The Russian Veto

It has been written about on her before, and yet each night on the news, the situation in Syria grows worse.  There just doesn’t seem to be an end to the horrors that come out of the country as of late as the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad continues to keep its grip on power and is using the military to slaughter thousands of his own people to do so.  The UN Security Council continuously votes on different resolutions to get the UN nations to intervene, but it is vetoed by Russia and China.  Even after the recent massacre in the city of Hama, Russia still will not budge.  Even in a recent interview, Russia’s foreign minister said that Russia will never support foreign intervention in Syria.  So now the question becomes why is Russia so adamant about propping up the Assad-regime in Syria, especially after it voted for UN intervention in Libya to stop the bloodshed there before it ever started?

Let’s start with what could be the biggest possible reason.  It’s the port city of Tartus.  Why is this city so important to Russia?  It’s the home base for Russia’s only Mediterranean naval base for its Black Sea fleet.  Since 1979, Tartus has been host to a Soviet-era naval supply and maintenance base.  Since 2009, Russia has been renovating the base at Tartus and dredging the harbor to allow access to its bigger naval vessels.  This has been amid Russia’s deteriorating relations with western nations as a result of the South Ossetia War (2008) and the US plans to build a missile defense shield.  Russia has also forgiven Syria of $9.8 billion in Soviet-era debt (3/4ths of it’s $13.4 billion) and has become it’s major arms supplier.  The US equivalent to this type of reasoning is what the US is currently doing in the nation of Bahrain which is home to the US 7th Fleet in the Persian Gulf.  The US has been selling arms to the leaders of Bahrain who are desperately trying to hold onto power against its own people.  The US government says that none of the arms we are giving to Bahrain are being used against its people, and that our Blue Lantern Laws allow us to check on this.  (click here)

Whether or not that is completely true, Russian authorities have said that none of their arms shipments are being used against the people of Syria, but do they have laws in Russia like our Blue Lantern Laws here?  And do they honestly know whether they are being used or not against the people?  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (along with the UN) has reported that Russia has recently sold several attack helicopters to the Assad government in Syria (or is in the process of doing so).  In 2011, Syria’s arms contracts with Russia totaled approximately $4-billion.  To put this into some perspective, Russia’s total arms deals in 2011 was $12-billion, and it supposed to be even higher in 2012.  In 2008, Syria agreed to purchase YAK-130 aircraft, MiG-29SMT fighters, an air-defense system, tactical missile system, and two Amur-class submarines from Russia.

In Libya, Russia lost nearly $4-billion in contracts with the downfall of the Gaddafi regime.  So why did Russia support military action there and doesn’t in Syria?  Russian Railways was building a railroad in Libya at a cost of $3.1-billion and had spent millions in oil and gas exploration.  However, the Transitional National Council in Libya has said that all existing contracts will be honored, so maybe Russia is breathing a sigh of relief from that.  But that still doesn’t really explain it’s completely opposite stance on Syria.  Maybe it does come down to the naval base.  If Syria falls now, a new government might not be so lenient in upholding current Russian contracts.  Russia also has major dealings in the country of Algeria next to Libya.  If that country suddenly erupted into a pro-democracy movement, would Russia go with the Libya-way or Syria-way?

Even if we can’t figure out what Russia’s motives are in their entirety, though we should have them narrowed down, there still must be something we can do.  UN-resolutions are out since Russia and China will continue to block anything.  Negotiating with the Assad-government or doing nothing in general aren’t options anymore either.  A no-fly zone over Syria wouldn’t probably help either since the government crackdown does not rely on air support and is mostly fought on the ground in highly urbanized areas.  So where does that leave us with options?  First thing is first that we must continue to do is apply pressure to both Russia and China for UN intervention.  Even the other Arab nations are pleading for an international proposal and have sponsored several, which have been favored by the US.  The biggest thing the Syrian National Council could do to help their own cause is tell Russia that it would be able to keep it’s naval base at Tartus under their democratic government… kind of like how the US still has Guantanamo down in Cuba.  That might help alleviate some of Russia’s fears and help split them off the Assad regime.  The worst possible case would be arming the Syrian rebels much like the French armed a bunch of colonial rebels in the 1770s in their quest to seek independent from Great Britain.  The loss of life could increase exponentially, but the conflict would no longer be one sided.  However, the effects of such an act could also have serious consequences for the US that we must also take into consideration.  One of Syria’s biggest allies is the country of Iran.  If the US were to start shipping arms to the rebels in Syria, could Iran start sending arms to the rebels in Bahrain since we are already sending arms to the government of Bahrain as was stated earlier.

Syria has slipped into a civil war.  The Assad government is going to extreme lengths to hold onto its power, and it’s being propped up by Russia and China, and it’s ally Iran.  As the horrors unfold, we must ask ourselves how much more we are going to allow this to continue.  This is no longer bordering on genocide… it has become just that.  There are even new reports that the Syrian military is using children of rebels as shields.  Thousands are dying in their quest for democracy, and we in the West are just sitting by and watching.  As the days mount, so do the casualties.  We’ve often said “never again” when we have seen these things happen, but we have rarely intervened before it’s been too late already.  For some reason, we are always cautious.  There was no shortage of enthusiasm and speed to go to war in Iraq in 2003 and topple the regime of Saddam Hussein by ourselves, but we can’t bring ourselves to that kind of enthusiasm when dealing with Syria.  Maybe it’s because we don’t get any oil from Syria.  Maybe it’s because we learned our lesson from such a reckless course of action without any international support.  Though this time, we do have the support from the international community.  It’s just Russia and China that keep the UN from getting involved.   And one other question must be asked since Iran is Syria’s biggest ally.  Is the situation in Syria helping to distract the world from Iran’s nuclear ambitions?  That could be quite beneficial to Iran, though I think we have our eyes on both situations.

In any case, the situation is Syria must stop.  It is an internal conflict, but one with atrocities that pull at the human soul.  All people have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  It’s not just an American ideal, it’s a human one.  It is the foundation of democracy, and that’s what the people of Syria want.  Sure, we don’t know what type of government they’d form… whether it would be pro-Western or not, and we don’t know the long-term ramifications of helping the rebels against the Assad regime.  Afterall, in the 1980s, the US aided the Taliban against the invading Soviets.  The US did assist in propping up the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq against the Islamic government in Iran during the same time period, and it also supported the Mubarak regime in Egypt until the Arab Spring uprising.  Our record hasn’t been the best in the region, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be involved somehow.  It’s not about propping up a new regime.  It’s about human life and stopping the atrocities that are continuing to take place.  “Never again” should not continue to be the motto when it comes to these types of things.  It should be “Not this time”.  At some point, we will learn this.  We must learn this.

Russia, along with China and four Central Asian nations, have signed a joint declaration rejecting armed intervention in Syria and reiterating support for [former-UN Secretary General Kofi] Annan’s peace plan.” CNN

Double-Edged Sword
A Syrian Affair

The Moscow Times
Economy Watch
CNN – UN Report 


One Response to The Russian Veto

  1. heart health says:

    Very interesting info!Perfect just what I was searching for!

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