“The Syria vetoes are a dramatic evidence of a longstanding difference between Russia and China and many other countries, but particularly the West,” David Bosco of American University in Washington said. “There are all sorts of political interests involved, but there is also a basic difference about whether the international community should be involved in internal conflicts against the will of the government.”
Lopez said that Russia had a willing helper in China, which has worked hard to keep the Security Council off the backs of countries that it considers strategic allies, like Myanmar, North Korea and Sudan.
He said China’s veto was not a show of support for Assad, but “an act of solidarity so that the -Russians will support them on North Korean issues at the council.”
“And remember — the Chinese have never vetoed on their own, so Russia was — is — really in the lead here,” he said.
Frustrated by Russia’s determination to block council action on Syria, France and the US have talked about going outside the UN and creating a coalition of countries that would impose tough sanctions on Assad.
Western diplomats on the Security Council said Russia’s veto was partly a sign of the coming “re-Putinization” of Russian foreign policy, a sneak preview of the approach Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to take with the West if he returns to the presidency after next month’s election, as is widely expected.
With the vote looming, analysts say, it was no surprise Putin took a tough, anti-Western stand on Syria.
So is the Security Council returning to the days of the Cold War when US-Soviet rivalry left the council virtually unable to act? Council diplomats say there is no sign of that.
After the Syria resolution was vetoed on Saturday, French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters that he did not believe the council was at a general impasse, though it was clearly deadlocked on the issue of Syria.
Araud said there was good cooperation with Russia on many topics, while there remain issues the council has rarely been able to agree on, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nor is this the first time Russia has proven to be difficult for the US and its allies on the Security Council. In the 1990s, Moscow strongly supported Serbia in the Balkan Wars and acted as Belgrade’s protector on the council.
After an ineffectual UN presence failed to stop genocide in the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, the US and its European allies infuriated Russia by bypassing the deadlocked Security Council and turning to NATO to halt the Serbian onslaught in Kosovo with a bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999.
Russia has also worked hard to dilute UN punitive measures against Iran over its nuclear program during Security Council negotiations on four sanctions resolutions between 2006 and 2010, though it ultimately voted for all of them. However, recently Moscow has said there will be no new UN sanctions on Iran.