Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Syria's future hangs by thin thread

At his press conference in Moscow Wednesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev put up a ring of "constructive ambiguity" on what Moscow would actually do faced with a western-sponsored resolution in the UN Security Council on Syria similar to Resolution in 1973 on Libya, which the Kremlin today says has been unilaterally misinterpreted by the West for intervening in the North African country. According to the Russian press, Medvedev said: "I will not back this resolution even if my friends are going to beg me to. It is sad that these resolutions can be manipulated."

What is pertinent is that Medvedev parried the fundamental question: Will Russia go the extent of vetoing a resolution on Syria (which is being mooted by Britain, France and Germany and with US support) or will it repeat its previous show of abstention on R-1973? This is going to be a litmus test of the state of play in Moscow's policies towards the West - and indeed of the lay of the land in world politics. Russia today says it was caught unaware by R-1973's scope for "manipulation". But will that rich experience of hindsight about western perfidy guide the Kremlin to point blank say 'nyet' to a vote on Syria? Or, will it again choose to be pragmatic - and simply moralise? Other non-western UNSC members such as India and Brazil too will be taking stock of Russia's example.

Medvedev is meeting Barack Obama at the G-20 later this month. The US will certainly propose some trade-offs for accommodating Moscow's grievances regarding deployment of ABM systems in Europe. Will Syria be a big-ticket item in the basket of trade-offs? For Russia, selling Syria down the drain of a western-sponsored "regime-change" route will be a bitter pill to take. Russian interests go quite deep in Syria. The entire Middle East will be watching since Syria is also a traditional ally of Russia. Most important, China will be watching. Beijing may oppose a western move on Syria only to the extent Moscow is willing to go in the Security Council. That is to say, the so-called Sino-Russian "joint cooperation" over the Middle East and North Africa, too, is in the western crosshairs.

Meanwhile, France claims it is close to winning the baseline support of 9 UN SC member countries for the resolution on Syria, which means it will sail through unless Russia or China casts a veto.


ss0099218 said...

Perhaps the title of this piece should be "Assad's future hangs by a thin thread". It is not at all clear that the demise of the present regime in Syria would be to the advantage of the European Union or the United States of America. The Russians and the Chinese, with a truck-load each of their own problems, may just decide to let the eager Western interventionists have their ways with Syria, via an "abstention" at the UN. Another quagmire for their competitors might not be all that bad for the Russians and the Chinese, pure geostrategic considerations if we can see beyond the immediate impact of such an intervention. For all we know, the Russians and the Chinese might just have thumbed through their copies of "Art of War" by Sun Zi or Mao Zedong's treaties on protracted war.

drezz said...

I don't think the Russians would let themselves be taken for a ride again like with 1973. To quote George W., "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, same on you". Perhaps George W's most insightful comment in his tenure.

Libya is, or was, far more aligned with the West than Syria. Russia has a LOT to lose if Assad goes down.

Laoconte said...

Perhaps what is at stake is too big even for Russia. Israel interests nowaday hang on a thin rope.

Johan said...

A lucid analysis indeed.

Russian government’s hypocritical conduct on R-1973 evokes the memory of those dreadful years that saw Yeltsin routinely trading old friends for quick western loans (at the time Serbs, others...)

Of course, it is beyond imagination that Medvedev somehow “could not foresee” the effect of his abstention on R-1973 in the SC and that, poor he, only now “realizes the mistake”... C’mon. Grimm brother’s fairy tales.

As for Syria, wait and see.