Looking back at the 1980s from the second decade of the 21st century, NZ’s bold nuclear free stance seems like a bit of an illusion, or at best, a temporary bright spot.
Two news items this week have NZ looking like a client state of both US imperialism, and the UK monarchy.
John Key’s rush to support the US-EU positions on the Ukraine “crisis” seems a little like a repeat of NZ’s rush to support Britain in the first and second world wars. In those days New Zealand was still considered to be a Dominion of Britain. Yesterday, One News reported a statement from Key that condemns Russia’s actions in the Ukraine. For him the connection seems to have a lot to do with trade.
These days, most Kiwis tend to see our country as an independent state. So what has the Ukraine to do with us, and why is our government so quick to take sides?
Today’s NZ Herald editorial provides an explanation in support of John Key’s stance. However, it is somewhat confusing because it does endeavour to provide something of a historical perspective. The editorial begins:
All that can be done within reasonable bounds must be done to condemn Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula. The West should get behind John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State, who has talked of boycotting the June G8 summit in Sochi, visa bans, asset freezes and trade and investment penalties against Russia.
The article points partly to the ethnic make-up of people in the Crimea, but only scratches the surface of the significance of changing state boundaries that have cut across ethnic communities. The editorial goes on:
That outcome will reflect the fact that 60 per cent of the residents identify themselves as ethnic Russians. Crimea was a part of Russia until 1954 when it was presented as a gift to the Ukrainian people by the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev. That backfired when the Soviet system collapsed and Ukraine became independent. But the people of Crimea continued to look to Russia, while Moscow became more concerned about its important naval base at Sevastopol, the home of the Black Sea fleet, which it leased from Ukraine.
The situation is indeed complicated by the fact that the Crimea is a significant location where Russia is concerned to protect its borders. The Crimean bases act as a kind of buffer to foreign intrusions. On this the Herald argument becomes particularly slanted towards the perspective of western powers. Even while acknowledging the ethnic alignment with Russia by many in the Ukraine, it continues to characterise the Russian response as that of using the situation to expand its boundaries.
The editorial fails to take into consideration that the US and EU have interfered in the Ukraine rebellion to further their own economic and political aims in the area. As Bill pointed out in his post, ‘Voices and Power‘, the mainstream media has largely provided coverage that is slanted towards western powers being the good guys.
This article in Counter Punch points to some of the US and EU maneuvering in relation to the Ukraine rebellion, with the media being sucked into masking the imperialistic ambitions of western nation-states.
By openly supporting insurrection by a militant faction in order to subject the Ukranian government to a level of stress that it, and particularly its apparently incapable pres[s], Yanukovich, were incapable of handling, I think the US crossed something of a Rubicon. It openly and enthusiastically backed a violent putsch against a democratically-elected government it didn’t happen to like. Neo-liberal enthusiasts, it should be noted, splashed across this boundary without even getting their feet wet…
Ultimately, it’s largely about money, gas, oil, and having a powerful presence in the region. The NZ Herald editorial ends by referring to Russia’s failing economy, and the need to draw a Berlin wall-type line across the map:
The Western response must, therefore, include a financial rescue package that will set the scene for an increasingly prosperous Ukraine.
Its eventual wellbeing would surely contrast markedly with that of Crimea, which will experience the full extent of Russia’s economic woes over the next few years.
The Herald editorial fails to clearly identify how the Russian presence in the Crimea threatens the economic well being of Europe and its oil and gas supplies. That is covered in this Daily Telegraph article. In the Herald editorial, there is no mention of how this is of so much concern to NZ that Key has been quick to align NZ with the US and EU. It is most likely to be related to the dependence of NZ’s economic interests on that of the US and UK.
The second issue being given a load of media coverage, which seems like another throwback to NZ days as a British Dominion, is the upcoming visit of some royals. The New Zealand authorities involved with organising the visit say that they don’t know how much NZ taxpayer money will be spent on it.
I’m looking forward to the Taxpayers’ Union doing some in in-depth research on just how much it is costing us. Part of such research should also compare the cost with how much is not being spent to improve the lot of struggling Kiwis.