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NATO Warns Ukraine Against Using Army

05/06/2014 16:15 BST | Updated 04/08/2014 10:59 BST

"I strongly urge the Ukrainian government to refrain from further violence. If the military intervenes against the opposition, Ukraine's ties with NATO will be seriously damaged."

Those are the words of NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Not before time, it appears, the West is reining in its clients in Kiev and urging them to refrain from using the Ukrainian army to put down opposition in the east of the country. Good sense has prevailed at last in Western capitals and further bloodshed will hopefully be avoided in Donetsk and Lugansk.

Unfortunately, I had to make the last paragraph up. Rasmussen's words were not directed at restraining the present authorities in Kiev from using the Ukrainian army. No, his words, in a statement issued on 19 February 2014, were directed at President Yanukovych, warning him against using the Ukrainian army to remove opposition protestors from Independence Square in Kiev.

The next day, Rasmussen warned Yanukovych that he had "a special responsibility ... to maintain the neutrality of the armed forces". Rasmussen continued:

"The Ukrainian military should not turn on the people of Ukraine. If that happens, it would have severe negative consequences for our relationship with the authorities in Ukraine. The only way forward is peaceful dialogue and to find solutions in a democratic manner."

Yanukovych overthrown

Two days later, on 22 February, the democratically-elected Yanukovych, with a year of his term of office still to run, was violently overthrown and replaced by an illegitimate regime headed by Olexander Turchynov as "acting president" and Arseniy Yatsenyuk as "prime minister". This has been met with opposition, including armed opposition, in eastern Ukraine. Armed opposition against a regime that came to power by unconstitutional means may or may not be a wise course of action, but using force against an illegitimate regime cannot be condemned in principle.

The next day, 23 February, Rasmussen commented again on behalf of NATO. "The people of Ukraine must determine their own future in freedom and democracy", he said, without a word of criticism of the undemocratic regime change of the previous day. Nor has NATO ever criticised it - perhaps because the regime that was overthrown had set its face against Ukraine joining NATO (see NATO and Ukraine) and its successor is favourably disposed towards doing so.

Rasmussen's statement of 23 February went on to commend the Ukrainian army for stating that "it will in no way intervene in the political crisis" and to emphasise that "it is important that this continues to be the case".

However, under orders from its new masters, the Ukrainian army has intervened in the political crisis (albeit somewhat reluctantly, it appears). But you will search in vain on NATO's website for a statement by Rasmussen urging the new authorities in Kiev to refrain from using the army to put down the opposition in the east to its illegitimate rule, or a statement condemning the army's actual use with lethal consequences.

So, according to NATO, while it would have been totally out of order for the democratically-elected Yanukovych to use the army against opposition in Kiev - and might merit NATO severing relations with Ukraine - it is fine for the illegitimate authorities that replaced him to use the army in Donetsk and Lugansk, even though its actions have included the use of heavy weapons, including rockets delivered from the air, against civilian targets. And, far from severing relations with Ukraine, NATO has enhanced them.

Poroshenko

Petro Poroshenko, the newly elected president of Ukraine, is "killing his own people", to use the mantra repeated ad nauseam by Washington and London to whip up support at home and abroad for the overthrow of a succession of political leaders in the past decade.

In the case of Colonel Gaddafi, the mantra had an additional twist - it was said that he was "killing his own people" from the air. This was a key "fact" in persuading the Security Council to pass a resolution in March 2011 imposing a No Fly Zone in Libya and authorising military action "to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack" in Libya. But it wasn't a fact: there is no evidence that Gaddafi used air power to attack civilians (see Myths about the Libyan intervention).

There is evidence, however, that Poroshenko has used air power to attack civilians in eastern Ukraine. The OSCE has said so:

"On 2 June, shortly after 15:00 hrs, rockets hit the occupied regional administration building. Based on the SMM [Special Monitoring Mission]'s limited observation these strikes were the result of non-guided rockets shot from an aircraft."

Instead of being condemned for this wanton killing, two days later Poroshenko was granted an audience with President Obama in Warsaw and received his blessing.