Russian and Chinese Opposition to Intervention in Syria a Welcome Development

October 16, 2011 2:37 am Published by Leave your thoughts

The recent decision by both China and Russia to veto the European UN Security Council Resolution on Syria has served noticed on the West that further interventions in the region will be opposed.

Despite amendments made to the text of the resolution by the European allies involved – France, Britain, Germany and Portugal – to try and alleviate the concerns of Russia and China, both governments remained dissatisfied and vetoed it. Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that draft was based on “the philosophy of confrontation”, while China’s UN ambassador Li Baodong said that Beijing opposed the idea of “interference in (Syria’s) internal affairs”.

The response of the American ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, was unsurprisingly scathing. She described the veto as a denial of universal human rights for the Syrian people. That she felt empowered to try and seize any moral high ground on the application of universal human rights, when the US remains a major ally of Saudi Arabia and up until recently was key in helping to maintain Mubarak in power in Egypt, is stark evidence of the hubris that continues to abound in Washington even after the humanitarian disaster precipitated by the US-led invasion of Iraq and the continuing quagmire in Afghanistan.

What seems clear is that the Arab Spring which has swept through the Middle East in recent months, toppling autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, and which has seen serious unrest in Bahrain and Yemen, has been actively joined by the US, France, Britain and their attendant allies in order to ensure that what emerges are pro-western regimes and governments that will uphold their geopolitical interests in the region.

Providing further impetus in this regard has been the success of the NATO intervention in Libya, which has proved to be a win-win in terms of the resources applied and its successful outcome. Indeed, the success of the Libyan operation has breathed new life into the concept of humanitarian intervention by the West, or to give it its old name: imperialism. The prospect of unleashing the same template on Syria is clearly a motivating factor in both the drafting of the UN Security Council resolution by the European allies and its subsequent veto by Russia and China.

In fact, the experience of Libya – when a UN Security Council resolution to protect innocent civilian life was subsequently transmuted into providing military support for one side in a civil war with the objective of regime change – will understandably have deepened the resolve of both China and Russia not to be caught out in this regard a second time.

Though the Cold War is no longer central to international affairs, there has been a resurgence of something akin to it in recent years, a result of China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse, Russia entering a new era of assertiveness vis-Ã -vis the West, and the West’s comparative economic decline leading to an increased reliance on hard power to maintain and advance its interests. The oil rich Middle East remains every bit as vital to each of the aforementioned power blocs, which is why what we are beginning to witness, with regard to the region, is a re-enactment of the Great Game that took place in the 19th century between the British and Russian empires. Then the prize was Central Asia and its strategic importance. Now it is oil.

The collection of states that make up the region are currently undergoing seismic upheaval as the contradictions that have for so long defined their existence have burst asunder. This has come under the weight of a global economic crisis which has negatively impacted on their ability to rule in the old way, resulting on the one hand in an inspirational wave of people power rising up from below, and on the other a worrying resurgence of hard power being exercised by western powers, primarily the US, Britain and France, as they seek to place their stamp on its trajectory after being taken by surprise when it first erupted.

The Syrian government’s crime in the eyes of the West isn’t so much the repression being carried against a section of its people. Rather the crime is the consistent support the current regime provides to Hamas and Hezbollah, both implacable foes of Israel, along with its history of opposition and refusal to kowtow to the West.

While the Syrian people are certainly justified in demanding reforms from a regime that for too long has placed an over emphasis on security at the expense of civil rights, the fear of suffering a similar fate to that suffered by Iraq at the hands of the US and its allies, with the same prospect of sectarian civil war, is all too real and cannot be underestimated or easily dismissed.

This is why Russian calls for a diplomatic solution in Syria must be taken seriously, especially as the Kremlin enjoys influence with the Syrian regime. Furthermore, the fact that representatives of the Syrian opposition recently travelled to the Kremlin to meet with deputies from the Russian parliament suggests that this trust is present on both sides when it comes to Moscow’s desire to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.


Categorised in:

This post was written by John Wight

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *