The latest round of sanctions levelled by the United States government against Russia are predicated on allegations that Moscow interfered in the 2016 US presidential elections. Alleged interference includes leaking e-mails obtained from the US Democrat Party.
However, compared to the open interference the US conducts around the world in the internal political affairs of nations, leaked e-mails is particularly benign.
Across Southeast Asia, entire political parties, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, Anwar Ibrahim’s Bersih street front and Thailand’s Pheu Thai Party and accompanying street movement, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) have attempted and at times succeeded at clawing their way into power primarily because of extensive financial and political support from the United States and various European allies.
In addition to support in the shape of propping up entire political parties, the US funds and directs myriad fronts posing as nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). In Thailand, these include media platform Prachatai, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT), Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the New Democracy Movement and Thai Netizen.
Many of these organisations have invested in elaborate efforts to conceal their foreign financial support indicating knowledge among these organisations that they are involved in impropriety.
Many pose as impartial rights advocates, but use their rights advocacy as a facade behind which they pursue politically-motivated agendas. In addition to assisting US-backed political parties into power, they also promote Washington’s regional aspirations including confrontation with and the encirclement of China and the creation of US-funded and directed organisations that run parallel to and eventually supplant local civil society organisations and institutions.
US Allegations vs Documented US Interference
US sanctions against Russia are still based entirely on allegations yet to be confirmed with anything resembling evidence.
Conversely, US interference abroad is openly documented. Across Asia alone, the US State Department via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) openly lists organisations and political activities the US is attempting to influence and control in each respective country.
Shawn Friele, Second Secretary (Political) at Canadian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, walks with US-funded Thai agitator Sirikan “June” Charoensiri of TLHR, in Thailand amid Thailand’s internal political affairs. Friele regularly visits with other agitators and family members involved in a variety of US funded interference across the country.
In addition to funding, the US and Western allies openly assist many of these organisations in their work on the ground via embassies. The above mentioned TLHR, created with the explicit assistance of the US Embassy in Bangkok the day after the 2014 coup which ousted the US-backed administration, was recently assisted by Canadian embassy staff who openly thanked the US ambassador to Thailand, Glyn Davies for his support in aiding the front.
TLHR regularly offers legal defence exclusively for agitators and subversives attempting to undermine the current political order in Thailand and pave the way for foreign-backed opposition to seize power. While TLHR and fellow recipients of US money and directives claim to advocate human rights impartially, they regularly excuse, ignore or defend abuses carried out by US-backed parties and organisations.
These double standards expose US activity abroad as clear cut political interference, based on US interests, not principles, and conducted openly and expansively, and in a manner the US has accused and condemned Russia of pursuing in regards to America’s own internal politics.
How then is it possible for the US to condemn others of interfering within its own political affairs, but find it acceptable to interfere on a global scale? This monumental, self-evident and growing hypocrisy is a contributing factor to America’s waning influence globally. Its inconsistency between what it finds unacceptable for others to do in America versus what it itself is doing worldwide undermines its political legitimacy just as much as double standards exercised by recipients of US money undermine their credibility in each and every country they operate in.
Furthermore, the US levelling sanctions against Russia opens the door for those targeted by US interference to put in place measures to limit or entirely eliminate fronts operating with US money and for US interests.
Unlike US sanctions against Russia, sanctions enacted by nations targeted by the US via the NED and other networks can easily cite documented evidence provided by the US itself regarding political interference. And with the US attempting to label those deemed sympathetic to Russia as subversives, it would not be a far stretch for nations to label those openly receiving money from the US as subversives.
America’s double standards had a place and time when they were viable. As the world increasingly becomes multipolar, such hypocrisy becomes a liability, not a representation of impunity and strength. In many ways already, this hypocrisy is costing the US legitimacy worldwide and opening the doors for targets of its ambitions to push back using precisely the same tools the US has used for decades. The latest row Washington has deepened with Moscow opens those doors wider still.
Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
Featured image is from the author.