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Will the EU now impose sanctions on Azerbaijan, too?

Ok, let me get this straight. In February 2022, Russia shocked everyone by actually launching a ground invasion of Ukraine (instead of only ever ‘threatening’ to do so, like it had been doing for decades)... and how did the rest of the world react?

‘Outrage!’ ‘Scandal!’ ‘Putin should be tried for war crimes!’ Etc., etc., etc.

And nowhere was this ‘moral revulsion’ more forcefully expressed, than among the 27 members of the Europe Union (an institution which – let’s face it – has a habit of loudly proclaiming its own, ‘lofty’ ethical standards, at every single opportunity.)

Not content with merely condemning Russia’s actions, like everyone else... the EU felt it had to go a step further. So, it declared that:

a) it would impose sanctions on Russia;

b) it would immediately seek alternative sources to Russia, for its own gas-supply (at a time when several of its members were either wholly, or partially, dependent on Russian gas);

c) It would extend the Russian sanctions even to private Russian investments in Europe (Translation: It would strip individual Russian ‘citizens’ – hereafter referred to only as ‘oligarchs’ – of all their personal wealth, and assets.)

And... well, so far, so good. Closing an eye at a few reservations I may have, concerning some of those objectives – e.g., since when are private citizens ever held accountable, for the actions of their government? – I can only welcome what is, at the end of the day, a universal, unequivocal ‘condemnation of war’.

Far be it from me, then, to criticise any of those ‘horrified’ reactions; or to disagree with what (suddenly) seems to be a broad international consensus, that... um... ‘War itself is WRONG’, on principle; and therefore, Russia’s actions with regard to Ukraine are utterly deplorable, and indefensible by any standard of human decency.

With that out of the way, however: a teeny-weenie little problem almost immediately swims into view (long before we even get to the latest twist in the saga.)

Everyone, it seems, now agrees that Russia behaved execrably, by declaring an unprovoked war on another sovereign state. But... why only Russia? Why not any of the other countries, that have done more or less EXACTLY the same thing, over the past few years and decades?

Here are just a few other examples, off the top of my head:

• In 2004, the United States of America and Great Britain jointly launched an invasion of Iraq, on the pretext – later proved groundless – that Saddam Hussein was manufacturing ‘weapons of mass destruction’. This military invasion had no legal backing; it defied a direct United Nations resolution; and it resulted in an illegal occupation of the entire country, for over 15 years. (Not to mention that both the war itself, and the ensuing ‘insurrection’, cost an arguably unquantifiable number of lives... obliterating Iraq’s infrastructure, in the process).

• In 2011, several NATO members – including the USA, Canada, Britain, and France – participated in a military action (justified by UN Resolution 1973) aimed at ‘protecting Libyan civilians’, during that country’s civil war.

In practice, however: “Although NATO may have had the initial goal of protecting civilians, there is a substantial amount of evidence that suggests that the intervention was focused on regime change. This is very apparent from some of the military actions that NATO authorised and executed.”

These included the bombing of Gaddafi’s home-town, Sirte: “seen as largely unjustified, as the Gaddafi military posed a negligible threat to the local population as the local residents were supporting of the Gaddafi regime; and therefore, was a tactical decision focused on dismantling the manpower of the Libyan army, rather than the welfare of the Libyan people.” [‘To What Extent Was the NATO Intervention in Libya a Humanitarian Intervention?’ Matthew Green, 2019]

• In March 2015, Saudi Arabia (leading a coalition of nine other countries) invaded neighbouring Yemen, on the pretext of intervening in that country’s civil war.

Two months later, Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote that the Saudi-led air campaign had "conducted airstrikes in apparent violation of the laws of war". And in February 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself condemned the intervention, arguing that: "coalition air strikes in particular continue to strike hospitals, schools, mosques and civilian infrastructures [in Yemen].”

As recently as 25 March 2020, Human Rights Watch reported that the Saudi-led coalition has been “committing serious violations of human rights [including] arbitrary arrests, torture, and enforced disappearances.”

According to the UN, “over 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen, as well as estimates of more than 227,000 dead as a result of an ongoing famine and lack of healthcare facilities due to the war.”

