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Justice, Security and Rule of Law: How the United Nations Security Council Has Failed You

P5

By:  Cynthia M. Lardner

In today’s turbulent world “…three core themes come to the fore: justice, security, and rule of law,” stated Dr. Abi Williams, President of The Hague Institute for Global Justice, who has previously served under United Nations Secretary Generals Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon.

When it comes to global justice, security and Rule of Law, the United Nations (U.N.) is the international organization that the world relies upon.  The U.N. was created in 1945 to restore world order after World War II and to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.  On July 12, 2016 an issue arose challenging the U.N.’s ability to fulfill its essential purpose.

On July 12, 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague issued an opinion in a territorial dispute between People’s Republic of China and the Philippines, commonly referred to as the South China Sea (SCS) Dispute. The sweeping opinion found in favor of the Philippines ruling that China, which had boycotted the proceedings calling them illegal, violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); an agreement about territorial seas and exclusive economic zones (EEZ), in claiming sovereignty over the 80% of the SCS, known as the “nine-dash line”, encompassing almost 80% of the SCS. China has militarized the region rich in natural gas deposits.

The PCA held that:

Having found that certain areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, the Tribunal found that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by (a) interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, (b) constructing artificial islands and (c) failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone. The Tribunal also held that fishermen from the Philippines (like those from China) had traditional fishing rights at Scarborough Shoal and that China had interfered with these rights in restricting access. The Tribunal further held that Chinese law enforcement vessels had unlawfully created a serious risk of collision when they physically obstructed Philippine vessels.

In advance of the decision, China stated that it would not honor the PCA decision; a tribunal to which it is a member nation. As the PCA has no enforcement authority, enforcement falls on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The conundrum is that China is also a permanent member of the UNSC, which can veto UNSC enforcement of PCA decisions.  Rather that upholding its obligation as a permanent member of the UNSC to honor international law, China, in advance of the opinion, stated it will go to war to protect the “nine-dash line” region, leaving enforcement to the smaller nations in the region and their allies.

This calls into question whether China can ethically maintain its position on the UNSC.

This paper analyzes whether not only China but, also the Russian Federation should be permitted the ongoing privilege of sitting as an UNSC permanent member. As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Where there is great power there is great responsibility.”  Russia and China have failed in their responsibility to the other 191 member nations of the U.N.

United Nations Security Council’s Permanent Five

Created by the Rome Statute, to which all 193 U.N. member nations are signatories, the U.N.’s mission, as articulated in its Charter is:

“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”

The U.N. General Assembly, via the U.N. Charter, delegated the sole responsibility for maintaining international peace and security to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The UNSC is comprised of five permanent member nations, and ten rotating member nations elected by the five permanent members to staggered two-year terms.  At the time of its creation, the world’s five greatest superpowers were afforded the privilege of serving as permanent UNSC members:  the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Russia and China (P5).  There is no provision in the U.N. Charter requiring that designation as a UNSC permanent member ever be reviewed or revisited.

The UNSC is responsible for authorizing U.N. peacekeeping operations.  Chapter VII of U.N. Charter authorizes the UNSC to deploy U.N. peacekeeping operations, including joint operations with allied forces and NATO, into volatile post-conflict settings where the state is unable to maintain security and public order.  Invocation of Chapter VII denotes a legal basis for taking action, and “…is viewed as a statement of firm political resolve reminding the parties to a conflict and the wider U.N. membership of their obligation to honor UNSC decisions.”  Security Council Resolution 1674, adopted on 28 April 2006, requires the UNSC to proactively protect civilians in an armed conflict, including taking action against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity

The UNSC is also imbued with the singular responsibility for voting on U.N. member state applications, selecting the Secretary-General, and the creation and oversight of hybrid criminal courts.

The P5 have de facto control over the UNSC by virtue of their exclusive veto power over exercised when any permanent member casts a “negative” vote on not only “substantive” draft resolutions but as to what constitutes a substantive issue.

The veto power extends to the discretionary enforcement of decisions rendered by the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, which issues legal advisory opinions and hears cases involving crimes against humanity and war crimes, and the PCA.

China and Russia’s Abuses of P5 Power

The P5 has come under a great deal of criticism for failing to deliver justice, provide security, and adhere to Rule of Law, including its responsibility to protect (R2P) from statespersons, such Kofi Annan, the seventh U.N. Secretary-General and Nobel Laureate, former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Canadian Foreign Minister Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, calling into question whether the U.N. Charter needs to be amended.

The South China Sea Dispute

Along with the matter decided by the PCA, China has also been engaged in similar territorial SCS disputes with Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, and Indonesia.

It is incomprehensible that China, a P5 member, can flagrantly ignore not only the PCA’s decision, which is final and binding upon the parties, but also UNCLOS, the treaty governing territorial rights.  Rather, than adhere to international law, China is prepared to go to war with the U.S. and other countries over the SCS. Complicating the matter is the joint military build-up by China and Russia in the South China Sea.

An Article VII draft resolution as to the enforcement of the PCA opinion or peacekeeping operations in the SCS would be vetoed by China and Russia.  Given that NATO has already stated it will not become involved in the SCS Dispute, if armed conflict erupts, defense against China and, likely Russia, military superpowers, will be the responsibility of the smaller nations in the region, the United States, France and their allies.

“Only when everyone plays by the same rules can we avoid the mistakes of the past, like when countries challenged one another in contests of strength and will, with disastrous consequences for the region,” stated U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Russia, Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula

Russia’s relationship with NATO, its member nations, allies and partners deteriorated following Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and military aggressions in Ukraine.  On July 15, 2015, rather than abstain, Russia vetoed a resolution as to its illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, shielding itself from accountability under international law.  Russia President Vladimir Putin recently stated that there will never be any diplomatic discussion of the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Russia’s aggressions in Ukraine were to have been resolved by the September 5, 2014 Minsk Protocol, confirming Ukraine’s sovereignty, which was signed by Ukraine, Russia, the Donetsk People’s Republic, and the Lugansk People’s Republic.  Despite being called upon by the international community to implement the Minsk Protocol, including the G20 in April 2016, and at the February 2016 Munich Security Conference, Russia has refused.  As a P5 member, there will never be Article VII action to protect the Ukraine people from ongoing aggressions, including genocide, a war crime.

It is noteworthy that Russia, a P5 member, is not a member nation of the International Criminal Court under the Rome Statute, which prosecutes state actors for crimes against humanity, including genocide.

The Birth of Responsibility to Protect

Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, former Foreign Minister of Canada, cited the UNSC’s 1999 failure to act under Section VII in Kosovo based on Russia’s veto of U.N. peacekeeping troops to force the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo.  Dr. Axworthy stated that he and then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were emotionally and morally sickened by the mass genocide in Kosovo.  Dr. Axworthy stated that he and then Secretary Albright asked themselves, “Could we stand by and let people be murdered?”

NATO intervened in what came to be known as “Madeleine’s War”.

As then President Bill Clinton stated, “”It’s to our advantage to have a Europe that is peaceful and prosperous. And there is the compelling humanitarian case: if the U.S. walks away from an atrocity like this where we can have an impact, then these types of situations will spread. The world is full of ethnic struggles, from Ireland to the Middle East to the Balkans. If we can convince people to bridge these tensions, we’ve served our interests as well as our values.”

LlyodAxworthy

Dr. Lloyd Axworthy speaking at The Hague Institute for Global Justice on July 12, 2016

This Kosovo incident gave rise to the concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) under which “We [humanity] must be prepared to stop mass atrocities” and where sovereignty is “…not a divine right but an obligation to protect your people,” stated Dr. Axworthy during a July 12, 2016 talk on “Pursuing Justice in a Globalized World:  Reflections on the Commitment of Madeleine K. Albright”.

Since the war, Kosovo has been unable to secure U.N. member state status based on Russia’s veto.

Responsibility to Protect

R2P was later adopted by the U.N. obligating the international community, including the UNSC to prevent and protect individuals from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Yet, both China and Russia have and are engaged in genocide and ethnic cleansing; with Russia focused on Jewish populations and China on Tibet.

Russia and China’s Recent P5 Vetoes

At a time when Dr. Axworthy noted that “…human rights in a position of limbo,” Rule of Law has been increasing ignored by the UNSC.

There have been many instances of Russia and China misusing their UNSC veto power in contravention of international law:

  • On June 15, 2009, Russia vetoed action concerning its 2008 Georgian invasion, which culminated in a March 18, 200 treaty on alliance and integration signed between the South Ossetia region of Georgia and Russia on 18 March. This so-called treaty is yet another move by the Russian Federation that hampers ongoing efforts by the international community to strengthen security and stability in the region.  It violates Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and blatantly contradicts the principles of international law;
  • Between 2012 and 2014, Russia and China have double vetoed four draft U.N. resolution concerning the crisis in Syria, including a referral to the International Criminal Court and the imposition of U.N. sanctions;
  • On July 8, 2015, Russia vetoed taking action with respect to the genocide that occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina in clear contravention of Security Council Resolution 1674; and
  • Russia vetoed a referral to the International Criminal Court to hold those state actors accountable for having shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight No. MH17 on July 17, 2014.

The U.S. has also used its UNSC veto power in the past, primarily to block resolutions concerning Israel.  However, this is unlikely to reoccur as during 2015 the Obama Administration’s foreign policy position as Israel and Palestine underwent a drastic shift away from favoring Israel.  The U.K. and France have never used their veto power.

“A security council that is fractured into special national interests, abusing the right of the veto; warlords and dictators who kill with impunity to advance their greed for riches or power; and the weakening of resolve in North America and Europe to act in a collective manner, and thus far a confused set of objectives by the emerging states. As Kofi Annan clearly concludes, our level of governance is not up to the task posed by world realities,” stated Dr. Axworthy.

No nation should be allowed to sit on the United Nations Security Council, let alone be afforded permanent status, if it fails to adhere to Rule of Law, minimally, international law.

Selection of the Next Secretary-General

With Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s second term set to expire, the selection process by the UNSC has also been sharply criticized. “The selection of the Secretary-General has previously been a process shrouded in secrecy, and, ultimately, decision-making lies under the almost complete control of the five permanent members” stated Tom Brookes, Programme Office at The Elders Foundation.  While the current selection process has involved an open debate between ten of the 12 individuals under consideration, it has no impact on the selection process.

Hybrid Courts

The UNSC has failed to convene, offer oversight and provide funding of hybrid criminal courts, i.e. courts created to address war crimes or crimes against humanity in any given country. By way of example, according to Ambassador David John Scheffer, the UNSC has not funded The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, commonly known as the Cambodia Tribunal or Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which is relegated to raising funds to cover its annual $3 million operating budget, with funding coming primarily from the U.S.

By the Numbers

In addition to flagrant misuse of their P5 veto power, there are three indices three global indices measuring positive and negative peace, corruption and adherence to Rule of Law which statistically support the restructuring UNSC.

First is the 2016 Global Peace Index, issued by Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which empirically ranked 175 independent states and territories based on their levels of peacefulness.  Peacefulness is measured based on two primary components: positive peace or resilience, and negative peace, defined as the presence of violence or fear of violence.  Overall scores are normed on the basis of one to five.

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Camilla Schippa speaking on June 24, 2016 at The Hague Institute for Global Justice on the GPI

“We see peace as a measure of conflicts.  And the Global Peace Index found an overall increase in conflict with a widening gap between the most and least peaceful countries,” stated Camilla Schippa, IEP Director of Operations.

The cost to humanity is mindboggling.  Violence costs 13.3% of the world’s GDP or $13.6 trillion dollars.  This breaks down to $1,876 annually or $5.00 per person every single day.

Second, Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) measures perceived levels of public sector corruption in 167 countries.  The four areas measured are bribery, corruption, whistleblowing, and Rule of Law.  The CPI defines Rule of Law as the, “Legal and political systems, structures and practices that condition a government’s actions to protect citizens’ rights and liberties, maintain law and order, and encourage the effective functioning of the country.”

CPI.2015

“The 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index clearly shows that corruption remains a blight around the world.” stated José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.

Third is the World Justice Project’s (WJP) 2015 Rule of Law Index® (RLI). According to the WJP, “The rule of law is the foundation for communities of peace, opportunity, and equity—underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights.”  The RLI provides original, impartial data on how the Rule of Law is experienced by the general public in 102 countries. The RLI measures nine variables — constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil and criminal justice, informal justice – generating an overall score ranging from .35 to .87.

Russian Federation

Russia’s overall GPI Score was the lowest of the P5: 3.079/5, ranking it 151 out of 163, or in the bottom 10 percent of the countries evaluated. Russia also performed the worst out of the P5 on the CPI, ranking a meager 29 or 119/168.  Thus, it is no surprise that Russia also had the worst P5 score on the RLI:  .47 overall, placing it near the bottom quartile, or 75th out of the 102 nations.

People’s Republic of China

On the GPI, China ranked 120 out of 163, with an overall GPI of 2.288/5.  China also performed poorly on the CPI, ranking 37 or 83/168.  China also fared poorly on the RLI, having a composite score of .48, ranking it 71.

