Will Russia and China Stop Protecting Assad?


Today, China and Russia for the third time have prevented the Security Council from responding credibly to the Syrian conflict.

At a Security Council Session on Syria in New York, U.S. Permanent Representative Ambassador Susan Rice says the first two vetoes cast by two countries were very destructive.

“This veto is even more dangerous and deplorable.” – Ms. Rice

She says the resolution just vetoed demanded all parties to cease violence.

Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, speaks to the press about the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). UN Photo

It invoked Chapter VII to make more binding on the parties their obligation to implement the Joint Special Envoy’s six-point plan and effect the political transition plan agreed by the Action Group in Geneva on June 30, Ms. Rice explained.

She stresses it threatened the only party with heavy weapons, the Syrian regime, if it continued to use these weapons brutally against its own cities and citizens.

She says this resolution would not even impose sanctions at this stage.

“And despite paranoid, if not disingenuous, claims by some to the contrary, it would in no way authorize nor even pave the way for foreign military intervention.” – Ms. Rice

She notes that what this resolution would have done, was to provide political support to the UN mission, that might have given it a fighting chance to accomplish its mandate.

“It is a shame this Council was unwilling to do so.” – Ms. Rice

“There should be no doubt about this: the only way that unarmed United Nations observers could ever deter violence is if their reports of the Syrian regime’s persistent violations of the Annan plan and of their own commitments led this Security Council to impose swift and meaningful consequences for non-compliance, as requested, indeed demanded, by our Joint Special Envoy,” Ms. Rice stressed.

She adds that as the United States explained when voting for UNSMIS’s establishment three months ago, they were and remain deeply skeptical of the Syrian regime’s intentions and thus the efficacy of the observer mission.

The escalation of the regime’s attacks against its own people is even more troubling because of their large stockpiles of chemical weapons, Ms. Rice noted.

The US government has made it clear that these weapons must remain secure and that the regime will be held accountable for their use.

As the situation deteriorates, the US is worried about the potential that the Syrian regime could consider using chemical weapons against its own people.

Yesterday’s dramatic attack in Damascus is indicative of how the situation in Syria will continue to deteriorate in the face of this Council’s inaction, Ms. Rice said.

Ms. Rice notes that it is simply not credible to argue that the mere continuation of an unarmed observer mission in the midst of these threats and spiraling violence can or will fundamentally change anything.

She emphasizes that the United States has not and will not pin its policy on an unarmed observer mission that is deployed in the midst of such widespread violence and that cannot even count on the most minimal support of the Security Council.

Ms. Rice said the Security Council has failed utterly in its most important task on its agenda this year.

“This is another dark day in Turtle Bay.” – Ms. Rice

Ms. Rice said she hopes that one day, before too many thousands more die, that Russia and China will stop protecting Assad and allow the Council to play its proper role at the center of the international response to the crisis in Syria.

Earlier this month, with its commitment to build international support for the Syrian people, the United States of America urged other countries to reach out to Russia and China to demand that they get off the sidelines and begin to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

In her remarks at the Friends of the Syrian People Ministerial Meeting in Paris, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime.

She stressed that confronted with the regime’s non-compliance, it is difficult to imagine how the UN supervision mission can fulfill its responsibilities without a Chapter VII enforcement mechanism.

Ms. Clinton said Syria’s currency and foreign reserves have collapsed.

Sanctions on oil alone have deprived Assad of billions of dollars in lost revenues, and his ability to finance his war grows more difficult by the day, she noted.

What’s keeping Assad afloat is money from Iran and assistance from Russia and the failure of countries represented at the UN to tighten and enforce sanctions, Ms. Clinton said.

Ms. Clinton has stressed that the United States will continue providing non-lethal assistance to help those inside Syria who are carrying the fight to organize and better communicate.

The United States is providing more than $57 million to support humanitarian organizations.

She added that there must be firm and united in support of Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s plan.

Friends of Syria has been “a very useful device” to build pressure against the Syrian regime and to build international support for the Syrian people.

