World’s Power Power-Plays over People

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By Jessica Koontz

More than 600 people have died in Syrian uprisings in the past weeks as the international community steps forth to try to end massacres within the country.  More died in Homs, just after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Mikhail Fradkov, the director of Foreign Intelligence arrived to Damascus.  It remains to be seen as to how effective this diplomatic visit will be in ending any violence or political upheavals.

The United Nations Security Council finally stepped forth to pass a resolution to end violence within Syria, and two of the five major global powers within the council vetoed the resolution.  It seems almost incomprehensible that approximately 7000 people have died in the civil unrest within Syria in the last year.   Meanwhile, China and Russia have both used their UN Security Council veto power to halt any intervention to remove Bashar al-Assad from his current presidency, let alone any further ceasefire to the violence.

Russian and Chinese officials have both come forward to claim that the reason for the veto is to prevent the western military intervention.  In sum, they do not want to lay a precedent for foreign intervention and removal of sovereignty for signs of internal instability or political unrest.  The concept of western overreach seems to be the main reason for blocking the UN’s draft.  With the recent Moscow protests, Putin and Medvedev are most likely the last in line to support a political uprising against the established regime as they try to suppress their own internal unrest.   However, it is definitely not the only reason for this blockade.
According to information gathered by the European Commission, Russia is one of Syria’s biggest arms suppliers.  Perhaps the fact that Russia signed a deal to export  $550 million dollars worth of combat jets to Syria last month has a little to do with the current prohibition on humanitarian intervention. Also interestingly, China ranked as Syria’s third-largest arms importer in 2010.  Due to these strong political and financial ties, Russia has been leading the charge in ensuring no UN interference disrupts these alliances.

Russia has long-been Syria’s foremost ally in the international community. Syria hosts the only Russian military outside the former Soviet Union. Tartus is a naval resupply facility that has been operating since 1971 and is strategically located on the Mediterranean.  Tartus allows Russia to keep nuclear armed warships within the region and considering the unpredictable times we live in, it seems very unlikely that Russia will be willing to give up its strategic alliance anytime soon.

The joint veto of the UN resolution was harshly condemned by western governments. William Hague, the UK foreign secretary, made the following statement to the Financial Times, “Russia and China faced a simple choice today: would they support the people of Syria and the Arab League or not? They decided not to, and instead sided with the Syrian regime and its brutal suppression of the Syrian people in support of their own national interests.”  
The United States and its allies are pushing forward to attempt further diplomatic resolutions to bring an end to a year of bloodshed and to request for Assad to step down.  History is in the midst of being written and very few policy-makers were prepared for the Cold War politics of East versus West to be coming at the expense of over 4,000 lives.

Jessica Koontz is an energy security analyst and journalist at the Gulf Institute

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