Western reaction to Turkish & Ukrainian coups: Forget 'democracy,' it's about 'interests'

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia
© Reuters
Who would have imagined that the people who helped bring you the 2014 Kiev Maidan coup are now apparently opposed to the removal of elected leaders by force?

If they’ve somehow seen the light after those efforts contributed to the destruction of Ukraine, that’d be fair enough, but it doesn't appear to be the case.

In reality, if you’ll excuse the allusion to Damascus, there hasn’t been a bunch of Pauline conversions. Instead it’s all about ‘interests’ and it doesn’t seem to matter how shameless or brazen they are in pursuing them.

Pro-NATO politicians in Europe and North America have long used the pretence of “democracy promotion” to justify the club’s relentless expansion eastwards. For all that, their reaction to last weekend’s events in Turkey has finally blown that cover. Because, let’s be frank, sensible folk have long insisted that their real ambition has always been to install or maintain western-friendly regimes in strategically important countries. At this time, the response to the Ankara turmoil seems to confirm those suspicions.

Memories of Maidan

In 2013, Ukraine’s deposed premier, Viktor Yanukovich, rejected an EU proposal for closer ties with his country. As that was contrary to western plans for the region, his violent removal was supported by NATO advocates.

By contrast, when Turkey’s secular military tried to overthrow the country’s islamist supremo, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, elites from Washington to Brussels suddenly became strongly opposed to coups. This despite the fact that Erdogan is far less “democratic” and much more authoritarian than Yanukovich ever was. Indeed, his former Kiev counterpart's main sin was an addiction to ridiculously outlandish corruption.

The reason is simple. Yanukovich’s refusal to acquiesce to a, financially very unfavourable, EU association agreement, in favour of closer ties with Moscow, which threatened to tilt the East European balance-of-power against NATO’s wishes. Meanwhile, Erdogan, while brutally repressive at home, has maintained Turkey’s foreign policy role as America’s principal Middle Eastern partner. If a new regime in Ankara restricted US access to Turkish military infrastructure, that would seriously limit Washington’s ability to wage war in Syria, for example.

Thus, we had the unedifying sight of former Maidan cheerleaders standing up for Erdogan. Take our old friend Carl Bildt. You will remember Bildt - the ousted former Swedish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister - as the co-architect of the EU’s ‘Eastern Partnership’ plan, which fermented instability in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. That was promoted in partnership with Radoslaw Sikorski, subsequently forced to resign from Poland’s government due to a wiretapping scandal in which he questioned American intentions in Europe.

Bildt was so supportive of the Maidan that he even accepted “honorary membership” of its Canadian branch in 2014.

Yet, last weekend he publicly announced his new position on illegal coups via Twitter. “Whatever our other reservations, we must stand firmly with the democratically elected government of Turkey,” he tweeted.

However, two and a half years ago, he offered no support to Yanukovich, instead lending enthusiastic encouragement to his opponents. It’s tempting to believe that he merely perceived the former Ukrainian President’s failure to accept the EU-Ukraine treaty as a personal affront, but it goes deeper than that.

Bildt, and his fellow travellers, will always parrot official Washington positions, no matter how ludicrous it makes them look.

The View From Vilnius

Another big EU advocate for the Maidan was the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Linas Linkevicius in January of 2014, he was urging “solidarity” with the movement.

But, on Friday last, his tune was markedly different. “Attempted coup (in) Turkey ruins (the) foundation of sustainable democracy. We must support (the) elected government,” he declared.

At the same time, the US government position has been incredible to behold. On Tuesday, President Obama called Erdogan to “offer help.” This was on the same day that Ankara suspended 3,000 members of the judiciary, fired 15,200 education officials and revoked the licenses of 21,000 school teachers. That was in addition to the removal of 1,577 university deans and the sacking of 8,000 police.

So, while Erdogan is conducting his own micro-version of Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution, the only thing the US President can do is to “offer help?” The mind boggles.

The American and EU elite has badly exposed itself and it’s now time to do away with the charade of “democracy promotion.” The double-dealing has finally gone too far. As it wasn’t already obvious when the the cruel totalitarian rulers of Saudi Arabia are greeted as friends but elected leaders like Vladimir Putin and Dilma Rousseff are constantly vilified.

As Edward Lucas, one of NATO’s most prominent media supporters, and another Maidan booster, wrote in The London Times this week, “the failure of the coup in Turkey has not protected democracy. It is burying it. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is bent on destroying the rule of law, human rights, free media and an independent legislature.”

Eurocrats and their peers in Washington often listen to Lucas’ views on Russia, where he frequently plays the role of a pantomime villain, and they'd be well advised to also heed his perspective on Erdogan which is more accurate than his usual scaremongering about Moscow.

Western foreign policy has very little to do with spreading freedom and emancipation around the globe. Rather it’s about protecting the interests of America and its close allies. So why not just admit it in future and stop the hypocrisy?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.