Amid BRICS' rise and 'Arab Spring', a new global order forms
With American unilateralism ebbing, Western nations and the rising BRICS countries are still finding their way to a new geopolitical balance – and Arab Spring nations like Syria are caught in the middle.
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In New York, meanwhile, European UN envoys worked overtime on a resolution against the Assad regime's behavior. A mild final version didn't contain the word "sanctions," but it did call for access for aid groups, the exercise of "fundamental freedoms," a peaceful political outcome, and other standard earmarks of what could be called civil society norms.Skip to next paragraph
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In Europe, the resolution was seen as both supporting the narrative of the Arab uprisings and standing up for deeply held European values. As a joint communiqué by France, Portugal, Germany, and Britain stated later, the resolution "contained nothing that any member of this Council should have felt the need to oppose...."
Yet opposed they were. On Oct. 4, both Russian and Chinese ambassadors raised their hands in a joint veto. Brazil and India abstained (along with South Africa and Lebanon), giving further heft to the veto. The BRICS spoke. US Ambassador Susan Rice and the American delegation were visibly furious and walked out. Ms. Rice said the next day that the vetoes ran against Syrian citizens' "yearning for liberty and human rights." Ambassador Gerard Araud of France said, "Our aim was – and remains – a simple one: to bring an end to the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown against its own people, who are legitimately demanding the exercise of the most basic rights...."
Mr. Erdogan of Turkey, a state whose profile seems to exist halfway between the West and the BRICS, said on Oct. 5 that "Syria ... should have received a warning.... The people of that country do not need to endure a merciless, shameless, tyrannical regime that bombs its own country from the sea. My heart remains with those struggling for freedom." European media such as Spain's El Pais opined that "the crude 'no' from Russia and China constitutes a serious setback for the West."
Much of the discussion about the Russian and Chinese vetoes has stressed geopolitics: Russia and Syria have strong ties and robust arms sales. China tacitly supports Iran, and Tehran does not want Assad removed. Most significant is Moscow's insistence that it was duped on UN Resolution 1973 on Libya, a humanitarian intervention that led eventually to the ousting of Muammar Qaddafi from Tripoli. Beijing argues for sovereignty come what may, analysts say, and was ready to veto the Libya resolution, but didn't want to be left standing alone should the rebels of Benghazi be overrun in a bloodbath.
Hence the Syria veto is considered "payback" for Libya, and comes with an explanation from Moscow that the West could have again used a UN resolution to gin up another intervention. (With NATO barely able to sustain an air war in Libya, and with more jets in the Syrian Air Force than in the French Air Force, some analysts find the idea less than serious.)