Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Russia, the patron saint of dictators

It's regrettable, but you can be certain whose side Russia will take in a conflict involving a dictator. It will reliably take the dictator's side over anybody else - his own people, or a foreign democracy - anybody.

Today, Russia bristled at the insinuation that there's anything wrong with supplying arms to Assad regime in Syria. The ethics of supplying arms used in the wholesale murder of civilians for uprising for over 9 months are beside the point: “We don’t consider it necessary to explain or justify ourselves because we aren’t breaking any international agreements or UN Security Council resolutions,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow today.

Of course, if UN attempted to pass such a resolution, Russia would veto it.

Russian government also insists that sanctions against Iran have failed and are counter productive. Of course, it has fought against sanctions from the beginning, while supplying Iran with nuclear technology under the non-proliferation treaty. A military option is completely out of the question, as far as Russia is concerned. It's hard to imagine a softer approach to Iran than that initially taken by Obama, who failed to even criticize Iran for it's suppression of the uprising after a rigged election in 2009. The logic of the Russian government is clear: giving any credence to morality over realpolitik may have to one day apply to Russia itself. That was prudent, because Russia rigged its own elections in the fall of 2010.

Russia was also dead last to acknowledge Lybia's new government, and has even called the killing of Qaddafi a UN  war crime. Qaddafi had turned down the offer to leave the country with his life and his billions, so his death at the hands of the rebels in Lybian 'crossfire' was a result of his own choices. Russia stands to lose it's lucrative contracts in Lybia for oil, gas and weapons.

Today Russia warned that a military strike on Iran would be a "catastrophe" with the severest consequences which risked inflaming existing tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. This is a non-sequitur. A possible fallout from the strike would affect primarily Israel, US, and possibly the EU. It would not significantly contribute to the Sunni-Shiite conflict, which is heating up on its own, with the rise of Sunni Islamist regimes in Egypt, Lybia and Tunisia. Are we to believe Russia is concerned about re-ignition of the ancient conflict between Sunni and Shiites? Of course not, Russia is simply providing political cover to Iran, based on the calculation that it's animosity is primarily directed at the West.

Sadly, little has changed since the days when Russia has trained people like Yasser Arafat, and Kim Il-sung (the original Dear Leader in North Korea imported from Siberia). The key insight to foreign policy of Russia is that it is still an evil empire that sympathizes with dictators everywhere... because it knows it belongs in their company.

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