UN Syria failure shows declining power of the West

 

Attempts by the UK and France to push through a UN Security Council resolution censuring Syria have faltered and this tells us much about the new realities of diplomacy in a "multi-polar" world.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, earlier on Wednesday reiterated that his country would not allow such a vote to pass.

The UK/French draft called for UN human rights monitors to be allowed into Syria, for humanitarian access to be allowed to some of the strife-torn areas, and for countries to stop supplying weapons to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Despite the non-binding nature of the proposed wording, it soon became apparent that Russia and China - both veto powers - would block it and that other countries on the council, including India also opposed it.

You might say that the opposition came for predictable reasons - that Russia is a long term ally and weapons supplier to the Assad government and China is nervous about allowing too much international intervention in the affairs of sovereign states.

All of this is true, just as it is also the case that the diplomatic factors that made UN Security Council Resolution 1973 possible - allowing air strikes against Libya - were very unusual, relying largely on the fact that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has behaved so oddly for so many years that he is pretty much friendless.

There is, though, a deeper truth shown up by the failure of this Syrian resolution. It is a narrative of the declining power of the West and of the increasing confidence of those who dispute what are often labelled as "Western values".

In global terms the "Brics" are newly empowered - Brazil, Russia, India and China. In the context of Syrian intervention the list is different: Russia and China are still there, but Iran and Turkey are also important.

The Syrian opposition claims that Iranian advisers are active with Mr Assad's military units on the ground, helping to crush dissent. Whether or not this is true, it is certainly the case that the Iranian government has warned Western countries against interfering in Syria's internal affairs, and given diplomatic support to the government in Damascus.

As for Turkey, it has received thousands of refugees from the districts near its border with northern Syria. Turkey is also reportedly considering sending its forces inside Syria to create safe havens there.

There are plenty in the Arab world who believe the absence of a strong Western, and in particular US, lead on Syria has given latitude to Iran and Turkey to get more involved - and for Mr Assad to press ahead with repression.

If that UK/French resolution of censure could not get through, they may reason, then the chances of more sanctions, let alone military intervention must be minimal.

As for the West itself, it is divided on many issues concerning the Arab Spring and intervention.

After the parting shots by Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, predicting a "dim and dismal" future for Nato if the other members of the alliance do not do more to defend their interests, it is apparent that extending the "Libyan model" of intervention elsewhere in the troubled region would be extremely hard.

It is only fair to say that even this blueprint, which many people in Washington like because of the leading role taken by France and the UK has not yet proven itself a success - the bombing goes on.

Talking today to Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, he feels that the answer both to the issue of alliance burden sharing, and maintaining influence in the Middle East, is for European members of Nato to "step up to the plate".

He argues they have cut defence too deeply in recent years and that they need to produce more effective, deployable, forces. Implicitly, he suggests that it is up to Europe to check the decline of the West.

The chances of European countries reversing defence cuts or being politically more interventionist seem remote though.

While many chose to criticise US interventionism, particularly in the Bush era, it appears that many European countries prefer to avoid entangling themselves in foreign trouble spots unless the US is in the lead.

As these industrialised countries, struggling with budget deficits and (in some cases) public war weariness chose to sit out foreign crises more often, the world seems to be becoming a less predictable and more volatile place.

 
Mark Urban Article written by Mark Urban Mark Urban Diplomatic and defence editor, BBC Newsnight

Does Nato have the political will to face up to Russia?

Events in Ukraine involving Russia appear to throw a lifeline to Nato, but do its members have the political will to stand up to the Kremlin?

Read full article

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 41.

    Political analyst,Thierry Meyssan, says Syria is confronting a campaign aimed at destabilization. Meyssan says media campaign is part of scheme set by US & Western powers: the aim to divert attention from existence of (paid) armed gangs. Meyssan criticizes the fabrication. He stressed that the Syrian army is not curbing protests; it is fighting armed thugs.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 40.

    No one outside Syria really knows what's happening. The regime has forbidden foreign journalists; prohibition has backfired. It has allowed protesters too much influence through Facebook & videos. The regime would be well advised to allow journalists into the country + humanitarian organisations, so that they can judge the situation for themselves.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    Al-Assad promised reforms & new constitution. From what I can tell there seem to be, as in Libya, as many for the leader as against him. The foreign minister vowed an unprecedented example of democracy within 3 months. There will be social justice, equality before the law & accountability.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 38.

    Moallem accused external officials of relying on "distorted foreign media reports". He said Syria will forget that these countries; Syria look in other directions for deep relationships.
    More than 1,300 civilians have been killed & 10,000 detained. Syrian govt has blamed the "unrest" on foreign infiltrators & paid terrorist groups.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    I'm convinced Syria was intended to be another "colourful" revolution. Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Moallem seems to support my contention. He accused external interference in Syria’s affairs.
    He demanded a stop to this interference.Statement came after EU foreign ministers met to discuss further sanctions against individuals & firms with links to President Bashar Al-Assad & his govt.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 36.

