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Putin blames EU hypocrisy for Catalonia crisis

Putin backs Spain against Catalonia and criticises EU for previously backing Kosovo against Serbia

In a wide-ranging speech at Russia’s Valdai forum President Putin of Russia blamed the double-standards the EU has followed for creating the conditions for the crisis in Catalonia.

The situation in Spain clearly shows how fragile stability can be even in a prosperous and established state. Who could have expected, even just recently, that the discussion of the status of Catalonia, which has a long history, would result in an acute political crisis?

Russia’s position here is known. Everything that is happening is an internal matter for Spain and must be settled based on Spanish law in accordance with democratic traditions. We are aware that the country’s leadership is taking steps towards this end.

In the case of Catalonia, we saw the European Union and a number of other states unanimously condemn the supporters of independence.

You know, in this regard, I cannot help but note that more thought should have gone into this earlier. What, no one was aware of these centuries-old disagreements in Europe? They were, were they not? Of course, they were. However, at one point they actually welcomed the disintegration of a number of states in Europe without hiding their joy.

Why were they so unthinking, driven by fleeting political considerations and their desire to please – I will put it bluntly – their big brother in Washington, in providing their unconditional support to the secession of Kosovo, thus provoking similar processes in other regions of Europe and the world?

You may remember that when Crimea also declared its independence, and then – following the referendum – its decision to become part of Russia, this was not welcomed for some reason. Now we have Catalonia. There is a similar issue in another region, Kurdistan. Perhaps this list is far from exhaustive. But we have to ask ourselves, what are we going to do? What should we think about it?

It turns out that some of our colleagues think there are ”good“ fighters for independence and freedom and there are ”separatists“ who are not entitled to defend their rights, even with the use of democratic mechanisms.

As we always say in similar cases, such double standards – and this is a vivid example of double standards – pose serious danger to the stable development of Europe and other continents, and to the advancement of integration processes across the world.

(bold italics added)

Putin is making the identical point to the one I made here.  Briefly, the EU supported US action to separate Kosovo from Serbia, and gave its support to the US in the case in the International Court of Justice which resulted in the Advisory Opinion on Kosovo, which says that unilateral declarations of independence even if made contrary to the provisions of a country’s constitution are not contrary to international law.

Given its earlier stance, the EU has no right to say that either the secession of Crimea from Ukraine and its subsequent decision to unite with Russia, or Catalonia’s secession bid from Spain today – both of which the EU says it opposes – are contrary to international law.

In passing, and on the specific subject of Crimea, Western writers – though careful to avoid any actual mention of the Advisory Opinion on Kosovo – imply that the cases of Crimea and Kosovo can somehow be distinguished from each other by the Russian military action which they allege preceded and made possible Crimea’s secession, which they refer to as an ‘annexation’ of Crimea by Russia.

This disregards the fact that there were also NATO troops in Kosovo when it unilaterally declared independence (there is in fact a huge US base there), and that those troops gained access to Kosovo after a 78 day bombing campaign which NATO – without prior authorisation from the UN Security Council – waged against Serbia in 1999.

Russian military action in Crimea in 2014 was immeasurably less violent than this, with barely a shot fired.

The reality is that the Advisory Opinion on Kosovo has become a huge embarrassment for the Western powers, which is why Western officials and the Western media never mention it.  I have never for example seen a single allusion to it in any article written about the crises in Crimea, the Donbass or Catalonia in any British broadsheet newspaper ever since each one of those crises started.

Putin by contrast brings it up all the time, as he did for example at length in his speech of 18th March 2014 to the Duma endorsing Crimea’s bid for unification with Russia, and as he has just done, if only indirectly, in the comments he has just made at the Valdai Forum.

On the subject of the crisis in Catalonia itself, Putin’s comments may appear neutral but in reality – reflecting what is unquestionably the not-so-private opinion of the Russian government – they clearly support the position of the Spanish government and oppose that of the Catalan nationalists

Russia’s position here is known. Everything that is happening is an internal matter for Spain and must be settled based on Spanish law in accordance with democratic traditions. We are aware that the country’s leadership is taking steps towards this end.

(bold italics added)

The comments about the crisis being an “internal matter for Spain” and about the crisis being settled on the basis of Spanish law clearly show that Putin rejects Catalonia’s claim to independent statehood and that he sees the way to a resolution of the crisis through the restoration of legality in Catalonia and not by its secession following an illegal referendum.

As for Putin’s words about the “the country’s leadership” (ie. the Spanish government) “taking steps towards this end”, they show that he supports the Spanish government’s decision to restore legality in Catalonia by imposing direct rule there, as it has announced it is going to do this weekend.

This is in all respects the same view of the crisis as the one I expressed in my recent lengthy article on the crisis in Catalonia, and it is also the view I said the Russians would take of the crisis in that article.

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

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