Since the end of the Cold War, the world’s imperialist superpowers have only intervened militarily in other nations when there is international consensus or when a rival’s red lines are not crossed. For example, the invasion of Iraq did not have international support but did not cross China or Russia’s red lines.
However, the Russian annexation of Crimea crosses the USA’s red lines. As a result, the USA is seeking to isolate Putin, cutting his economic and political ties to the outside world and turning Russia into a pariah state, according to Peter Baker in The New York Times.
The USA’s red lines are drawn on Russia’s borders, and any Russian ambitions in its ‘backyard’ are considered violations of the international order. They are also drawn around Iran, whose government is threatened by ‘no option being taken off the table’. Regarding Russia, the UN has released a document underlining the fact that “the threat or use of force” in international politics is unacceptable.
In Cuba in 1962, the red lines of the Cold War superpowers were crossed. However, the USA was not prepared to remove the missiles it had close to Russia. Vietnam, meanwhile, crossed no red lines. Other nations are sometimes allowed their own red lines, but only if they don’t cross red lines of the USA.
According to Oxford University professor Yuen Foong Khong, the USA had long emphasised the need to avoid ‘hostile hegemonies’ in any region of the world, and that only US dominance ensures peace and stability. In other words, states must subordinate themselves to US demands and to those of no other nation. And, despite the USA’s view of itself, the rest of the world sees it as a ‘pariah state’ and ‘the greatest threat to world peace’. Khong also refers to China’s rise to economic dominance in Asia, and how it has its own expansionist ambitions that cross the USA’s red lines.
Putin, meanwhile, complains about the double standards of the West, and how NATO has built up an arsenal on Russia’s borders, hoping that Russia doesn’t respond. When Gorbachev accepted German reunification, it was on the condition that NATO didn’t make a move towards the east. But this promise, not considered legal by the West, was immediately broken. Bill Clinton expanded NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe, moving into Russia’s traditional ‘backyard’ in order to ‘maintain peace and stability’.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea was considered a violation of international law. Guantanamo Bay, meanwhile, which was taken by force from Cuba in 1903, remains under US control in spite of constant Cuban opposition. The difference is that there was strong international support for the annexation of Crimea, and the area historically belonged to Russia. For precisely that reason, Russia’s navy is based there. The USA’s control of Guantanamo Bay, however, is simply part of the USA’s strategy of terrorism and economic war against the Cuban Revolution.
While the USA criticises human rights abuses in Cuba, it ignores those committed in Guantanamo Bay and by US allies in Latin America, which are consistently much worse. However, US interference in Cuba doesn’t cross the red line of another superpower and, for that reason, doesn’t cause a crisis. The same can be said about many other military expeditions of the USA around the world over the last century. Nonetheless, movements made by other superpowers are the ones that are considered unacceptable, whilst those of the USA are to ‘maintain peace and stability’.
Translated and adapted by Oso Sabio from http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2014/05/03/lineas-rojas-en-ucrania-y-en-todas-partes-noam-chomsky-1925.html