. Other credible perspectives over Crimea are airbrushed from discussion.
This alleged case of «illegal redrawing of borders» has been invoked as a great sin, justifying diplomatic, political and economic censure of Russia by Washington and its European allies.
The alleged transgression against Ukraine’s territorial integrity by Russia is also cited as a factor in why the US-led NATO military alliance is piling up forces on Russia’s borders, purportedly to «protect» the rest of Europe from Moscow’s «expansionist ambitions».
Relations between Russia and the West have never been colder since the official end of the nuclear Cold War a quarter of a century ago. Both Russia and the West are building up military postures at an unprecedented rate – to the point where many observers fear that a full-scale global war could ignite. And this dire situation all stems from the alleged annexation of Crimea by Russia.
As noted, the legal and historical case against Russia with regard to the putative annexation of Crimea is dubious. But let’s set the disputed details aside, and ponder this curious double standard on the face of the same circumstances alleged by the West.
This week sees the US-backed Turkish military invasion of Syrian territory reportedly gather apace. Turkish military forces now occupy a swathe of northern Syria, stretching 90 kms along the border from the town of Jarablus to Azaz, west of the Euphrates River. The occupied stretch penetrates some 30 kms into Syria.
Two weeks ago, Turkey invaded Syrian territory with Washington’s full political and military support. The Syrian government and its ally Russia continue to voice concern over the incursion.
Damascus has denounced it as «a violation of its sovereignty» while Moscow this week reiterated its apprehension that the US-backed Turkish intervention is further destabilizing the conflict in the country.
Russia’s foreign ministry also pointed out that neither the Turkish nor American forces operating along the Syrian border have a legal mandate from the Syrian government in Damascus or from the United Nations. In short, the incursion is illegal, regardless of its presumed purpose.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now saying that his military is preparing to extend the offensive along with American forces to take the northeastern Syrian town of Raqqa, ostensibly from Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State (IS) militia. Erdogan claims that this plan was agreed with US President Barack Obama during bilateral discussions at the G20 summit in China last week.
Turkish ground forces and affiliated Syrian anti-government militia are also reportedly moving westwards to take the town of Al Bab, which is situated northeast from the key battle ground city of Aleppo. Aleppo is where the Syrian Arab Army and Russian support aircraft are waging an offensive to defeat an array of anti-government forces that have the backing of the US, Turkey and other NATO states.
The expanding Turkish and US occupation of Syrian territory is justified by both countries as an operation to «defeat terrorists» belonging to the IS network. The credibility of this claim is threadbare given that the main Turkish military effort so far has been expended not on thwarting Islamist extremists, but rather on driving back Syrian Kurdish militia, even though the latter have proven to be an effective antagonist to IS and related jihadist groups.
The Turk authorities fear that the Kurdish YPG militants might consolidate territory, declare regional autonomy and join forces with Turkish Kurds belonging to the PKK, with whom Ankara has been fighting a decades-long war.
It seems that erstwhile US support for the YPG is being relegated out of priority for Washington to repair relations with Turkey over the failed coup in July, which Erdogan’s government insinuated had US tacit support.
Turkey’s US-backed «anti-terror» invasion of Syria is also undermined by the documented covert links between these two powers and the myriad terror groups operating in Syria.
The entire nearly six-year conflict in Syria, beginning in March 2011, has been orchestrated by Washington and its allies, including Turkey, for regime change against President Bashar al Assad. The war – under the guise of a now-transparently fraudulent «pro-democracy uprising» – has been made possible by the covert sponsoring of proxy terror groups.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has over the past year provided copious video footage of industrial-scale oil smuggling by the Islamist terror networks into Turkey. Elsewhere, it has been demonstrated that Turkish state intelligence (MIT) was running weapons across the border for jihadists in Syria.
We also know that the American CIA and British MI6 were instrumental in funneling weapons from Libya and Croatia via Turkey into Syria to fuel terror proxies and the covert war for regime change.
So, the very idea that Turkey and the US are conducting an anti-terror assault across northern Syria simply defies systematic reality.
Furthermore, the Turkish-backed Syrian militants who are now working hand-in-hand with Turkey’s military in their alleged assault against the terrorists are reportedly Turkmen and Free Syrian Army brigades, both of whom are known to have engaged in atrocities as every bit as horrific as Al Qaeda-linked terrorists.
It was the Turkmen militia, for example, who butchered two Russian servicemen during the shoot-down of the Russian Su-24 fighter jet last November.
Again, the notion that these mercurial forces whom the Turkish and American military are collaborating with are somehow distinct from «terrorists» is an illusion.
Stripped of its anti-terror pretext, what we are seeing in Syria is actually an audacious annexation of Syrian territory by Turkey and America. Erdogan’s government has already declared the swathe of annexed territory a «no fly zone», making a part of Syria off-limits to its national army.
Turkey and the US have, therefore, de facto redrawn the Syrian border with a huge loss of Syria’s territorial integrity. This is plainly annexation of territory by foreign powers on a far more blatant scale than what Russia was falsely accused of committing in Crimea.
But this brazen US-Turkey annexation of Syrian land is somehow made invisible or non-existent simply because Western governments and mass media cloak the violation with a delusional anti-terror narrative.
With such contemptible double think and double standards, any case that Western states try to make about Russian «annexation» of Crimea simply collapses from inherent irrationality and contradictions.
FINIAN CUNNINGHAM / SCF