Opinion: Russia’s attitude over Syria is significantly affected by West’s deception over Libya

Russia's opposition to military action in Syria is partly the result of it feeling deceived over the UN vote to intervene in Libya two years ago, argues Tom London.

David Cameron has attacked Russia for pledging to use its UN veto against limited military action against Syria. However, a significant reason for the Russian position is that they are convinced that Cameron himself, together with Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, deceived them at the UN two years ago over Libya.

In March 2011, the US, Britain and France sought a resolution at the UN to authorise NATO intervention against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. They justified such an intervention as a purely humanitarian response to the threat that Gaddafi would carry out a Srebrenica-style massacre in Benghazi.

The final UN resolution authorised member states to: –

 “…take all necessary measures …to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya…while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”

The US, UK and France persuaded Russia and China not to use their vetoes on the grounds that the Resolution only authorised a limited humanitarian intervention, such as a no-fly zone and limited airstrikes against Gaddafi’s forces threatening Benghazi. The same argument was used to persuade India, Germany and Brazil also to abstain.

However, it very soon became clear that the Western powers intended to use their overwhelming airpower to support one side in a civil war and to bring about regime change. They argued that this was allowed under the UN Resolution by stretching the meaning of the words “all necessary measures” far beyond what Russia and China had understood them to mean when they were persuaded to abstain.

The highly respected defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has commented that the “Resolution was contorted out of all recognition from the protection of civilians to, in effect, outright regime change.”

Vladimir Putin has denounced the US, British and French action as “a crude violation of the UN Resolution” and  “a complete scandal and a complete affront to the international community.”  The fact that Putin himself is known for his brutal methods and lack of respect for human rights should not change the force of his criticism.

In 2012, RUSI published a report on the British involvement in Libyan conflict.  The title itself was telling, “Short War, Long Shadow.” RUSI noted that the way the Western powers behaved over the Resolution “left a sour taste in the mouths of powers like China, Russia and India…”

In the report RUSI worried that a legacy of the Libya conflict would be that China and Russia would presume that “the model in future was actually regime change rather than the protection of civilians and so would use their vetoes more frequently.”

In 2013, the US and France are once again talking of launching a “limited” attack. It is not surprising that some countries do not trust them not to misuse any limited authorisation to go far wider, as they did in Libya.  It was at the very least naïve to think that the West could be seen to trick Russia and China and others and that there would not be any consequences.

One Response to “Opinion: Russia’s attitude over Syria is significantly affected by West’s deception over Libya”

  1. Patrick Haseldine

    PM’s Deception over Libya

    Prime Minister David Cameron has a secret about Lockerbie. It’s a secret that explains why the PM was desperate to have Colonel Gaddafi blamed personally for the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988, and to have Gaddafi executed without a trial.

    Three months after the Lockerbie bombing, the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the rising star in Conservative Research Department, David Cameron, visited apartheid South Africa.

    The past and future British Prime Ministers made a point of visiting the Rössing Uranium Mine in Namibia (illegally occupied by apartheid South Africa in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 435). In 1989, the Rössing mine was jointly owned by Rio Tinto Group and the Iranian Government, and was supplying uranium to develop Iran’s nuclear programme. Mrs Thatcher was so impressed with the Rössing Uranium Mine that she declared it made her “proud to be British”, a sentiment echoed by Mr Cameron.

    It has recently been reported that Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron concluded a secret nuclear deal with the apartheid regime during their visit in 1989.

    On 21 December 1988, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, was the most prominent of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing. In the months leading up to his death, Carlsson had warned that he would start proceedings against the countries and firms which had been defying UN law over many years by stealing billions of pounds-worth of Namibia’s natural resources. Among those facing huge UN compensation claims were Rio Tinto Group, the government of Iran, the diamond mining giant De Beers and the apartheid regime.

    Because the UN Commissioner for Namibia was killed at Lockerbie, none of those prosecutions ever took place.

    The latest evidence suggests that apartheid South Africa targeted UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, on Pan Am Flight 103 and that Libya was not responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, which might explain why Cameron was desperate to have Colonel Gaddafi blamed personally for the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988, and to have Gaddafi executed without a trial at the International Criminal Court.


Comments are closed.