did not yet lose all its cards in Ukraine, and will not be on the
retreat just yet in Syria, as a result of the setback it suffered in the
aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution. Russian President Vladimir
Putin’s revenge for what happened in Kiev’s answer to Tahrir Square
– while he was preoccupied with the Winter Olympics in Sochi – may
United States and the European Union are aware of the painful
instruments of revenge that Putin has at his disposal, as they are aware
of the limits of European economic power and U.S. political power under
President Barack Obama. For this reason, Western powers are walking a
tightrope in dealing with the developments in Ukraine, all while
stressing that this is neither a strategic confrontation nor a return to
the Cold War.
its part, Moscow interprets the events in Ukraine differently, and is
suspicious of Western intentions there. However, Moscow also recognizes
that resorting to revenge would be a double-edged sword in its backyard
in Ukraine as in Syria, which has become an arena for Moscow’s
regional and international resurgence and also in the context of the
relationship with the U.S.
For these reasons, the Western-Russian dialogue may produce accords that
include Ukraine, Syria, and cooperation on issues like Iran and others.
Yet the tone of revenge may prevail instead, with the differences
leading to escalation and confrontations in Ukraine, Syria, and beyond.
This will depend not only on what the Russian president has up its
sleeves, but also on what President Obama has in mind vis-à-vis the
Ukrainian and Syrian revolutions, and U.S. strategic foreign policy as a
of the remarkable scenes during the Ukrainian revolution was how members
of the Berkut, Ukraine’s
notorious riot police, kneeled down to apologize to the people for the
deaths that occurred during the crackdown and assault on the protesters.
This is something that would be a rare sight in the Arab region.
Military defections during and after the revolutions in the Arab region
were important no doubt, and are close to being apologies and
rectifications. But kneeling down is probably the most eloquent form of
rare apology. If only the Arab forces of repression would kneel down
before their peoples. If only the army forces bombarding the people and
the leaders that are starving them kneel down and apologize.
other important event was that the Ukrainian parliament called for
referring ousted President Viktor Yanukovych to the International
Criminal Court in The Hague to hold him and anyone else participating in
the murder of more than 100 protesters and wounding more than 2,000 in
Kiev last week accountable. This is also an important chapter in
accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes, which most
Arab parliaments would not be able to demand because the majority of
Arab countries did not rarify the Rome Statute establishing the ICC. The
regimes themselves have rejected this court fearing for themselves.
Instead, referring those who commit such crimes to the ICC in their case
requires an UN Security Council resolution.
is an important demand making its way to the United Nations – and
facing fierce opposition – to prevent any of the five permanent
members of the Security Council to veto resolutions pertaining to war
crimes and crimes against humanity.
Wenaweser, the president of the Assembly of States Parties of the
International Criminal Court and Ambassador of Liechtenstein to the
United Nations, and Prince Zeid bin Raad, Permanent Representative of
Jordan to the United Nations, are leading the effort to remove war
crimes and crimes against humanity from the grip of Security Council
vetoes and place them solely in the hands of the ICC. This is a
commendable effort because holding rulers and anyone who resorts to rape
and starvation – in addition to the usual criminal methods – as a
war tactic accountable, is now the sole purview of the five
veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council. It is time to liberate
these issues from their grip, especially concerning what is happening in
, and the Russian-Chinese stance on the Syrian question, at the Security
Saturday, February 22, the Council passed resolution 2139, which calls
for securing humanitarian aid to the Syrians – including across the
border – after a surprising unanimous vote. The timing of the vote was
an important factor in securing a consensus, as the Western and Arab
countries backing the draft resolution insisted on putting it to a vote
before the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Russia. The goal
was to use this time margin to embarrass Vladimir Putin, who was adamant
about polishing Russia’s reputation during the games.
protests in Kiev’s Independence Square and the Western-Arab efforts to
vote on a draft resolution concerning the humanitarian tragedy in Syria
in New York has put Putin effectively in the jaws of a vise. Ukrainian
developments has focused the spotlight on Putin and intensified Western
pressure on him. The Syrian developments would have exposed Putin
internationally even more if he had prevented the UN Security Council
from passing a humanitarian resolution. The timing of the push for
resolution 2139 was therefore right, but other factors have also played
the Western-Arab draft resolution was stripped of references to punitive
measures in the event of Damascus’s non-compliance. True as well, it
removed references to Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian Qods Force in
the context of the broader terrorist intervention in Syria. And true,
negotiations over the resolution were fierce, in order to open the door
later to its interpretation in the battle of interpretations. But the
fact of the matter is that the grip of the Russian-Chinese veto on UN
Security Council draft resolutions on Syria has been relaxed for the
first time in the wake of the dual vetoes that have been wielded three
times so far – bar the resolution on dismantling the Syrian chemical
weapons, as the U.S. backed down from carrying a strike against Syria,
passed by the Council last fall.