The United States

On the GPI, the U.S. ranked 103 out of 163 nations, with a composite score of 2.154/5.  According to Ms. Schippa, the U.S.’s score was negatively impacted by the number of incarcerated individuals and access to firearms, required, to date, by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The U.S. ranked 76 or 16/168 on the CPI, with its score having steadily improved over the last four years. On the RLI, the U.S.’s composite score was .73 ranking it 13th out of the 102 countries measured.

United Kingdom

On the GPI, the U.K. ranked 47 out of 163, having generated a composite score of 1.830/5.  The U.K.’s CPI was 81 or 10/168.  Great Britain fared well on the RLI, with an overall score of .78 ranking it 12th.

France

France ranked 46 out of the 163 nations measured by the GPI, with an overall score of 1.829/5. On the CPI, France ranked 70 or 23/168.  On the RLI, France’s overall score was .74, placing it 18 out of 102 countries.

The Call for Reform

Kofi Annan astutely reflected that:

Where we collectively realize that we do not live in a zero-sum world where someone’s gain automatically comes at another’s expense. I envision a world where these values are supported by an international architecture, a modernized United Nations that reflects the changing balance of global power brought about by the rise of China, Brazil, India, South Africa, and other emerging countries.

But above all, of a United Nations that serves not only states but foremost peoples — and becomes the forum where governments are held accountable for their behavior toward their own citizens. A forum where the shared values of pluralism, tolerance, solidarity, democracy and dialogue triumph over unilateralism, ultra-nationalism, and over the politics of identity…

You may argue that this is a pipe-dream, that around the world, personal liberty, human rights, and democracy are being eroded — even in countries that have embraced democratic ideals. Let us renew and strengthen this international system. From epidemics to climate change, we need to set our narrow self-interests aside and realize that we are in this world together, for better or for worse. Hitting each other on the head has not done us much good in the past. It is time to move beyond that, to embrace our common humanity and resume our journey towards a fairer, more peaceful world.

Mr. Annan concluded that, “A United Nations for the twenty-first century would have to create new partnerships, respond to the needs of the individuals and stand for the principle that national sovereignty could never be used as a shield for genocide or a gross violation of human rights.”

“Yet the Security Council, which has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, acting on behalf of all the member states, is still dominated by the same five permanent members that were designated all those years ago, being the five great powers that had just won the war. The governments of those five powers have become so used to their exalted status, which is protected by their ability to veto any change in the Charter, that they think of it almost as their natural right, sometimes forgetting that it is above all a responsibility. They assume that the world will continue to respect their authority, and fail to notice that, year by year, that authority is eroding,” stated a release issued by The Elders, a group of former statespersons who comprise a nonpartisan peacekeeping group.

As a result of the criticisms from around the globe, they have been numerous statespersons, commissions and entities calling for reform of the U.N., particularly the UNSC.  For instance, the 14-member Commission on Global Security, Justice, and Governance Commission convened by The Hague Center for Global Justice consisting of numerous ex-foreign ministers adamantly called for U.N. reform citing a “crisis in global governance.”

The Commission’s findings, “Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance”, was launched at the Peace Palace in The Hague on 16 June 2016. Commission Co-Chairs Secretary Albright and Ibrahim Gambari, former Nigerian Foreign Minister and UN Under-Secretary-General.  The Commission called for “…an expansion in Security Council membership and better engagement with nontraditional actors. Specifically, it seeks to create more opportunities for countries, regional organizations, local authorities, and business and civil society groups to contribute to peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace-building while, at the same time, increasing the council’s representative legitimacy and restraint in the use of the veto, particularly when a state fails in its responsibility to protect its own citizens.”

Secretary Albright warned that continuing failures within the U.N. “risks prolonging and deepening” global crises.

At the launch of the ‘Strengthening the U.N.’ initiative at the 2015 Munich Security Conference, The Elders proposed a model for expanding the UNSC, that the P5 agree a code of conduct on veto restraint, and argued that the UNSC provide greater opportunity for civil society groups to be heard through greater use of informal “Arria formula” meetings.  Arria formula meetings are informal, confidential gatherings which enabling the UNSC to have a frank and private exchange of views, within a flexible procedural framework, with individuals, groups or nations outside of the UNSC.

Another group, Uniting for Consensus (UfC), comprised of 111 of the U.N.’s 193 member states, mission is to increase the number of non-permanent UNSC members, from the existing ten rotating seats, to a composition and number reflecting greater regional representation.  In a March 26, 2015 press release the UfC stated:

[W]e could support a UNSC of up to 26 members in total – a Council that is more representative of the international community as a whole while preserving the principles of democracy and accountability to Member States. The legitimacy of the Council depends not only – or even primarily – on its composition, but on its transparency, accountability and effectiveness. It is not just about who takes decisions, but most importantly the inclusive and democratic nature of decision-making.

In 2014, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established a 17-member independent panel on U.N. Peace Operations to comprehensively assess the state of current and emerging UN peace operations.  The panel issued 104 page report, containing detailed and voluminous recommendations for change:

At the heart of …peace operations is the message that the United Nations must unite its strengths — of politics, of partnership and of people — to meet those challenges. This means that, where deployed, United Nations peace operations must be mandated and empowered to support the political resolution of threats to international peace and security. To succeed, United Nations peace operations must find a way to strengthen partnership at all levels, namely with regional organizations, with host Governments and with the local population, to overcome deep-rooted conflicts. United Nations peace operations must answer to “We the peoples”, the ultimate beneficiaries of peace and the survivors of conflict. Their perceptions and their assessments, particularly those of women and youth, are the critical barometer of the success, or failure, of United Nations peace operations.

The panel concluded that the U.N. requires “modernized approaches and structures to enable flexible and better United Nations system responses.”  However, the panel failed to state the structures and approaches to which it was referring.  As all substantive action of the U.N. requires UNSC approval, it can only be assumed that the panel was indirectly criticizing the UNSC.

Changes Supported by Sustainable Development Goal 16

On September 25, 2015, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which include 17 Global Goals.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the move as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.  The new agenda is a promise by U.N. leaders to all people everywhere.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”, adopted to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

SDG 16 has been broken down to eleven measurable targets. SDG 16.3 is promote Rule of Law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.  SDG 16.6 requires the development of “effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.” This includes, under SDG 16.7, an increase in decision-making at all levels which is responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative, which is tied to SDG 16.8, which seeks to broaden and strengthen participation by developing countries in global governance.  Also relevant is SDG 16.10, which is promote fundamental freedoms in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.

