No help on Syria will come from Russia
by David J. Kramer
President, Freedom House
Can everyone please stop pretending that Russia can be a partner with the United States and others in solving the crisis in Syria? Recently, there has been a flurry of visits to Moscow by senior Western and U.N. officials: U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon was there in mid-April, followed by Secretary of State John F. Kerry in early May, then British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. All have gone to meet with President Vladimir Putin to seek, among other things, the Russian leadership’s help regarding Syria. How has that turned out?
Reports in the New York Times on Friday indicate that despite objections from U.S. and Israeli leaders, Russia has transferred sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles to the regime in Damascus. Such weapons significantly bolster Bashar al-Assad’s ability to blunt any outside intervention that would include airstrikes, a naval blockade or a no-fly zone. Moreover, according to the Wall Street Journal, Russia has sent at least a dozen warships toward its naval base in Tartus, Syria, over the past several months to signal the West to think twice before intervening.
In addition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that Iran, Assad’s other major supporter, must participate in the conference on Syria that Russia plans to co-host in June. Russia has vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria. Just days ago, Russia was one of only 12 countries to vote against a resolution in the General Assembly — in which no country has veto authority — while 107 counties voted in favor.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.