Ah... but what, you might be asking, did NATO members do about all these war-crimes, and atrocities, committed by their own ally (and business partner), Saudi Arabia? Well, this is what Wikipedia has to say:

“The United States provided intelligence and logistical support, including aerial refuelling, [and] also accelerated the sale of weapons to coalition states.”

“British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was accused of blocking the UN inquiry into Saudi war crimes in Yemen.”

“French President Emmanuel Macron voiced support for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, and defended France's arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition. France authorised $18 billion (€16 billion) in arms sales to Saudi Arabia in 2015.”

Right: I’ll stop there, for now... on the assumption that the little ‘problem’ I mentioned earlier, is now visible to all and sundry.

We can all see, with our eyes, that both NATO and the EU (or at least, individual member states) have occasionally been guilty of conducting ‘illegal military operations’ of their own, here and there: including at least one – Iraq – that was arguably just as egregious a ‘war-crime’, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But... where are all the international ‘sanctions’, against the USA, UK, Canada, France, Saudi Arabia, and all nine of its coalition partners?

Why are ‘warmongers’ like George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Jens Stoltenberg, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Boris Johnson, and Emmanuel Macron, not facing proceeding at the International War Crimes Tribunal, in The Hague?

And above all: where is the drive, among EU and NATO countries, to ‘stop buying oil from’ - or, for that matter, ‘selling weapons to’ - countries like Saudi Arabia? Or even Libya, until only a few years ago... because everyone seems to have forgotten the time, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when several EU member states (including Malta) were just as dependent on Libyan oil, as some are on Russian gas today....

... yet it never seemed to bother anyone, when – under Muammar Gaddafi – Libya invaded its long-suffering neighbour, Chad: not once; not twice; not three times... but FOUR (4) times, between 1978 and 1987!

Funny, isn’t it, how we never seemed to care very much, about how many ‘wars’ our business partners were involved in, when deciding to buy fuel from them (until, of course, they suddenly decide to start an illegal war... without our own ‘permission’?)

But that only brings us to that ‘latest twist’ I mentioned earlier. In her mad scramble to somehow disentangle the EU, from the clutches of ‘Big Bad Mother Russia’: Commission President Ursula von der Leyen – just like Joseph Muscat before her - flew hurriedly to Azerbaijan, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with that country’s dicta... I mean ‘Great Leader’, Ilham Aliyev (whom she even described as a ‘reliable EU partner’, no less!)

Well, guess what? This week, the EU’s latest ‘reliable partner’ did something some of you might find vaguely familiar. On Tuesday 19 September, Azerbaijan announced a “major new military offensive” in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh – which (not unlike Ukraine) remains contested territory, following decades of post-USSR tensions, culminating in an all-out war between Azerbaijan and Armenia back in 2020.

At the time of writing, the latest ‘offensive’ appears to already be over: it seems that (unlike Ukraine, this time) the Armenian forces at Nagorno-Karabakh were completely overwhelmed, by a lightning incursion that left 200 dead (including 10 civilians: five of them children) and over 400 wounded... and have already surrendered.

Nonetheless, we are still talking about a unilateral annexation of territory, through military force, without the blessing of any United Nations resolution; and much more seriously, the Azerbaijani regime has already announced plans to ‘evacuate’ Armenian citizens, from what it now considers to be its own territory.

And not only has this ‘sparked fears of ethnic cleansing’ – fears which, alas, have proven only too justified in that region, not so long ago – but the forced evacuation itself constitutes a clear, direct ‘war crime’, according to the Geneva Convention.

So, erm... what is Ursula von der Leyen going to do, now that her ‘reliable partner’ has likewise turned out to be a ‘war criminal’? Will she tear up that MoU she signed with Ilham Aliyev, in June 2022? Will she call for immediate sanctions against Azerbaijan? And will the European Commission pass overnight legislation, empowering EU member states to simply ‘strip private citizens of their personal wealth, and assets’... because they just happen to be Azeri nationals?

Or is that something we only ever do, when the aggressor is Russia; and the victim, a potential future member of the EU?

I just thought I’d ask, because: it’s all getting very confusing, you know...