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Russia’s Strategic Moves On The Syria Issue

Tehran Times
February 7, 2012

Russia’s strategic moves on the Syria issue
Jahangir Karami

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, which visited the Syria port of Tartus last month

Russia’s recent veto of the United Nations Security Council’s resolution on Syria was based on two main objectives. First of all, Russia is trying to prevent the Security Council from interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign member states, which is clearly a violation of the UN Charter. And protecting the Syrian government is a priority for Moscow because Damascus is one of Russia’s most important allies in the Middle East.

The main demand of Russia and China is that the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states should be respected, especially given the current global situation. Military intervention in Syria, like what happened in Libya, would facilitate more interventionism in the future, especially by Western countries, which have a long record of manipulating international law to interfere in other parts of the world.

The strategic importance of Syria for Russia cannot be denied. Russia and Syria have extensive economic and commercial cooperation.

Moreover, Russia is very concerned about the higher profile Turkey is assuming in regional affairs, which could embolden Ankara to interfere in the Caucasus. Thus, protecting Syria is a good way for Russia to curb Turkey’s influence in the region.

In addition, Russia has blocked the efforts of certain Western governments and their allies to approve anti-Syria resolutions at the UN Security Council. However, there is a possibility that Moscow could accept a milder resolution in order to resolve the crisis.

The fact that certain Western and Arab countries redrafted the resolution was unusual because such moves are rare at the Security Council.

It seems that the resolution was redrafted to decrease the possibility that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would become head of state again, since he apparently wants to settle the Syrian dispute after the March 4 presidential election.

Thus, Russia will probably only accept a milder resolution against Syria in order to postpone the resolution of the issue to a later date, after Putin, who is the overwhelming favorite in the election, officially takes office as president.

Jahangir Karami is a faculty member of the Department of Russian Studies of the University of Tehran.

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