Maria Prosviryakova's Blog

Russia’s Reasons for UN Veto

20 июля 2012


For the third time since the beginning of the bloody crisis in Syria, UN Security Council failed to adopt resolution on Syria. Security Council seems not to be able to perform its main duty – a duty to restore international peace and security, a duty to protect Syrian people from ongoing violence. The blame for continuing bloodshed is almost unanimously put on Russia… and China. Well, Russia is apparently condemned the most, China just gets mentions as a second partner in the obstructive team. The USA says that Russia is on the “wrong side of history”.  Is Russia really being an obstacle for Syria deal and what is the right side of history?


Moscow is open to discussions

Russia is obviously not on the same page with the West on Syria, but it is clearly open to dialogue, perfectly understanding that Assad regime is crumbling and political transition is just around the corner. Moreover, it is necessary to cast away some of the misconceptions about  Russia’s position on Syria: Russia is not supporting  Assad regime and  it is not supporting the notion of dictatorship. Moreover, Russia stresses it would endorse any solution that Syrian people would choose for themselves. 



Reasonable concerns

Russia is really interested in stability in Syria. First of all because it has a naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus. It is Russia’s only strategically significant military presence in the entire Middle East. Who knows what will happen to the base if the armed rebels take control of the country? As well, Syria is Russia’s only Arab allay, and Moscow, of course, would like to keep it that way.

It is no secret that Moscow has problems with the notion of humanitarian interventions. It is not clear what those criteria for intervention are, and how to make sure that intervention doesn’t infringe on state’s sovereignty and that interveners are not guided by selfish ends. Unlawful exercise of humanitarian interventions might pose a threat to Russia causing the spillover effect in the North Caucasus and Central Asia.

It is true that Moscow is too cautious and too focused on negative outcomes of the situation in Syria, but it does raise some very serious points.  One of Russia’s main concerns over any international actions against the Syrian regime is the lack of clarity on what is next. We must admit that so far there is no detailed plan of intervention.  What is going to happen to the country and its people the next morning after Assad regime falls?

As well, shouldn’t international community intervene only when there is absolute certainty that such intervention will bring more good than harm? What if after intervention the death toll will go up, like in Iraq after invasion? How can we be sure that Syria won’t repeat the fate of Iraq or Afghanistan?

Another point is that humanitarian intervention doesn’t usually end with ceasefire; there should be a long process of nation-building afterwards. And the West, particularly America, doesn’t really have a good record of nation-building in the Arab world.  Moreover, one of the consequences of intervention is massive destruction of civilian infrastructure and interveners should be responsible for rebuilding it. So, if international community intervenes it is risking to get bogged down in Syria for a long time.

Military intervention in Syria might be really expensive and neither Europe nor the USA have extra money on such engagement with Syria.  Obama needs to pay his campaign bills and Europe needs to deal with the Eurozone crisis first. So, Russia’s veto is actually playing West’s  game.  Conservative treatment of the situation in Syria may turn out to be the best one.  It is really convenient for the West  now to hide behind “Russia and China veto”, as  public outraging  at these “heartless states” and feeding the opposition don’t cost  as much as intervention would have cost, and at the same time the image of the West as a first human rights defender is not tainted. 


Let the Syrians do the heavy-lifting

We must admit that Syrian opposition is not unified and it doesn’t have a good leadership yet. But this new leadership needs to emerge naturally from the Syrian people, it needs to find the way to take control of the country on its own. If the new leadership is formed with the help of international community, it won’t be legitimate, it will be always met with criticism and it might not reflect the real disposition of forces in the country, and the most important thing is that it won’t be natural which is crucial to the nation-building process.

The positive moment is that the opposition is becoming stronger in spirit. After having killed three high-ranking officials, rebels group feel inspired and may become more active. Political transition is already inevitable and the days of Assad regime are numbered.

Probably, the failure to adopt the resolution on Syria is the sign that the international community should just give the Syrians a chance to decide the future of Syria on their own. It is too early to draw any conclusions, but even though it seems that humanitarian intervention worked out in Libya, we still should keep in mind that Syria is a much more complex and troubled country.  The intervention may shed even more blood and create even bigger chaos. May be it is better if the Syrians themselves without any help try to build a new nation. 




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