'A cheap ruse': US slams Russia and China for vetoing UN resolution on Syria
Russia and China's vetoes of a UN resolution against Syria's regime illustrate a stark divide on the role the international community should play in the Arab Spring.
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Rice called Russia's comparison to Libya a “cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.”Skip to next paragraph
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A traditional ally with trade ties worth close to $20 billion, Russia has a strong financial stake in the Assad regime's survival. But Moscow's support goes beyond pocketbook issues. As a vast country that has seen its share of uprising and revolution, the one-time superpower tends to support autocracy as the lesser evil and is skeptical of Western intervention – particularly in the wake of NATO's Libya campaign.
Furthermore, Russia – with a multitude of ethnic and religious sects, as well as nationalist minorities – has an innate suspicion of popular uprisings and their uncertain outcomes, from ousting a regime to plunging a country into chaos. While the West optimistically embraces the Arab Spring as a welcome shift toward democracy in the region, Russia takes the more hard-nosed view that the outcome will be instability and bloodshed.
Churkin said Russia's veto was not meant to defend the Syrian regime and condemned the violence used to put down protests, but also pinned some of the responsibility on the Syrian opposition, saying that it had repeatedly rejected dialogue to negotiate reforms and an end to the crackdown.
The US takes a less nuanced view of the situation in Syria and holds the regime primarily responsible for the violence.
Russia's economic and military links to Assad's regime
Bloomberg reports that Russia's economic and military links to the regime may have been a factor in the veto. A Russian naval base on the Syrian coast is its only base outside the former Soviet republics and gives it a Mediterranean Sea outlet. Russia has weapons contracts with Syria worth $3 billion.
“The Russians are also aware of realpolitik and won’t back Assad if they’re convinced he’s going to fall,” said Chris Phillips, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London. “At the moment they’re very confident that he’s going stay in power.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey, a former Syrian ally, would still be imposing sanctions of its own soon, according to Associated Press. Turkey has already placed an arms embargo on Syria.