In 2004, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that for the U.N. Rule of Law is “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires as well measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of the law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency”.

SDG 16 cannot be achieved without amending the U.N. Charter to change the powers vested in the UNSC, and the increasing the number of UNSC members, to insure greater regional representation, or even eliminate the P5 or the UNSC in its entirety.

Amending the U.N. Charter

“A true United Nations would rise above the interests of individual countries. It would place the good of the planet and its people above the good of governments. The organization now based in New York cannot do this. Perhaps no world body ever will,” stated Stephen Kinzer, senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

The path to a true U.N., involves amending the U.N. Charter.  Following a conference, this requires a majority vote by the General Assembly and a vote by any seven UNSC members.  Despite all of the criticism, there has yet to be a call for a conference to amend the U.N. Charter. There has never been a better time than now for the General Assembly to come together and act to amend the U.N. Charter to insure justice, security, and rule of law for generations to come.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is a journalist focusing on geopolitics.  Ms. Lardner is a contributing editor for Tuck Magazine and E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and her blogs are read in over 37 countries.  As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.

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Annan, Kofi, “The Next 10 Years in Global Democracy”, May 7, 2015, The Kofi Annan Foundation, as found on the www at http://www.kofiannanfoundation.org/articles/the-next-10-years-in-global-democracy-2839/.

Axworthy, Lloyd, “Kofi Annan’s Advice to the United Nations”, February 21, 2013, Huffington Post Canada, as found on the www at http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lloyd-axworthy/kofi-annan-united-nations_b_2733531.html.

Brookes, Tom, “Observing change at the United Nations”, June 16, 2016, TheElders.org., as found on the www at http://theelders.org/article/observing-change-united-nations.

“Corruption Perception Index 2015”, Transparency International, as found on the www at http://www.transparency.org/cpi2015.

Global Peace Index 2016”, Vision of Humanity, Institute for Economics and Peace as found on the www at http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/indexes/global-peace-index.

“Identical letters dated 17 June 2015 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council”, June 17, 2015, General Assembly Security Council, UN Doc, as found on the www at http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2015/446.

Kinzer, Steven, “There is no United Nations”, October 15, 2015, Boston Globe, as found on the www at https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/10/15/there-united-nations/ReCzzbHtpQXzK04B6Psw4I/story.html.

Lardner, Cynthia, “In Deep Waters with China and Russia”, June 10, 2016, as found on the www at http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/06/13/deep-waters-china-russia/; https://issuu.com/nafelosangeles/docs/e_magazine_june_2016_issue_draft_1_; https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/deep-waters-china-russia-cynthia-lardnerhttp://cmlardner.blogspot.com/2016/06/in-deep-waters-with-china-and-russia.html; and https://cynthiamlardner.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/in-deep-waters-with-china-and-russia/.

 

Lee, Michael, R., “On UNSC Reform, New UfC Paper Calls for Transparency, No New Permanent Seats”, March 25, 2015, Inner City Press, as found on the www at http://www.innercitypress.com/unscreform1ufc032515.html;  Swart, L., and Pace, Cile, “Changing the Composition of the Security Council: Is There a Viable Solution?”, March 1, 2015, Center for U.N. Reform, as found on the www at http://www.centerforunreform.org/?q=node/629.

“Linkages between the rule of law, democracy and sustainable development”, April 19, 2012, International for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, as found on the www at http://www.idea.int/un/upload/Concept-Note-IDEA-IDLO-Italy-rev-5-0-Final.pdf.

“Mandates and the legal basis for peacekeeping”, United Nations Peacekeeping, U.N. Doc, as found on the www at http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/pkmandates.shtml.

“Rule of Law Index 2015,” World Justice Project, as found on the www at http://data.worldjusticeproject.org/.

“THE SOUTH CHINA SEA ARBITRATION (THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES V. THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA)”, July 12, 2016, Permanent Court of Arbitration, UN Doc., as found on the www at https://pca-cpa.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/175/2016/07/PH-CN-20160712-Press-Release-No-11-English.pdf.

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Inside the Mind of Vladimir Putin

Putin.CoverBy:  Cynthia M. Lardner

Introduction

The Russian Federation, when examined as the antagonist, views itself as having been left disconnected from post-World War Two Europe. Russia believes itself to be irrevocably tied to Europe dating back to the Byzantine Era.  When the Cold War ended Russia expected to be accepted by the West. This never fully materialized, leaving Russian President Vladimir Putin feeling dismembered. With heightening geopolitical tensions, especially in the European Union, it is critical to understand Mr. Putin’s long term strategy. When events over the last three years are examined together, not only does there exists a threat of conflict on European soil and cyberwar but, there also exists a very real threat to the Western world of another new genre of warfare:  economic warfare.

The Lavrov Statement

Understanding what Mr. Putin was and is thinking can now be best understood in the context of a March 3, 2016 statement by Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs:

“While the rapidly developing Moscow state naturally played an increasing role in European affairs, the European countries had apprehensions about the nascent giant in the East and tried to isolate it whenever possible and prevent it from taking part in Europe’s most important affairs.

During at least the past two centuries any attempts to unite Europe without Russia and against it have inevitably led to grim tragedies, the consequences of which were always overcome with the decisive participation of our country (Emphasis Added).”

Emphasizing Russia’s growing relationship with China and its other partners, including the BRICS, Lavrov stated that globalisation has led to the United States and the European Union’s demise as the leading global economic powers and political influencers, and to the emergence of “new and large centres of power”.

This was followed by the assertion that, “A reliable solution to the problems of the modern world can only be achieved through serious and honest cooperation between the leading states and their associations in order to address common challenges.”

Lavrov concluded that, “[W]e are not seeking confrontation with the United States, or the European Union, or NATO. On the contrary, Russia is open to the widest possible cooperation with its Western partners. We continue to believe that the best way to ensure the interests of the peoples living in Europe is to form a common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so that the newly formed Eurasian Economic Union could be an integrating link between Europe and Asia Pacific.”

Sino-Russian Partnership

Perhaps then it is ultimately not just what Mr. Putin is thinking but, also what the aspirations are of Chinese President Xi Jinping, with respect, not as to the Middle East, but as to Europe.  When events are read together, the two countries share expansionist and extremist policies, each with their own set of alliances, under which both countries aspire to wield greater global leadership.

