The rent of the meeting room at the President Hotel in 2015 cost 45 thousand rubles (Image: BBC)
Separatists from a variety of countries around the world except the Russian Federation assembled in Moscow today to declare both their support for the Russian Federation where calls for independence from that country are punishable by prison as well as their opposition to the United States.
As when the Kremlin organized a similar meeting a year ago, the most important consequence was not to extend Russian influence among separatists elsewhere but to highlight in Russia and around the world the extent to which Moscow is totally unprepared to accept as applying to itself international norms that Soviet and Russian officials have supported in the past.
Indeed, there is every reason to think that the session of this self-proclaimed “Anti-Globalist Movement” will backfire on the Kremlin by reminding the non-Russian quarter of the Russian population of exactly how Vladimir Putin and his regime view them and their rights, thus triggering a new wave of non-Russian nationalism in response.
Last year’s meeting, the first in this series, provides a guide to what one can expect from the group this year. At that time, the leaders of separatist movements from around the world, some serious, some entirely frivolous, assembled, denounced American imperialism, and elected Syria’s Bashar Asad and Iran’s Mahmud Ahmadinejad to its presidium.
There were representatives from Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Texas, from Catalonia and Northern Ireland, from Ukraine and the Western Sahara, as well as from groups that declared they sought not separate states but the amalgamation of existing states, in this case, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, into a single one.
But there were two prominent exceptions to the invitation list:
- No one was invited from any group in the Russian Federation where any call even for having the country live up to its own constitution is treated as a criminal act of promoting separatism.
- No one came from separatist movements in the few countries Russia still has good ties with, like China.
“Never in the history of humanity,” the meeting’s organizers declared, “have assembled in one place so many rights defenders who represent national liberation movements and parties from various countries.” But Russian speakers quickly made it clear that the meeting was not about self-determination but about alliances with Russia against the United States.
Fedor Biryukov of Rodina, who was one of the organizers of the conference of European national radicals and neo-Nazis in St. Petersburg in early 2015, told those assembled that “we are attempting to embrace everyone both right and left” who support Russia in its struggle with the West.
This year, the Moscow guest list is similar: It includes Kurds, Catalonians, Scots, Irish groups from North Ireland, Arabs and Berbers from the Western Sahara and even American separatists from California and Texas, all of whom supposedly are again animated by pro-Russian and anti-American feelings.
The Tatar-Bashkir Service of Radio Liberty asked Nadir Bekirov, a specialist on international law who worked in the United Nations from 2003 to 2008 on issues having to do with the rights of indigenous peoples to comment on the disjunction between Moscow’s support for separatism elsewhere and its opposition to separatism in Russia.
The expert points out that members of the United Nations are expected to respect its Charter, which includes among other things, a call for governments to respect the right of nations to self-determination. They are also supposed to respect various UN declarations calling for respect for national minorities.
The Russian government, he points out, seeks to have it both ways. On the one hand, it proudly points to its association with the UN documents, something its propagandists and supporters invariably cite. But on the other hand, it ignores its undertakings or defines them in ways that suit Moscow whenever it wants.
The Russian government shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this duplicity, Bekirov says. It either must be called upon to live up to its treaty obligations. Or, the rest of the world must hear from the Kremlin a declaration that it doesn’t feel itself required to do anything it agrees to once it doesn’t.
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