Senior Russian officials have recently seen no problem in engaging in the most blatant kind of double standard when discussing developments in Ukraine and Syria.
In statement after statement, top Russian officials have provided a new definition of hypocrisy. They have stood firmly behind President Bashar Assad as he goes ahead with holding a presidential election while overseeing a horrific crackdown against his opponents, suffering from a conflict that has now killed more than 160,000 people.
However, the same Russian officials have been up in arms because the authorities in Ukraine, meanwhile, have held elections as they carry out an anti-separatist crackdown that has killed dozens.
President Vladimir Putin has made no secret of the fact that he is trying to restore superpower status to his country, and he has rewarded the Assad regime with military assistance, financial backing and multiple vetoes in the Security Council throughout the uprising.
While the hesitation and weakness of the United States might be responsible for encouraging Putin, people in this part of the world should also note that he has agreed with Israel to upgrade bilateral ties – one form of this stepped-up cooperation is by establishing a “hotline” between their two capitals.
Russia’s behavior on Syria is about cold, naked geopolitics, and not any special attachment to the leaders there, and certainly not the people. The deaths of 160,000 Syrians and the displacement of millions more present no obstacle for Putin. But if a change in policy is required, one can be sure that Russian interests – and not Syrian ones – will win out, irrespective of the hypocrisy we have seen until now.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 02, 2014, on page 7.