A contemporary starting place for analyzing the Sino-Russian relationship is July 17, 2014, when a number of seemingly unrelated events occurred.  The day prior, the European Union imposed economic sanctions against the Russia Federation for its annexation of Crimea in violation of international law and the 1994 Budapest Agreement, followed by President Barack Obama announcing that the United States was also imposing sanctions; ultimately toppling the ruble.  Hours later, a Malaysian plane was shot down over the Ukraine by Russian mercenaries. This was quickly followed by a statement released by China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa, representing 40% of the world’s population, that they were implementing the New Development Bank or The BRICS, to provide funding to those countries previously unable to secure financing for essential sustainable infrastructures from the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Six months later, on February 2, 2015, obscured by an international community divided over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, China struck a potentially deadly blow to global financial stability when it announced that it was not only moving ahead in launching its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) but that it was expanding to welcome founding members from the West, of which all 28 NATO members, save the United States, joined within months.  There are now 56 AIIB member nations and another 30 countries awaiting approval.

“The founding and opening of the AIIB also means a great deal to the reform of the global economic governance system,” stated Mr. Jinping at the January 16, 2016 AIIB inauguration.

The AIIB and its ‘junior partner’, The BRICS, were set up to compete with the WB and IMF, intending to ultimately issue its own currency to devalue the Euro and the dollar.

“The BRICS is expected to usher in a pair of institutions, a development bank and a currency reserve fund, that they hope will diminish Western control of the global financial system,” stated Stewart M. Patrick, director of CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance Program.

“The AIIB is a challenge to the existing global economic order,” stated Robert Kahn, Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics.

Such would be the case if China and its partners called in their portion of the United States National Debt; $17.6 trillion dollars or 15.9%.

In addition, China and Russia, two of the five permanent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members, along with India, issued a statement supporting India’s bid for one of the five permanent UNSC seats.

The statement declared that the three nations, with China at the helm, would “build a more just, fair and stable international political and economic order” and a ““multi-polar” world”.   Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proclaimed, “We advocate the principle of partnership rather than alliance.”

In late 2015 Mr. Jinping made a state visit to Great Britain. India Prime Minister Naranda Modi made state visits to 28 countries.  In Great Britain and beyond, China and India secured many private and public sector contracts.  India’s state visits were partially motivated by its previous lack of cordial diplomatic relations with North African and the Middle East; regions India needs to to support its claim that it is a global leader meriting a permanent UNSC seat.

Inception of The BRICS and AIIB has raised global concerns.  The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights is investigating whether projected project financing by The BRICS and the AIIB would include safeguards to preclude human rights violations, such as slave or child labor, underpayment of wages, forced evictions, and detentions.  Further concern exists over a lack of articulated environmental and anticorruption standards.  These concerns were manifest in previous projects funded by the Chinese government.

Syria

As time went on, the events of 2014 and 2015 fell off the front pages, replaced by news story about the Syrian War and the related terrorist attacks in California, Paris and Brussels.

Russia’s September 2015 entry into the Syrian War was reported to insure that Mr. Putin’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, remained in power.  It is questionable whether Mr. Putin’s move was a smokescreen allowing him to achieve another objective:  destabilizing the European Union.

Russian bombing in Syria was targeted in and around Aleppo, near the Turkish border.  NATO and other leaders asserted that Russia had weaponized Syrians; escalating the number of refugee seekers. The refugee crisis has created widespread dissension within Europe, which has been struggling to cope with the staggering numbers of refugees.  There are 4,883,643 Syrian refugees registered by the United Nations; making it the largest humanitarian crisis the world has faced since World War II.

Munich Security Conference

At the February 12-14, 2016 Munich Security Conference (MSC), Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s echoed Lavrov’s statements; calling the state of diplomacy between Russia and the West a new Cold War.  NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander General Philip Breedlove disagreed.

A Syrian ceasefire was negotiated at the MSC to allow participants time to reconvene in March to further discuss a nonmilitary resolution, and so that humanitarian aid could be delivered to Syria.

At the MSC conference, the issue of Russia’s failure to honor the Minsk Protocol, intended to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict was raised.

On March 14, 2016, as the parties reconvened in Geneva, Russia only announced that it was pulling out of Syria at the same time Russian-backed separatists staged one their biggest Ukrainian offenses, fueling speculation as to Mr. Putin’s long range motives.

Europe and the United States

Mr. Putin’s goal is to undermine the European Union by causing destabilization as the European Union represents democracy, is based on Rule of Law, and is ideologically different from Russia, stated Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize Russian Scholar, Director of the Transitions Forum at the Legatum Institute, and an adjunct fellow of the Center for European Policy Analysis.

European and United States’ domestic and foreign policy has caused dissension within and between nations.  Natalie Nougayrède, a foreign affairs commentator for The Guardian, explained:

This year is one that arguably offers Russia an unprecedented window of opportunity to push that demand. The refugee crisis threatens key EU institutions, a referendum looms on the UK’s relationship to Europe, the Franco-German couple is in dire straits, Angela Merkel is politically weakened, Ukraine is unstable, populist movements are spreading throughout the continent, the Balkans are experiencing new tensions, and the US is busy with an election campaign imbued with isolationism.

“Europe when united is a problem for them [the Russians]. It doesn’t work when the whole of Europe joins together,” stated Applebaum.

“Closer cooperation between the EU and its eastern European partners – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine – is a key element in EU foreign relations,” states the European Union’s website.

Meanwhile, Russia has strengthened its relationships with Western Europe and Germany.  In 2014 Mr. Putin stated, “I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspiration of the Russians, of historical Russia, to restore unity.”  Presently, an estimated 10-15% of all Germans support Mr. Putin.

Mr. Putin’s authoritarian leadership is also admired by Czech Republic President Miloš Zeman, Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic.

Then there is Poland; with Russia and Ukraine on its east and Germany and the Baltics on its west, it is a natural target for Russia.  The United States is building a missile defense shield in Poland due to be operational in 2018; stating it was to protect against Iranian aggressions.  Russia objected, stating that the shield is being built to protect the West from an attack by Russia.

Russia, having the world’s largest nuclear arsenal supported by a sprawling military and civilian nuclear industry, boycotted the March 31-April 1 Nuclear Security Summit, sparking concern as to whether Russia has or might sell nuclear weapons or weapon making materials to a terrorist organization.

Igor Ivanov, former Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that, “The risk of confrontation with the use of nuclear weapons in Europe is higher than in the 1980s.”

Ukraine and the European Union

The conflict between Rule of Law and the Russian plutocracy is playing out in Ukraine and the Baltic region.

In 2012 Ukraine requested member state status in the European Union.  While there is no indication that Ukraine will be accepted as a European Union member, as part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, the European Union is removing trade barriers with Ukraine.

“Ukraine has tied into mainstream European culture and life,” stated Applebaum.

