Russia and China deserve praise for Syria veto
Anyone who wishes for a peaceful world should welcome this double veto against UN sanctions
AMERICA is 'outraged'. Britain and France are pretty miffed too. The vetoing by China and Russia of a European-sponsored UN resolution which threatened sanctions against Syria if President Bashar Assad's violent crackdown on protestors did not stop, has been met with angry denunciations by the self-appointed leaders of the 'international community'.
"The courageous people of Syria can now clearly see who on this council supports their yearning for liberty and human rights, and who does not," declared Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, William Hague accused Moscow and Beijing of siding with the "brutal regime" of President Assad. "The decision of Russia and China… is mistaken and regrettable," the Foreign Secretary said. His French counterpart, Alain Juppe, called the action "deplorable".
Rubbish. The reality is that the Chinese and Russian veto is good news - not just for Syrians - but for the whole world.
Contrary to Hague's insinuations, both China and Russia have made it clear that they do not support Assad's crackdown. What they have done is make sure that Syria will not be another Libya - with internal political unrest being used as a pretext for western military intervention.
Forget the claims of Susan Rice that the proposed UN resolution was "not about military intervention". Had it been endorsed by the Security Council, the western approach to Syria would have led to ever-tougher sanctions, with the chances of full-scale civil war and military intervention being greatly increased.
The proposed resolution made no call for Syria's opposition to enter into dialogue with the government. It was, as Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN correctly stated, "based on a philosophy of confrontation".
On Capitol Hill, the war drums are already being beaten, with the neo-con Joe Lieberman becoming the first US Senator to call publicly for internationally enforced no-fly zones to be imposed over parts of Syria. Doesn't it all sound familiar?
The less confrontational Chinese and Russian approach, by contrast, greatly increases the chance of a peaceful solution to Syria's problems, with the country being encouraged to resolve its internal disagreements through dialogue and negotiation.
China and Russia intend to use their influence with the Syrian regime to persuade Assad to make further concessions. It's hardly been front-page news in the west, but Assad has already announced the legalisation of opposition parties.
Experience tells us that if the aim of the game really is to bring warring factions together, as opposed to plunging a country into civil war, the Chinese and Russian approach is the right one.
Think back to the last time the two exercised their 'double veto'. In 2008 China and Russia derailed a US-sponsored resolution to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe after Robert Mugabe stayed in power following a disputed election. On that occasion too, China and Russia were denounced by the west and accused of siding with a brutal regime.
But in the three years since then, the situation has improved significantly in Zimbabwe, with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change signing a power-sharing deal in September 2008 with Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
The Chinese argued in 2008 that the US resolution would "interfere with the negotiating process". Thanks to the diplomatic efforts of China, Russia and South Africa, the 'negotiating process' was able to continue to the benefit of all Zimbabweans.
Looking at the bigger picture, China and Russia's veto - and the abstentions of India, Brazil, Lebanon and South Africa - shows that we are now living in a multi-polar world. No longer can the US and its allies easily get their way.
After the end of the Cold War we saw what happened when we had a uni-polar world, with US-led wars being launched against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. It was no coincidence that all three of those countries were, prior to the attacks, subject to sanctions supported by the US.
This week's UN vote shows that the balance of power has shifted. China and Russia, who clearly feel that they were duped by the way that UN Resolution 1973 was used by the US and its allies to bring about regime change in Libya, have drawn their line in the sand.
Far from joining in the western elite's wave of China and Russia bashing, those who wish for peaceful solutions to world problems and an end to US-led military interventions, should be toasting China and Russia's assertiveness. So, too, should ordinary US citizens, now paying the economic price for the wars their government couldn't wait to get started.