By Alexander McCobin and Eglė Markevičiūtė
Alexander McCobin (United States) Co-Founder and President of Students For Liberty
The saber rattling between the Russian Federation and United States government has revived Cold War tensions over the past few weeks. Such a confrontation should be a relic of the 20th century, something that Millennials only know about through history books rather than something we experience in our lifetimes.
The War on Terror and seemingly endless interventions by the US military in the Middle East and Africa over the past 12 years have rightly shaped our generation’s critical attitude toward foreign intervention. This principled opposition to unnecessary war is a branch of the increasingly libertarian nature of today’s youth. Whether the antagonist is foreign or domestic, governmental or nongovernmental, the libertarian philosophy of this generation should condemn aggression and foreign intervention by all agents.
While it’s important criticize misconduct of the United States and some of its Western allies exacerbating the turmoil in the Middle East over the past two decades, it is also important to remember that there are other aggressors in the world; Russia — with its ongoing wars in the Northern Caucasus, the invasion of South Ossetia, and it’s most recent annexation of Crimea — being key among them.
Former Congressman Ron Paul, whose views are interpreted by many as wholly representative of the libertarian movement, gets it wrong when he speaks of Crimea’s right to secede. Make no mistake about it, Crimea was annexed by Russian military force at gunpoint and its supposedly democratic “referendum” was a farce. Besides a suspiciously high voter turnout without legitimate international observers, the referendum gave Crimeans only two choices — join Russia now or later.
It’s much too simplistic to solely condemn the United States for any kind of geopolitical instability in the world. Non-interventionists who sympathize with Russia by condoning Crimea’s secession and blaming the West for the Ukrainian crisis fail to see the larger picture. Putin’s government is one of the least free in the world and is clearly the aggressor in Crimea, as it was even beforehand with its support of the Yanukovych regime that shot and tortured its own citizens on the streets of Kyiv.
The recent spate of anti-war activists arrested in Russia is just one of many examples that illustrate that the Russian Federation is not a free country, and everyone should be very careful with showing sympathies to an autocratic leader such as President Putin.
In contrast to his father, Senator Rand Paul gets it right by condemning Russian aggression while not subscribing to hawkish calls for military intervention at the same time. It is one thing to not intervene; it is another thing to applaud an autocrat for the sake of blaming our own government.
Eglė Markevičiūtė (Lithuania) Member of the International Executive Board of Students For Liberty
Libertarian skepticism toward national governments and supranational bodies is understandable given the atrocities they have committed over history. However, some of the recent statements made by Ron Paul and other well-known libertarians in the United States about Ukraine, NATO, and the US government have left people in Eastern Europe confused.
Some libertarians’ Kremlin-style speculation about pro-western Maidan’s meddling in Crimea’s affairs is very similar to what Putin’s soft-power apparatus has been trying to sell in Eastern Europe and CIS countries for at least 15 years. Speaking of the Crimean secession being democratically legitimate is intellectually dishonest given that the referendum was essentially passed at gunpoint with no legitimate choice for the region to remain in Ukraine’s sovereign power. As Tom Palmer has rightfully pointed out, peaceful secessions are not usually preceded by armed interventions from surrounding countries.
It’s understandable that not everyone outside of Eastern Europe would take an interest in the current crisis, like many libertarians who rightfully urge the West to not intervene. The only thing I, as an Eastern European, would like to ask libertarians of the West is to avoid apologizing for Putin’s regime when advocating for peace. The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.
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