February 4, 2012

On Syria, Russia & China are acting logically

I blogged some months back on why the Syrian people should not bank on international intervention to support their fundamental rights. Impressively, much of the international community has rallied to their cause. Not surprisingly, Russia and China have not. Without Russia and China, the United Nations Security Council cannot act decisively, and there are few feasible options absent Security Council authorization.

Russia and China continue weapons sales (cash) and oil deals (cash) with the second-generation Assad regime. For Russia, this is both a relationship inherited from Soviet days and a useful property stake in the Middle East. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia's global influence has been on the defensive. Thanks to Washington's own adventurism in the region during the last decade, Moscow has been able to promote its role as a Big Power protector of the "sovereign rights" of Syria, Iran, and even Libya -- a bulwark against the American bulldozer. How nice for them.

Beyond all the economics and expanding its markets in every region of the world, China has an abiding interest in discrediting any international intervention in domestic affairs. This applies to everything from human rights and the status of Tibet, all the way to Taiwan as a province of One China. The best way to remind the world to "Keep Out" is by drawing a line at any UN efforts to hold dictators to account.

The fact that the Arab League is suddenly falling over itself to demonstrate concern for victims of Arab dictators definitely complicates matters, but both Russia and China are acting in support of their regime interests -- and their national interests -- both with regard to Syria relations and to their respective goals in the region and globally. They certainly have little to gain by allowing Security Council authorization for any steps to rein in the Assad regime, especially in a way that bolsters the U.S. role and affirms U.S. support for the emergence of a new Arab League doctrine.

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