Jun 17, 2014 | RUSSIAN GLAS•NOT

Russian Diplomacy: To Aid or Not to Aid

It is common knowledge that diplomacy, on many occasions, is nothing but a luster of politeness covering the grittiness of backstabbing, deception and schadenfreude, especially so in those that involve autocratic regimes. Case in point Russia's diplomatic contortions over the soundness of unilateral cross-country aid, and in particular, its "nuanced" approach in its applicability.

 

On the subject of Ukraine, the Russians are operatically exhibiting great degrees of altruism by sheltering thousands of refugees that have crossed into Russia and allowing humanitarian aid to flow uninhibited from their soil to eastern Ukraine, irrespective of the latter's government wishes. According to UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, one has to be an apathetic misanthrope to ignore the urgency for humanitarian action in the energy & water deficient, shell-blitzed, famine-ravaged dystopia that is Donetsk and Lugansk. And in the face of such misery surely, the Russian proclaim, it is ok to circumvent the burdensome bureaucracy and legalese of obtaining formal consents, legal mandates and unanimous resolutions in order to defy another's sovereignty. No time to lose when lives are at stake.

 

Except perhaps when the sovereign state whose will is to be defied is an ally, like for example in the also war-torn country of Syria. But of course implying that there is some sort of double standard here would be very insulting to the Russians. As Chrurkin might explain to those naive to think that, the Syrian situation is a completely different case. 

 

First of all, the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad,  has just been triumphantly re-elected with almost 90% of voters cheering for him. On the other hand, the newly voted-in Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, was only shoed-in with a paltry 54.7% which did not even include large swathes of the country in the east. Granted, there is a separatist insurgency going on in those swathes but that's no excuse.

 

Secondly, the Ukrainian government is blatantly waging war against its own people in Donetsk & Lugansk, has been ruthlessly bombarding them and has therefore lost all legitimacy where the international community is concerned. The peacenik Syrian government in contrast is merely putting up a valiant defense against the nefarious jihadists that have infiltrated from abroad and is thus the sole guardian of the wellbeing of the Syrian people. Furthermore, there are disturbing reports (per the Russians) of Ukrainian forces using banned chemical weapons (white phosphorus), something the Syrian government forces would never ever do; except when they may have had. No reason thought to dig up the (recent) past.

 

And in more practical sense, Churkin might have added, whereas the people under fire in the desolate, overcast plains of eastern Ukraine are in dire need of basic amenities like water, shelter and food,  the Syrians purportedly requiring assistance have (a) plenty of space to comfortably reside (150,000 "dear departed" and over a  million "vacationers" that  have moved on to beachside camps abroad have exponentially increased the accommodation availability, plus those ones recently bombarded are ideal for redecoration), (b) healthy complexions due to the sunny Mediterranean climate and balanced diet of hummus & dirt,  (c)  sarin-free air to breath courtesy of president Assad.

 

But worse than assuming a streak of hypocrisy in the Russian diplomatic maneuvers, is per Churkin himself,  dawdling inaction in times demanding action. In his own words: "We are surprised that more is not done by people who conceivably could do it, but they keep asking questions instead of going ahead and doing it." Namely, that theory and praxis are parallel paths one is obliged to simultaneously follow.  So while he has been busy drafting a UN resolution to tackle aid (among other things) to Ukraine and negotiating with his fellow UN members on an agreement, his compatriots have generously been dispensing it all along. The fact that the western powers has just been nagging the security council for unanimous consent on Syrian humanitarian intervention instead of just doing so, is to the Russian perspective plainly sad.