Short-term thinking in Libya hurts diplomacy elsewhere.

Why has Russia blocked UN Security Council’s authorization of force to stop bloodshed in Syria.

There are several obstacles to the resolution of the Syrian Civil War (mutual fear among ethnic groups, Iran’s patronage of Assad, rise of Islamist radicals), but a big obstacle is Russia’s opposition at the UN Security Council. Russia’s material interests in Syria (eg. naval facilities in Tartus) are limited and to me they do not seem to explain Russia’s behavior well. 

I believe that Russia is uncooperative, because it suspects that any humanitarian mandate from the UNSC will be exceeded and the Western powers will use it to impose regime change in Syria, like they did in Libya. Remember that in Libya, the intervention began with an League of Arab States (LAS) call for an humanitarian intervention, but France, Britain and the US used this opportunity to destroy Qaddafi’s military and ensure a rebel military. This turn of events were protested by Russia, China and even the LAS. Unfortunately Russia learned from this episode that so-called “humanitarian interventions” can result in regime change and the overthrow of friendly governments. For this reason it kills any attempt for a humanitarian intervention at the UNSC. The best evidence for this interpretation comes from the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in this interview. At 4:30 Lavrov says the following:

“We would also be guided by the need to avoid taking sides in a situation of internal conflict. The international community unfortunately did take sides in Libya and we would never allow the Security Council to authorise anything similar to what happened in Libya.”

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