Parliament’s Willingly Deceived.
Parliamentary democracy only functions when the contending political parties are in substantial agreement. This applies to both domestic and foreign policy. In British foreign policy there are two distinct but related objectives. The first is to be chief assistant to the United States in matters military and diplomatic (an aspiration recently put in jeopardy by the House of Commons vote against intervention in Syria). The second and connected one is to disrupt the EU through expansion, so that it becomes nothing more than a glorified free trade area rather than a European political force in its own right.
This is why the Americans react with irritation at Europhobic attempts to leave the EU. The loss of Britain’s disruptive influence within the EU damages the American strategic objective of keeping Europe weak and divided and thus incapable of independent military and diplomatic action. The vast majority of MPs from all parties are not interested in inconvenient facts that might undermine these strategic objectives.
Currently it is the earnest wish of the United States that Russia have NATO and the EU right up against its borders. Doing so in the Ukraine would be a major prize for American military and diplomatic policy. Britain is fully in accord with this aspiration, although it has to move cautiously, both because of its own financial interests and because it does not want any hint of the possibility of Ukrainian immigration into the EU, thus giving UKIP an enormous boost.
In order to keep up the pressure against Russia, the recent American supported and financed putsch against the democratically elected government headed by the Ukrainian President Yanukovych needs to be portrayed as a democratic revolt and the resulting government in Kiev as legitimate. Otherwise, President Putin would seem to have a cast iron case for intervention in the Crimea. Hence Foreign Minister William Hague told the House of Commons that the new Kiev regime is in fact legitimate. The House did not question his claim. Thus, in a statement on 4 March 2014, William Hague deceived the House of Commons about the legitimacy of the new regime in Ukraine.
He led the House to believe that the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, had removed President Yanukovych from power on 22 February in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution.
“It is wrong to question the legitimacy of the new authorities”, he said.
It is simply untrue that the Rada followed the procedure laid down in the Ukrainian constitution to impeach and remove a president from power.
Article 108 of the Ukrainian constitution specifies four circumstances in which a president may cease to exercise power before the end of his term. Those are:
- inability to exercise his or her powers for reasons of health;
- removal from office by the procedure of impeachment;
The procedure for removal from office by impeachment is laid down in Article 111. It is not unlike that required for the impeachment and removal from power of a US president, which could take months.
Thus, Article 111 obliges the Rada to establish a special investigatory commission to formulate charges against the president, seek evidence to justify the charges and come to conclusions about the president’s guilt for the Rada to consider. To find the president guilty, at least two-thirds of Rada members must assent.
Prior to a final vote to remove the president from power, the procedure requires
- the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to review the case and certify that the constitutional procedure of investigation and consideration has been followed, and
- the Supreme Court of Ukraine to certify that the acts of which the President is accused are worthy of impeachment.
To remove the president from power, at least three-quarters of Rada members must assent.
The Rada didn’t follow this procedure at all. No investigatory commission was established and the Courts were not involved. On 22 February, the Rada simply passed a bill removing President Yanukovych from office.
Furthermore, the bill wasn’t even supported by three-quarters of Rada members as required by Article 111 – it was supported by 328 members, when it required 338 (since the Rada has 450 members).
Nevertheless, justifying UK support for the new regime in Kiev in the House of Commons on 4 March, William Hague said:
“Former President Yanukovych left his post and then left the country, and the decisions on replacing him with an acting President were made by the Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, by the very large majorities required under the constitution, including with the support of members of former President Yanukovych’s party, the Party of Regions, so it is wrong to question the legitimacy of the new authorities.”
That gives the impression that the procedure prescribed in the Ukrainian constitution for the removal of a president from office had been followed, when in fact it hadn’t and therefore the new authorities in Kiev are illegitimate.
President Putin questioned the legitimacy of the authorities in Kiev at his press conference on 4 March, just before William Hague spoke in the House of Commons:
“Are the current authorities legitimate? The Parliament is partially, but all the others are not. The current Acting President is definitely not legitimate. There is only one legitimate President, from a legal standpoint. Clearly, he has no power. However, as I have already said, and will repeat: Yanukovych is the only undoubtedly legitimate President.”
“There are three ways of removing a President under Ukrainian law: one is his death, the other is when he personally steps down, and the third is impeachment. The latter is a well-deliberated constitutional norm. It has to involve the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Rada. This is a complicated and lengthy procedure. It was not carried out. Therefore, from a legal perspective this is an undisputed fact.”
There is a fourth way – ill health – but, aside from that, Putin is undoubtedly correct.
Anyone with an internet connection could easily have checked the veracity of Hague’s claim and found it wanting. But the members of the House of Commons are not interested in checking its truth, or at least they are not interested in questioning his claim if they have already found it to be false. It is much more convenient to be willingly deceived than to unpick the basis of the American offensive against Russia.
To question Hague’s lies would be to raise uncomfortable questions about the UK’s independence as a sovereign state, something all three liberal parties are very unwilling to do. The US cannot abide states with a will of their own and Britain’s MPs are unwilling to annoy the US by appearing to be independent. The vote against intervention in Syria was an exception and the US has already punished the British by temporarily promoting France to the position of chief assistant. You can bet that British efforts to re-establish themselves as first among US poodles will now be redoubled.
The US is out to undermine Russia because that country has the nerve to run its own version of capitalism and conduct its own foreign policy in what it takes to be its own interests. That cannot be allowed and every means possible must be taken to undermine Russia and its interests, including conducting putsches in countries on its doorstep, recklessly threatening the lives and interests of millions of people. We are expected to be assistants in this enterprise and the vast majority of MPs agree. This is why they are willing to be taken for a ride by Hague and, even when it is pointed that they were, as it was recently by Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph, they find it convenient to keep schtum. This is what it is like to live in a vassal state run by vassal legislators and policymakers.