"Whataboutism": How to justify Russian aggression

In an unsigned editorial, The Nation magazine complained that it would be “difficult to imagine any US administration accepting a decision by Mexico to join a military alliance with Russia.” One wants to ask The Nation when they threw their support behind policies like the United States’ economic (and, briefly, military) war against Cuba. Or when Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel started her ex post facto support for Ronald Reagan’s brief invasion of Grenada and his material support for the Contra rebels in their war against the Soviet-backed Sandinistas in Nicaragua, all justified as appropriate responses to Russian meddling in America’s backyard.

“Ukraine is central to Russian security of strategic importance,” The Nation argued, and the imposition of NATO bases in Ukraine “isn’t an irrational fear.” Paleoconservative Pat Buchanan echoed The Nation, writing that “Putin’s actions, though unsettling, are not irrational.”

A Guardian columnist worked of a similar script, shrugging that “it is hardly surprising that Russia has acted to stop the more strategically sensitive and neuralgic Ukraine falling decisively into the western camp, especially given that Russia’s only major warm-water naval base is in Crimea.” Much to the consternation of former supporters like left-wing folksinger Billy Bragg, Britain’s Stop the War Coalition appeared uninterested in stopping this war: “Ever since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the European Union and NATO have been intent on surrounding Russia with military bases and puppet regimes sympathetic to the West, often installed by ‘colour revolutions’.”