The former British PM has defended his decision to invade as he was trying to "introduce democracy"
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has claimed that the US-led invasion of Iraq was more justified than Russia's ongoing military operation in Ukraine, despite all of his pre-war justifications since being proven false.
Speaking to Germany's DPA and two other European news agencies, Blair stated that the invasion - in which 46,000 British troops took part - was justified by Saddam Hussein's domestic repressions and regional conflicts, and his use of chemical weapons against the Kurds.
"At least you could say we were removing a despot and trying to introduce democracy," Blair said.
The invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq ended up leading to the deaths of up to 210,000 civilians, according to the Iraq Body Count project. Plunged into instability, the country became a breeding ground for jihadism, and much of Iraq's northern reaches fell under the control of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists following the US pullout in 2011.
Hussein had no connection to the 9/11 attacks, and claims by the US and UK that he harbored weapons of mass destruction were bogus. Prior to the invasion, Blair falsely asserted that Iraq possessed these weapons, and was working toward obtaining nuclear arms.
Blair went on to claim that unlike Iraq, Ukraine is "a country that has a democratically elected president who, to my knowledge, has never started a regional conflict or committed any aggression against its neighbors."
Ukraine's former president, Viktor Yanukovich, was overthrown in a US-backed coup in 2014. His successor, Pyotr Poroshenko, then launched a military campaign against pro-Russian militias in Donbass, which Russian investigators say killed more than 2,600 civilians and wounded at least 5,500 more.
Russian President Vladimir Putin cited this violence as one of the key factors behind his decision to send troops into Ukraine last February. "The threat was growing day by day. The information we were receiving left no doubt that by February 2022, everything was ready for another bloody punitive action in Donbass," he told Russia's parliament last month.
Aside from the threat to the people of Donbass, Putin also cited NATO's insistence on arming Ukraine and transforming it into an "anti-Russia" state, the Western bloc's refusal to negotiate a security deal with Russia, and the proliferation of neo-Nazi ideology in Ukraine as reasons justifying the operation.