In June this year, reaffirming its strongest support for Kofi Annan’s political transition plan for Syria, the United States of America underlined that the plan has delivered strong language in Geneva despite what they called the unhelpful response from China and Russia.

During an interview with Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the plan pledged to support a transitional governing body whose members can only be put on that body by mutual consent.

Ms. Clinton said if there was strong support for the plan, Mr. Annan could go to the Assad regime and say they have to start talking about a transition.

That didn’t happen, because Russia and China don’t agree with the United States.

She underlined that the only way to do that within the existing framework was to empower Kofi Annan.

With regards to the United States publicly criticizing Russia for selling arms to the Syrian regime, Ms. Clinton says the United States believes that ending the arming of the Assad government is the first order of business.

She noted that the Russians continue to claim that they are not providing anything that can be used to suppress internal dissent.

However, the US government begs to differ, she added.

In June this year, amid the turmoil engulfing Syria, speculation began to surface that ties are strained as US and Russia disagree over the path forward to end the crisis in Syria.

Secretary Clinton said the United States highly values a positive relationship with Russia.

However, she pointed out that both countries also disagree on other issues.

She stressed the US government has made it clear to the Russians that the outcome they are most concerned about, which would be a sectarian civil war, is made more likely, not less likely, by the international community’s failure to take a strong position with the Assad regime.

Reports say Russia is still refusing to condemn the war crimes committed by the Syrian regime.

In October last year, since its commitment to build international support for the Syrian people, the United States of America is today urging other countries to reach out to Russia and China to demand that they get off the sidelines and begin to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution that would have condemned the Assad regime. Russia is opposed to the establishment of safe no-fly zones which means that Russia is explicitly supporting what the US says are war-crimes committed by the regime.

Media reports say Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, blames the opposition.

Reports say that Russia is deploying naval military ships in the Mediterranean in an apparent gesture of support for Assad’s regime.

Some analysts believe that Russia is worried about its heavy investments in Syria. Russia reportedly invested $30 billion in energy and tourism infrastructure and it has a naval base in the Syrian coastal city of Tartous. Reports say Russia fears that one day the international community might act against one of its client states in the old Soviet Union.

Earlier this July, recognizing Russia’s strategic importance to the United States, Deputy Secretary William J. Burns said U.S.-Russia relations are often an uneasy mix of competition and cooperation.

In his remarks on Russia’s WTO accession in DC, Mr. Burns stressed that the US has real and continuing differences with Russia.

Mr. Burns said he has spent a good deal of his diplomatic career helping Administrations of both parties navigate the US’ complicated relationship with Russia.

He stressed that while it may be tempting to downplay Russia’s importance, the United States simply does not have that luxury.

He noted that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council; as one of the world’s largest nuclear powers; and as the world’s single largest producer of hydrocarbons, Russia’s strategic importance to the U.S. will matter for many years to come.

In May this year, the United States of America underlined that it’s in US interest to graduate Russia from Jackson-Vanik.

The United States’ trade relationship with Russia is tied to a provision of U.S. trade law (the Jackson-Vanik amendment) enacted in the 1970s to condition normal trade relations (NTR) status on the then-Soviet Union’s willingness to let Jews emigrate freely.

The United States asserts that Jackson-Vanik should be lifted simply unrelated to anything else because it’s in US interest, at the same time strongly supports the goals of the Cardin legislation.

President Obama has been looking of areas of common interest, trying to reach practical, real substantive agreements while also being very clear that there would be things we would disagree on and we wouldn’t sweep them under the carpet as we pursued these things, Mr. Gordon added.

Both countries have accomplished numerous things together, particularly the New START Treaty or cooperation on Afghanistan which has been very significant to their efforts; or the 123 Nuclear Agreement on civil nuclear cooperation; Russian support on North Korea; and, particularly Iran.

Both countries have been working very hard, to reach an agreement that would benefit the two countries.

The United States has been very clear about the importance of democracy, human rights, and civil society in US foreign policy.

Russia’s membership in the world’s largest rules-based trading system is said to provide tangible benefits to Russia as well as for U.S. businesses.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.