The violent repression of public protest in Syria that is rapidly approaching an all out civil war has most of the world’s nations concerned; but for different reasons. When an Arab League supported resolution came to the U.N. Security Council for a vote, the differing concerns and reasons behind them became apparent in the outcome of that vote.
Of the fifteen countries which make up the Security Council (5 permanent and 10 temporary elect by the U.N. General Assembly), all but two – Russia and China, both permanent members – voted in favor of the resolution that called for a halt in the offensive action by the Syrian government and the beginning of talks aimed at a transition towards replacing the current regime of Bashir al Assad. Russia and China vetoed the resolution and thus took it off the table.
The thirteen members voting in favor of the resolution more or less represented the entire world. The three other permanent members, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S., represented Europe and North America. The other temporary members representing Europe are Germany and Portugal. Columbia and Guatemala represent South and Central America. Morocco and South Africa represent Africa. Pakistan, Azerbaijani and India represent Asia. And Togo represents the Pacific Island nations. Morocco, on behalf of the Arab League presented the resolution and the other Muslim nation Pakistan also supported it, indicating virtually unified Arab/Muslim opposition to the behavior Muslim Syria’s ruling dictatorship.
Whether this Arab/Muslim opposition to the Syrian regime is based on genuine disapproval of the brutal killing of upwards of 5000 Syrian protestors by Assad’s army, or an attempt to placate the potential “Arab Spring” movement’s in Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab/Muslim countries by the Arab League is not entirely clear. Most likely, a little of each is involved.
As far as the Europeans, the Central and South Americans, India and Azerbaijani, South Africa and Togo are concerned; a genuine concern for innocent victims along with a desire to keep violence in the Middle East down to a minimum is both the right and politically wise motivation.
So why are Russia and China so adamantly opposed to stopping the violence by a dictator’s Army against his people? In the case of Russia; they are the major supplier of military hardware to the Assad regime. Russia also has a Mediterranean naval base on Syria’s coast. The change of government in Damascus to one which might be more pro Western (which the Syria opposition appears to be) might threaten Russia’s twin interests which may be dependent on their current relationship with Assad. As for China, they veto virtually any U.N. resolution that tries to impose any control of the use of military violence a country might chose to mount against their own population. China sees their veto as a matter of bolstering the self serving “principal” of non-interference in the internal action of any nation towards their own people because; they are a country with no real threats, that maintains a 5 million person army primarily for use against anyone in China that might attempt to organize any change to the ruling status quo.
A secondary, but significant, benefit for both Russia and China of keeping conflict going within any Muslim nation, is that it soaks up economic and military energy in the Muslim world which might otherwise be used in the areas of conflict they both have with either their internal and/or border problems with Muslim populations.
The self serving motivation and the power that Russia and China wield in promoting and protecting their interests, often at a cost to others, is one of the prime reasons the U.N. is so ineffective as a worldwide peacemaking organization. The way they have dealt with a reasonable resolution, supported by virtually all of Syria’s neighbors and the rest of the world, is an obvious and very tragic example of Russia and China acting as obstacles to world peace and progress. If the U.N. can’t reorganize its procedures to include some way to limit or negate Russia’s and China’s veto power over resolution with which the rest of the world is in agreement; then ongoing violence and a loss of innocent lives, as in Syria, will continue to remain a weakness and failing of the U.N.’s mission to foster peace among and within nations. And it will remain Russia and China, defying all decency and humanity, versus the world!