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Harper on Putin and Hitler: Inaccurate and really ironic

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government was one of the first to recognize Ukraine's new, unelected government and, on Saturday, became the first G7 government to go to Ukraine.
The foreign policy of Prime Minister Harper has never been nuanced.

Whether it is voting with the US and Panama against every other of the twenty-nine countries of the Organization of American States in support of the regime
change seeking protests in Venezuela instead of in support of the democratically elected government, or in shunning a deal with Iran that was acceptable to the US, Russia, China and Europe, or its policy in Afghanistan or Syria or Israel, Harper has always described the world as a Manichaean
dualism of good and evil in which he seems to be more comfortable. His world is like a child's story in which there is always a wicked witch and a good fairy.

With no sense of his own hyperbole, he told the new President of Ukraine this weekend that he has "provided inspiration to a new chapter in humanity's ongoing story of the struggle for freedom, democracy and justice." But it was not a chapter on democracy that the Ukrainian protests contributed to humanity's story. The government that Harper supports did not come to power in the polls but in the streets through protests that unseated a democratically elected government. Harper said on Saturday, without a sense of historical irony, that "It is for Ukrainians, and for Ukrainians 
only, to decide their future." But Ukrainians did decide: in a 2010 election in which a full 48.9 per cent voted for the government that the protests removed.
And involvement in that removal was not reserved "for Ukrainians alone."

In Harper's Manichaean narrative, Yanukovych is the wicked king, Yatsenyuk and the protestors are the knights who ride in on horses to save Ukraine,
America and the West are the allies and Putin is cast in the evilest role of all: Hitler.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Prime Minister Harper, reading from the same script as Hilary Clinton, have jumped right in line with the American neo-cons in comparing Putin to Hitler.

Baird compared Putin's decision to send troops into Crimea to Hitler's decision to send troops into the Sudetenland. He said "The Sudetenland had a majority of Germans. That
gave Germany no right to do this in the late 1930's." He added that "It's
hard not to" make the comparison. Prime Minister Harper agreed with the analogy: "What we've seen is the decision of a major power to effectively
invade and occupy a neighbouring country based on some kind of extra-territorial claim of jurisdiction over ethnic minorities. We haven't seen this kind of behaviour since the Second World War."

But Putin's thinking likely has a stronger historical resemblance to Kennedy's thinking when the Russians established a presence in America's Cuban backyard than it does to Hitler's. Despite the promise made to Gorbachev by George H.W. Bush that if Germany reunified, NATO would move no further towards Russia's borders, the U.S. and NATO have brought twelve allies of
the former Soviet Union into NATO. Now the States and the European Union are in the heart of Russia's "near abroad." And, though little reported, the offer that the E.U. proffered to Ukraine "included 'security policy' provisions . . . that would apparently subordinate Ukraine to NATO."

Putin's perspective, a violent coup has replaced a government democratically elected in polls certified as fair by international observers, with a Europe and NATO leaning government on its border.

Putin also sees -- unlike consumers of Western media -- that that coup was publicly endorsed by the U.S., importantly by Senator McCain and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland. He also sees that it was, at least in part, funded by the U.S.

The American National Endowment for Democracy--about whom original project director, Allen Weinstein, said, "a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the C.I.A." -- funds a staggering 65 projects inside Ukraine. And Nuland told the Ukraine Foundation Conference in December 2013 that the U.S. has
"invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in . . . goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous democratic Ukraine." But Nuland did more than reveal U.S. funding to groups involved in the coup. She also got caught plotting
the coup and selecting the eventual successor to Yanukovych.

She is heard
during her intercepted call to American ambassador in Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt, calling for the West to "midwife this thing," a metaphorical admission of
America's role in the coup. With the U.S. and NATO setting up camp in Russia's backyard, this all seems to make Putin's posture historically more like Kennedy's than Hitler's.

And, as for Harper's claim that "We haven't seen this kind of behaviour since the Second World War," that is simply historically false. In 1983, Ronald Reagan used the very same justification for the U.S. invasion of Grenada. When the island got taken over by leftists, Reagan cited the need to protect several hundred American medical students as justification for
the U.S. invasion. And, though Harper and Obama have said they would not recognize the legality of Crimea's referendum, Britain recognized a not wholly dissimilar referendum recently in the Falklands. The West also encouraged an unconstitutional referendum on secession in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992 and similarly recognized the secessions of Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia and, most recently, recognized the referendum on South Sudan's

But what is truly shocking about Harper's comments is not the inaccuracy of the analogy or the claim that it hasn't happened since Hitler, but the irony and the blatant hypocrisy. Because, although most comparisons to Hitler are inappropriate propaganda, the side Harper is supporting, and not the side he is opposing, is appropriately compared to the Nazis.

From the very beginning, in the middle of the protests in Kiev, have been the far right
nationalist Svoboda Party, complete with its fascist and anti-Semitic tendencies, and the even more extreme, and sometimes overtly neo-Nazi, Right Sector. Just last year, the European Parliament condemned Svoboda as "racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic."

And just to blight the promise that they were an unwelcome participant in
the protests who would be set aside in the new post-protest period, in the intercepted phone call between Nuland and Pyatt, Nuland says that Yatsenyuk should be Prime Minister, but that he needs to be talking to the head of Svoboda, Tyahnybok, four times a week.

In the new Ukrainian Parliament, Svoboda Party members hold five senior positions, including Deputy Prime Minister, and right Sector leader, Dmytro Yarosh, is the new Deputy Secretary of National Security.

So the comments of Harper and Baird are not only historically inaccurate,
but highly ironic.

Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in foreign policy and history.

Books by Linda Woolven & Ted Snider

View Linda Woolven's Paintings

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