Editorial: Russian to Judgment?

In what should not have been a surprise to those who view the foreign policies of Russia and China in historical context, those two autocratic regimes used their veto to block even a watered-down resolution calling upon Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to step down from power in order to stop the horrific violence he is unleashing on his own people. In an especially prescient opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal this week, Mideast scholar Fouad Ajami said, “Vladimir Putin stands by fellow strongman Bashar Assad in Syria, lest Russians get any uppity ideas about democracy.”

Vladimir Putin, who has been running Russia as prime minister while Dmitri Medvedev keeps the presidential seat warm, is running to regain his old job this year, and already there are growing pro-democracy demonstrations in Moscow and other Russian cities. On the heels of Arab Spring, Putin and his Chinese counterparts have seen protests that result in regime change and are determined to prevent such movements in their homelands at all costs.

To date, Assad has presided over persistent slaughters that have claimed at least 6,000 lives, wounded tens of thousands, and has been conducted with a relentless and savage fury that left the Arab League “monitors” stunned, causing them to pronounce their peace mission a failure. This past weekend over 200 more innocent Syrian men, women and children were mercilessly murdered by Assad’s brutal regime.

Both Susan Rice, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed outrage over the Russian and Chinese vetoes of the U.N. resolution which had already been watered down in order to prevent Russia and China from blocking it. Rice was especially blunt, calling the Russian veto “disgusting,” and condemning the Medvedev-Putin regime for signing a contract to sell advanced fighter jets to the Assad government even in the midst of the carnage. The pathetically lame excuse by Russia’s spokesperson that the “resolution was directed only against the regime and not the citizenry” is absurd on its face. As this week’s Jewish Light goes to press, media outlets are reporting that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a hasty trip to Damascus where he was to meet Syrian officials. He said Russia wants there to be “peace” in Syria even as the carnage has sharply escalated due to the Russian-Chinese vetoes. Another hollow gesture by the hollow, corrupt regime in Moscow.

The actions of Russia and China are so extreme, even in the context of their historic selfish intransigence that one could legitimately ask whether the situation hints of a renewed Cold War in which the two other “superpowers” simply oppose action because the United States is for it. Russia has sent its own dignitaries to meet with the Assad regime, but the assurances of “progress” in talks have rung as hollow as Putin’s previous statements to stand tall among the community of nations. On Monday, NPR reported a tweet by a Chinese citizen saying he was “embarrassed” by his government’s veto. He added that “I stand with the people of Syria, not with its brutal regime.”

The righteous indignation has not been limited to the U.S. and its Western allies. At least six Arab nations have joined the U.S. by withdrawing embassy staff from Syria, both to protest the atrocities and to ensure safety of their diplomatic corps.

Is there anything that the U.S. ought do beyond words, U.N. votes and desk-thumping?

It has been suggested that things have deteriorated so much that the U.S. and its NATO allies should consider making an end-run around the feckless U.N. Security Council process and engage the Arab League to form a “coalition of the willing” to maximize pressure on Assad to bring about his immediate departure from power. While it is true that the U.S. cannot get involved on the ground in every military exercise across the world, the experience in Libya demonstrates that there are a variety of options available to pressure Assad in the direction of making the right decision to step down.

Any decisions that will lead to the end of the Assad nightmare deserve serious and urgent attention. It is time for the responsible members of the “family of nations” to get serious about Syria. Standing by as an endless bloodbath unfolds is unacceptable, and all options to stop it should remain on the table until that goal is accomplished.