U.S. hypocrisy does not nullify Russian abuses

U.S. criticism of Russia in Ukraine shouts hypocrisy (credit: Eunice Oh/) U.S. criticism of Russia in Ukraine shouts hypocrisy (credit: Eunice Oh/)
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Take a moment and think of your biggest complaint about the United States. If you’re like me, our penchant for intervening in the affairs of other nations is probably near the top of the list. A close second place in the race for worst thing about the States might belong to the unrestrained corporate greed — at the detriment of employees, consumers, and the environment — which is either supported or unopposed by the government. The maltreatment of ethnic minorities and the LGBT community by both individuals and institutions is also a front-runner.

The list goes on. From government surveillance to widespread corruption of both law enforcement and bureaucracy, it’s pretty easy to see that there’s a lot wrong with the United States of America. As such, a degree of cynicism and suspicion is an unsurprising and rational response to the actions of our government.

So when Vladimir Putin and his government decries United States and European Union (EU) statements condemning the Russian intervention in Crimea by claiming “the pot is calling the kettle black,” one has to admit he has a point.

But that does not mean the kettle isn’t black. Apart from gun laws that line up with what many liberals would like to see in the United States, almost any issue one might take with America is not only present, but likely more pronounced in Russia.

While the attempts by certain states to pass laws legalizing discrimination against homosexuals in the name of “religious liberty” are a frightening step backward that we need to acknowledge and fight against, here in the United States we have the ability to denounce these laws as morally repugnant.

In Russia, such vocal opposition would be illegal, as would even saying that homosexuality is not a form of perversion in any forum where a minor might overhear. While the Olympics were taking place there was little controversy, since foreigners at Sochi were exempt from Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws, but doing so at other times or other places would lead to deportation for foreigners or jail time for locals.

While the United States government has little direct control over the country’s media, most television and print in Russia is controlled by the government. The handful of independent news and media organizations must ration out their criticism, lest they attract the ire of the Kremlin and have their assets seized and gifted to one of the oligarchs who run the massive, formerly state-owned corporations inherited from the Soviet Union.

For the sake of LGBT rights and press freedom alone, Russian annexation of Crimea should be opposed, or else another 10,000 square miles of the planet might be subject to brutal repression and gag laws. Russian media would counter this argument by rightly pointing to the United States’s habit of propping up repressive regimes around the world; America’s misadventures in illegal invasion need to be conceded, particularly in Iraq. Regardless of the justification or the end result, breaching another country’s sovereignty is illegal and does not befit a nation that considers itself a world leader, which is something Russia has not failed to point out.

Of course, if you believe RT — a Kremlin-funded English news TV outlet — or other Russian media outlets, Russia hasn’t put a single soldier on the ground in Crimea. The heavily armed soldiers carrying AK-74’s, standard issue assault rifles for Russian infantry; wearing Russian fatigues and body armor “bought in a shop”, Putin asserted in a public address; and driving Russian military vehicles with Russian identification plates are Crimean “self-defense” forces. Crimean forces who, for some reason, speak with Russian accents and have admitted on camera that they are Russian soldiers.

Compare the troops at the Belbek Airfield standoff — where 300 Ukrainian servicemen and their families marched unarmed on their own base and demanded to talk to an officer after warning shots were fired — and the image reminiscent of the Maiden protesters who ousted former President Yanukovych, which RT is trying to advance now.

If you, like me, are opposed to any aspect of the conduct of the United States or any other Western power, you should be opposed to Russia’s indefensible lies, deceit, and aggression. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but there’s more than one all-window home on this block.