    How does Chinese and Russian resistance to intervention stop the West from taking actions to support Syrian protesters and to pressure the regime, short of military? Nobody in Syria asked for that and western countries don't seem so inclined. Does this mean the West is declining, or that it's being more realistic about using force to solve others' political problems?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 35.

    I think the Arab Spring is the result of a Western invention which is the internet. People are revolting because they can see that many other people in the world have freedoms and privileges that they don't have. China and Russia can veto a UN resolution but the world has become interconnected which has let the cat out of the bag. It will be hard for them to turn back the clock.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    US warships moving into Mediterranean suggests massive new war in the Middle East. Prime target - Syria. USS Bataan amphibian air carrier strike vessel, along with 2,000 marines, 6 war planes, & 15 attack helicopters just off the Syrian coast.
    Q. How can Obama afford to prosecute yet another war while engaged in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan...& about to lose triple A credit status?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 33.

    What it really tells us is that there is a retreat of western principles that have dominated the world for the last two centuries. US imperialism that says might makes right is a luxury no longer afforable the relative wealth of the US has declined together with its interventionist foreign policy practiced by all american presidents. The US now reserves its war hammer for Israel's interests alone.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 32.

    The British created Israel, separating it from Palestine. Britain also created Kuwait, carving it out of Iraq at independence time, which in turn was the cause of the Gulf war. Frankly, if the West is losing power to intervene militarily in other countries' internal affairs, all the better! Our track record is not good!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    We would never have tolerated Syria or Iran supporting the IRA when it led a "freedom-fighting" campaign against the British government. Imagine Lybia sending ships and missiles to bomb the British army in Belfast to "protect civilians" in Norther Ireland! Yet we feel entitled to send troops ourselves...? The UN is bound by its charter to not interfere in countries' internal affairs, by the way.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 30.

    I don't think there is an indication of decline in Western power. I just think that the West has hit a political limit on how many wars it can wage. If any of the current 3 wars ends successfully, the West will be free to start more.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 29.

    For those betting on Assad, like Russia and China, the die is cast. Too much investment to let it go now. The West is furiously looking for intel
    in a fluid, dynamic situation. Who can they bet on? A credible opposition is too far underground in Syria to engage in Warfare. Syria is not Iraq and not Libya.Urban thesis of the West losing influence is not correct. The Arab Spring blows from the West.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 28.

    Iraq - the crime perpetrated (being perpetrated) in name of agricultural efficiency, environmental friendliness & solving world hunger. The aim of small pool of western elite is to control future life on this planet. Left unchecked, the present group behind the GMO Projects is between 1 or 2 decades away from total dominance of the planet’s food capacities. THIS ASPECT OF WAR NEEDS THE TELLING.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 27.

    THANK GOD! US President chose to make GMO a strategic issue in postwar US foreign policy. EU was barrier to success of GMO. By early 2006, WTO had forced open EU mass proliferation of GMO.
    After US & British occupation of Iraq, US brought Iraq under the domain of patented genetically-engineered seeds - initially supplied generously by US State Department & Department of Agriculture.



  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    Ref. to comments:
    Since when did the "WEST" become the moral and high lord arbitrary of the world?
    Blair and Bush invading Iraq against UN agenda.
    Gulf War had nothing to do with Iraq's territorial misdemeanor, it was all about oil-wells control.
    Yeah, when empires go down, supporters flounder, oh couldn't they do this, couldn't they do that.
    If it were possible, it would've been already done.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 25.

    The West, particulalry the United States, is losing credibiltiy and influence in the Arab World and the Middle East not only because of its behind-the-scene preference (althugh Western leaders never say it publicly) for the continuation of President al-Assad's hereditary dictatorship; but also because of its hepocrisy regarding Israel.
    http://nabeelblog.wordpress.com/

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 24.

    Could it be that European countries preferring to avoid involvement "unless the US is in the lead" would actually want the US as scapegoat in case things go wrong? It seemed to work in this sense in Iraq and Afghanistan. What about the EU's famous Rapid Reaction Force and the "Petersberg" Tasks? Wouldn't those principles apply even with NATO? In any case, thanks for your sharp analysis, Mark!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 23.

    (Contd) The West has to take a break from its current roles (at least partly) and strengthen its industrial and economic base. Then it will be able to bring stability again to the world as it's done in the past.
    Any comments?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 22.

    While agreeing that Western Powers are slowly losing "power", I would say that the process is reversible.
    The specter of Global Terror is here to stay seriously undermining the ability of the ME to rise as the premier authority on global affairs.
    China itself is prone to "internal disturbances" as they are called. India too faces serious internal problems.

 

Page 1 of 3

 

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.