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.