“We can express our identity in the framework of the European Union,” reflected Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine.

Mr. Putin disagreed, stating, “Our concerns are understandable because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people… Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means.”

Rebutting Mr. Putin’s assertion, Rabbi Bleich stated that 60% of Ukraine’s fighters are native Russian speakers.

Mr. Putin additionally stated that, “Russia has its legitimate concerns in the framework of trilateral negotiations initiated by Russia, EU and Ukraine on gas issues and trade and economic implications of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement implementation” as Ukraine is the trade route by which oil is exported by Russia to Western Europe.

“We should recognize that the Ukraine is within the Russian sphere of influence,” stated Vaidotas Verba, the Lithuanian Ambassador to the Netherlands.

Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and NATO

Since 1994 Ukraine has been a NATO alliance partner.  In 2010 Ukraine unsuccessfully sought to accede to NATO.  The request was denied due to the Ukrainian government’s failure to adhere to Rule of Law.

Olena Sotnyk, a newly elected Ukrainian Parliament member and Head of the Subcommittee on the Approximation of Ukrainian legislation to EU Law, stated “… that new parliament is striving to adhere to Rule of Law via implementation of a good number of legislative initiatives in the fields of human rights protection and anti-corruption, initiatives that only two years ago seemed unrealistic in the Ukrainian realities.”

In 2014, following a change in governance, Ukraine renewed its request to accede to NATO.  While Ukraine has not been invited to participate in accession talks, it is a partner nation of NATO.  In addition, of the 21 other countries belonging to NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, several have also expressed interest in acceding to NATO member nation status.  Presently, only Montenegro has been invited by NATO to participate in accession talks.

Every country has the right “to belong or not to belong to international organizations, to be or not to be a party to bilateral or multilateral treaties including the right to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance,” according to Article I of the Helsinki Final Act, which established the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  All the OSCE member states, including Russia, have sworn to uphold this principle.

Since 2015 NATO has increased its presence in Ukraine and throughout the Baltic States; Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

“The reason why NATO is adapting its military posture, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance, is Russia’s military buildup over several years… In the Barents Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and now also in the Mediterranean. That’s one of the reasons why we are adapting both by increasing the readiness of our forces but also by increasing our presence in the Eastern part of our Alliance,” stated Stoltenberg.

Russia interpreted NATO’s eastern expansion as a sign of open hostility and warned that it will retaliate.

“We believe that NATO’s policy towards Russia remains unfriendly and generally obdurate,” stated Medvedev at the MSC.

Medvedev’s statement conflicts with Stoltenberg’s contemporaneous statement that, “This illustrates there are some challenges in the relationship between NATO and Russia. It is exactly these challenges that make it important to keep channels of political dialogue with Russia. They are open, we meet in different formats, on different levels, we meet at the ambassadors’ level in Brussels, and the NATO Russia Council meeting we are exploring to convene is at the ambassadors’ level. I met several times with Minister Lavrov. So we meet and we discuss. But so far we have not been able to agree on how to convene a NRC [the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission] meeting.”

“I’m afraid that Putin will create a really big crisis, like pick a fight with NATO,” stated Applebaum.

Such a crisis could include offensive action in the Baltic States, where there is a heavy concentration of ethnic Russians.  Ethnic Russians represent 14.3% of the Lithuanian population; 27.6% of Latvia’s population; and 24% of Estonia’s population.  Mr. Putin has previously stated that Russia has the right to intervene to protect the rights of ethnic Russians in neighbouring countries.

The United States is preparing for a Russian invasion in Ukraine or elsewhere in the Baltic region, as evidenced by a Pentagon statement that the United States was deploying an armored brigade to the Baltic region, with two more brigades to follow in 2017.

Considering such potentialities, NATO and Russia have agreed to meet.

“[T]here will be no return to business as usual until Russia again respects international law,” stated Stoltenberg.

The Game of Thrones

Irrespective of ideological differences, after the Cold War Era, Russia and the West shifted from the Doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction to that of Mutual Assured Security (MAS); where neither party has the intention or capability to exercise a unilateral advantage over the other.  It is now uncertain whether Russia intends to abide by MAS.

Conditions never favored full adaptation of MAS.  Celeste A. Wallander, an associate professor in the American University School of International Service, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia, explained:

The problem with the U.S. position is that Russia is not confident that conditions for strategic stability are met, and therefore they are not. Since strategic stability is a condition in which both parties are confident that each retains a secure retaliatory capability, if either is not confident, the equation is at risk. To put it another way, it does not help in a crisis.  If the United States is confident that no military strike could put Russia’s ability to retaliate at risk if Russia believes that it would have to preempt for survival.  Because Russian analysts take this seriously, U.S. policy needs to take this seriously.

“What we are dealing with is a conflict between a western philosophy in which international relations should be based on the Rule of Law, and the Russian one which tends to think in terms of power and zones of influence.  The view that the world order should be based on the rule of law, is very much the view of a militarily impotent Europe and more in particular that of small countries dependent on international trade such as the Netherlands.  The realistic school of American foreign policy on the other hand entertains no such illusions and views diplomacy as the application of power by nonmilitary means,” stated Joost Dirkzwager, a retired Kingdom of the Netherlands career diplomat.

That same analysis as to “zones of influence” can be applied to China, and to a lesser degree, India.  Although Russian and Chinese foreign and military policies differ radically, they operate under a similar ideology. While China is a superpower, Russia, due to its economic decline, is not.  Yet, the two countries are working together, with Beijing wielding the greater influence.

When read as a whole, not only does there exist the threat of conflict on European or even on United States soil and cyberwar with China and Russia but, there also exists a very real threat to the West of a new genre of warfare:  economic warfare.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is a journalist, holding degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries.  As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Living in Den Hague or The Hague, she is currently looking for a challenging position in foreign policy, journalism, or social justice.

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The Case for a Syrian Coalition Government

Syria1

Introduction

Syria belongs to the Syrian people.  That is the most basic of truths.  Syria must be returned to its people.

Historically, Syria goes back to the ‘era of the Levant’ and, in fact, Syria translates to Levant[i].  Levant is significant to the ideology and public relations campaign undertake by the IS, also referred to as ISIS and ISIL. So significant is Syria to IS, especially its oil rich fields, that IS established a second capital in the once modern Syrian city of Raqqa.

Syria’s capital of Damascus, an area yet to be devastated by IS, is one of mankind’s longest continuously inhabited cities. Damascus was also the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and of an Egyptian sultanate.  The concept of the Caliphate is central to IS’ current recruitment strategies.

