Chuck Freilich: Russia, China on “Wrong Side of History” in Arab World
Chuck Freilich is a former deputy national security adviser in Israel, a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School, and the author of Zion's Dilemmas: How Israel Makes National Security Policy.
The Middle East is undergoing a historic transformation. Parts of the region are up in flames, and Asia's primary powers either have no role or a destructive one. Pakistan, Indonesia and other Asian Muslim countries, as well as India, with the world's second-largest Muslim population, are largely uninvolved, as if events in the region have no bearing on them. Japan is preoccupied with its own domestic difficulties. Russia and China consistently support the "bad guys" and in the process are both undermining regional developments and harming their own long-term interests in the region.
In Syria, a heinous dictatorship, one of the world's worst, desperately fighting for its survival, is killing tens of thousands of its own citizens. While the Western reaction has been fainthearted, Russia and China have been outright obstructionist, blocking any effective measures in the Security Council or elsewhere.
Indeed, Russia, as in many other cases, such as the international intervention in Libya, appears far more intent on pursuing its own misguided crusade to stymie American influence around the world, than in resolving the issue. Russia is interested in preserving its one remaining foreign naval port, in Tartus, Syria, and Damascus remains one of the few remaining clients for Russian arms. Russia's support for the regime, however, along with Iran and Hezbollah, places it among Syria’s few remaining friends, hardly a prestigious club, and has already likely begun turning Arab opinion against it. With the Syrian regime's demise most probably simply a matter of time, and an Arab world in which citizens are increasingly empowered and determined to settle accounts with their malefactors, Russia's standing in the region will likely be undermined considerably. Signs are already apparent.
China, as part of its traditional reluctance to intervene in the internal affairs of foreign countries, has been less directly involved, but it, too, will be remembered poorly by the people in the region for its negative role in the Security Council. There is a point at which non-interference becomes complicity in mass murder...
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