"The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law...Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. In 2014 we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders...
I am confident that we are moving forward together, united in our determination to oppose actions that violate international law and to support the government and people of Ukraine."
- President Obama speaking to the US media at the White House yesterday
Obama is entirely correct in his critique of Russia's invasion of Ukraine - it is a direct violation of international law as outlined by the Geneva Convention and a blatant act of aggression against a sovereign nation.
The problem is, the US government doesn't have much of a leg to stand on given its very recent invasion of two other sovereign nations and its continued violations of international law in the Middle East. While Americans are eager to forget the Bush wars, they are still fresh in the memories of the rest of the world who still, as a recent WIN/Gallup revealed, view America as the greatest threat to world peace.
This may not sit well with your average American who understandably doesn't like to think of their government as an aggressive imperial super power. But unless everyone else on the planet is completely wrong and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan were in fact completely legal (and they weren't), there is at the very least, a very large element of truth to the claim. As the rest of the world sees it, America lecturing another country on respecting the sovereignty of others is akin to Pakistan telling India that it can't have nuclear weapons.
Vladimir Putin's rhetoric surrounding the invasion of Crimea is remarkably similar to the rhetoric used by George Bush to bolster his case for invading Iraq. It's an age old trick used by those in power; you simply label an invasion a 'liberation'.
Putin stated that he liberated invaded Ukraine because of the, “absolutely illegitimate decisions on the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions” that were imposed by the new government in Kiev. "Russia cannot ignore calls for help in this matter and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with the international law."
Ukraine you see, is beset by Nazis and thugs, and Putin is the man to save them from their fate.
George Bush told the American public that the goals of the invasion liberation of Iraq were "to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger."
He also stated that:
"A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq."
It was George Bush's deep affinity for the Iraqi people compelled him to spend billions of dollars and thousands of American lives helping them.
Now the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine is dredging up tribalistic Cold War jingoism where both sides hurl accusations about the other being 'aggressive' and violating international law. Russia's recent incursion onto Ukrainian soil is blatantly wrong, and there is no doubt that it is a direct act of aggression both against Ukraine and NATO. Sadly, pundits and politicians in America are using this to for incredibly selfish and counterproductive objectives.
The media is lapping up the onset of a new 'Cold War', sensing the enormous profitability in scaring Americans into believing Russia is attempting to take over the world and turn it communist. Politicians have always used global conflicts to boost their own popularity - and this time is no different. We're heading into the midterms and candidates are lining up for a run in 2016, so expect a mass orgy of Putin denunciations coming from those gearing up for the White House:
"Big bad Russia is comin' for your children and I'm the gun wieldin' cowboy to stop 'em!"
The political reality is that president has to condemn Russia's aggression in Ukraine, but that doesn't mean anyone outside of America (and Russia in particular) will take it seriously.