Modern day Syria emerged after World War I.  Under its October 24, 1945 Constitution, it was formed as a democratized parliamentary republic, with a full range of constitutional protections, and it was accepted as a United Nations member nation.

Following several military coups, under a December 1, 1961 constitutional referendum, Syria formally became the Arab Republic of Syria.

In 1963, the Ba’ath Party staged a coup d’etat, placing it into power, a position it has held ever since.  From 1963 through 2011, Syria suspended the constitutional protections granted its citizens.  Since 1963, it has not been considered a democratized nation.

From 1973 to 2000, as a Ba’ath party member, Hafez al-Assad was President.  He was succeeded by his son, Bashar al-Assad, also a Ba’ath party member, who remains Syria’s current President al-Assad was re-elected in a June 2014 referendum election under circumspect polling conditions[ii].

The Onset of Civil War

Protests in Syria started on January 26, 2011. Protesters called for political reforms and the re-instatement of their civil rights, as well as an end to the state of emergency, suspending their constitutional rights, which had been in place since 1963.  Civil war broke out on March 25, 2011[iii].

After the inception of Syria’s civil war, the United States, the European Union, Canada and the majority of the Arab League[iv] all called for President al-Assad to resign his presidency[v].  Widespread economic sanctions and travel restrictions were rapidly imposed by the West.

As of late 2013, the best known of the over 100 factions operating in Syria were:

Amid mounting humanitarian crises [the best known being the refugee crises in the European Union [vi]], on-going terrorist attacks in Syria are minimally attributable to at least five groups:

  • ISIS;
  • Non-Sunni Muslim extremists;
  • The al-Nursa Front led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, involved in the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attack and Osama bin Laden’ successor. It has been reported that al-Zawahiri and Bakr are at odds with one another;
  • Sunni Muslims, constituting the majority of the its population, who oppose existing the government; and
  • The Syrian government.

 All are involved at some level with the ISIS, which is and has been playing a leading role in Syria (Emphasis added) [vii].

The damage and methods by which it was so brutally inflicted was recently summarized as follows:

TOTAL CASUALTIES (MINIMUM ESTIMATES)

Estimates range from 100,000 to 150,000 killed (as of March 2014)

9 Million displaced

Human rights abuses that have been confirmed include but are not limited to:

Chemical Weapons attacks on civilian areas

Barrel bombing civilian areas

Widespread use of rape as a weapon of war

Summary executions of prisoners, including children

Mutilation and display of corpses, including crucifixion

Torture, including of children [viii]

As one commentator wrote this week:

By releasing dozens of al-Qaeda prisoners in mid-2011, Assad helped give birth to a thriving Islamist insurgency, including an al-Qaeda affiliate. By then adopting a deliberate policy of not targeting IS, Assad directly facilitated that group’s recovery and explosion into the transnational “Caliphate” movement it claims to be today.

Meanwhile, the Assad regime has conducted a consistent policy of intentional mass killing of civilians – first with air strikes and ballistic missiles, then with barrel bombs and widely alleged use of chemical weapons.

Bashar al-Assad has professionalised and industrialised the use of detention and torture to “cleanse” his own population, while imposing dozens of medieval-style sieges on vulnerable populations. He has consistently flouted UN Security Council resolutions and according to some sources, has been responsible for 95% of all 111,000 civilian deaths since 2011 [ix].

President al-Assad has been cited by the United Nations as having committed war crimes but the International Criminal Court has yet to take jurisdiction[x].  “Asked if he believed Mr Assad should face prosecution at the International Criminal Court, Mr Cameron said: “People who break international law should be subject to international law[xi].””

The Scattered Pieces of the Syrian Front

Over the last few months, President al-Assad’s position in Syria has become increasingly detrimentally impacted.  First, it was released that President al-Assad had lost control over the government’s last oil field[xii].

Second, amidst a mounting refugee crisis in the European Union and beyond, it was released that the Syrian government was facilitating the issuance of passports for citizens both in and outside of Syria[xiii].   Historically, passports were all but impossible to obtain.  It’s as if Syria government has no interest in seeing its people return home[xiv].  This is form of Scientific Racism known as ethnic cleansing.  Like genocide, ethnic cleansing is a war crime.  Like the Palestinian people, the Syrian people want the right to return to their homelands as it existed prior to conflict erupting.

Third, and most significantly, is Russia’s military build-up in Syria[xv].  Russia, whose economy was decimated in 2014 as a result of economic sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States[xvi], was left with two primary assets[xvii]. Military support, including the sale of weapons and the training of troops, and energy, both its natural resources and its willingness to build nuclear power plants.  In the sale of armaments, Russia is second only to the United States.  Russia has long been known as the primary purveyor of weapons to ISIS, also referred to as IS and ISIL.

What was concerning was a BBC News commentator who, in early September announced that given Russia’s relationship with President al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin could be a reliable bridge to the Syrian peace process whereas every other news report reflected growing international concern about Russia’s increasing military presence in Syria[xviii].

As early as September 5, 2015, “US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern to his Russian counterpart over reports of “an imminent enhanced Russian military build-up” in Syria[xix].” The day prior The New York Times reported “that US officials believed Russia had sent a military advance team to Syria[xx].”  Another report stated that Russian troops were actively engaging in combat alongside President Assad’s troops[xxi].

What we know for sure is that:

In the space of three weeks, Moscow has deployed at least 28 fighter jets, 14 helicopters, dozens of tanks, anti-aircraft missile systems and 2,000 troops into north-western Syria.

Russia’s claim that its forces are there only to target Islamic State should be taken with a large grain of salt [xxii].

“President Vladimir Putin has been coy on the subject, saying Russia is weighing various options, a statement that has fueled suspicions about the Kremlin’s intentions[xxiii].

That same news report opined as to President Putin’s intentions:

By playing with the possibility of joining the anti-IS coalition, Putin may hope to win a few key concessions. His main goal: the lifting of Western sanctions and the normalization of relations with the United States and the European Union, which have sunk to their lowest point since the Cold War amid the Ukrainian crisis. In addition, the Russian leader may be angling to make the West more receptive to Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine, while retaining influence in Syria [xxiv].

The Pentagon has been a bit more outspoken:

The U.S. intelligence community now thinks Russia may have embarked on its military buildup in Syria because Moscow believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may not be able to hang onto power and it wants to position itself to back a proxy if the regime were to collapse. It is a view shared by the Pentagon, Defense officials told CNN [xxv].

The Future of Syria

            There are no commentators or governments of the belief that President al-Assad can hold on to his presidency without concerted international support.  While the West has called for President al-Assad’s removal since 2011, the question has recently arisen as to whether President al-Assad should play some role in a transitional government, with that question only having arisen as way to pacify President Putin.

