When it comes to diplomatic efforts to alleviate the horrific situation in Syria, officials in Moscow are fond of adopting a serious tone and talking about how “the time isn’t ripe.”
The catastrophic humanitarian situation is only getting worse, but for Russia, the time isn’t ripe to allow the passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution that mentions the Syrian regime’s use of barrel bombs to terrorize civilians.
If the regime is failing to meet its international commitment to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles, there is also no need to do anything to pressure Damascus, in the view of Russian officials. If the matter concerns getting food supplies to besieged areas around the country, again, there is no need for action – Russia is working on it, diplomats will solemnly say.
Some experts say that Russia’s support for the Syrian regime is slowly dwindling, but such nuances mean nothing for the thousands of people whose lives are being torn apart every single day.
If these issues – chemical weapons, starvation and barrel bombs – aren’t important enough to require action, what is?
Russian officials have every right to believe that outside diplomatic pressure on Syria would be “counterproductive,” but in political terms, the only way to respond is by generating something tangible: an end to blockading, dropping barrel bombs on civilians and procrastination over chemical stockpiles.
If Russia can’t pull its weight and act like the world power it aspires to be, it should abandon the pretense that it has influence over its ally, along with the argument that it deserves a seat at the table when it comes to Syria’s future.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 07, 2014, on page 7.