The United States intelligence community has raised key questions about Syria’s future:

U.S. intelligence still sees al-Assad’s collapse as likely to be several months away, though he has been considerably weakened over this year after losing of significant territory and directing an army that is increasingly demoralized.

The United States is trying to assess whether figures in Syria still exist who might be able to step in should al-Assad fall, a senior U.S. official told CNN, but for now doesn’t see a clear leader or dissident who could garner enough support inside Syria to take power.

The United States is concerned about the preservation of basic social structures and services that still exist in Damascus should al-Assad fall, since the regime’s implosion could open the door to a humanitarian disaster if ISIS or al Qaeda-affiliated militias were to move in [xxvi].

The Case for a Coalition Government       

This paper started out with the premise that Syria belongs to the Syrian people to whom it must be returned.  However, with its constitution supplanted since the early 1960s and over 100 Syrian factions all competing for at least local, if not regional control[xxvii], it lacks the infrastructure necessary to conduct fair elections, let along implement national governance.

“”There has always been the idea that there will be a political transition and there are differing views between members of the international community… what the steps are in the process. That is where there is more discussion ongoing,” a senior British official said.”

            The Syrian crisis presents an opportunity for the international community to come together and devise an interim coalition government.  The composition of a coalition government has not yet been explored, or at least not publicly so.  Should such a concept be entertained, there must regional representation from within Syria, a mechanism by which the voice of its refugees can be heard, and a lack of involvement by the United Nations Security Council.

This author has excluded the United Nations Security Council as two of its permanent members – Russia and China – have failed to join collective or coalition peacekeeping efforts in Syria.  Rather, any vote representing the position of the United Nations member nations must come from its General Assembly.  This raises the ancillary question of whether the United Nations Charter must be amended[xxviii].

As the United Nations has been criticized for failing to give a greater regional voice to those most affected by its decisions, the Arab League may be the effective at offering its collective vote, regional expertise and other assistance to a coalition government.

In addition, NATO, and other coalition forces[xxix] should remain ‘stakeholders’ in Syria until such time as the Syrian people have the infrastructure necessary for self-governance and until it is rendered safe for those displaced Syrian people wanting to return to their homeland.  We can all learn from Afghanistan from which peacekeeping troops withdrew before the country was properly stabilized and prepared for independent self-governance, including safeguarding its citizens’ human rights.

This begets the question as to what role Russia would play in resolving the Syrian crisis[xxx] and, more particularly, what role, if any, it would play in a transitional, coalition government[xxxi].  The one factor the international community has weighed most heavily against Russian involvement is that Russia is still backing President al-Assad[xxxii].

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References

[i] Lardner, Cynthia, “ISIS Gone Corporate”, Game of Thrones Meets House of Cards,  June 19, 2015, as found on the www athttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/isis-gone-corporate-cynthia-lardner-deverouxcleary-1?trk=mp-reader-card

[ii] The 2000 and 2007 referenda elections were devoid of any opposing candidate “Bashar al-Assad wins re-election in Syria as uprising against him rages on”, June 4, 2014, The Guardian, as found on the www athttp://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/04/bashar-al-assad-winds-reelection-in-landslide-victory (“Assad captures another seven-year term after winning almost 90% of the vote, with polling only held in government-held areas…Assad garnered 10,319,723 votes, or 88.7%.”).

Conditions within Syria at the time of the election were not conducive to a fair election in which the majority of Syrian’s did not or could not vote.  “Syria: The story of the conflict,” December 8, 2014, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26116868 (“Almost 200,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the escalating conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule. Syria’s bloody internal conflict has destroyed entire neighbourhoods and forced more than nine million people from their homes.

A further 6.5 million people, 50% of them children, are believed to be internally displaced within Syria, bringing the total number forced to flee their homes to more than 9.5 million – half the country’s population. An estimated 10.8 million are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, with 4.6 million living in areas under siege or hard to access.”).

[iii] “Q&A: Syrian activist Suhair Atassi”, February 9, 2011, Al Jazeera, as found on the www athttp://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/2011/02/201129135657367367.html.

[iv] The Arab League consists of 22 members: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, State of Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  Syria’s membership was suspended.  “Arab League suspends Syria”, November 12, 2011, CNN, as found on the www athttp://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/12/world/meast/syria-unrest/.

There are also four observer states:  Brasil, Venezuela, Eritrea, and India.

[v] Bassem Mroue, “Bashar Assad Resignation Called For By Syria Sit-In Activists”, April 18, 2011, The Huffington Post, Associated Press, as found on the www at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/18/bashar-assad-resignation-syria-protest_n_850657.html. See also “Syria: Mapping the conflict”, July 10 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22798391 (“Russia and the US disagree sharply on Syria. While Russia has backed the Syrian government, and provided it with arms, the US wants to see the removal of President Assad.”).

[vi] The European Union has received most of the Syrian refugees.

See eg Chappell, Bill, “Germany, France Announce Plans To Welcome Thousands Of Migrants”, September 7, 2015, NPR News, as found on the www athttp://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/09/07/438285460/germany-france-announce-plans-to-welcome-thousands-of-migrants?sc=17&f=1001&utm_source=iosnewsapp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ap(“After a weekend in which tens of thousands of Syrian war refugees and other migrants reached Austria and Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany is putting 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) toward coping with the influx, France has committed to receiving 24,000 migrants….”)

To date, the United States has only taken in approximately 1,000 Syrian refugees.  However, it recently indicated a statement that over the next twelve months, it would take in 10,000 Syrian refugees.  Edwards, Julia, “U.S. to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees: White House,” September 11, 2015, Reuters, as found on the www at http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/11/us-europe-migrants-whitehouse-idUSKCN0RA26220150911.

Conversely, the United States has born the greatest share of the cost in the fight against IS, with Great Britain’s expenditures falling second. “John Kerry to visit UK for Syria crisis talks,” September 15, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34264512 (“The US has allowed 1,500 Syrians to resettle since the start of the conflict, and the Obama administration has said a further 10,000 will be admitted over the next year.

According to the White House, the US is the single largest donor to the Syrian crisis response, having given over $4bn (£2.6bn) since it began.”).

[vii] Lardner, Cynthia, “ISIS Gone Corporate”, Game of Thrones Meets House of Cards,  June 19, 2015, as found on the www athttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/isis-gone-corporate-cynthia-lardner-deverouxcleary-1?trk=mp-reader-card (Citations Omitted).

[viii] “IS, al-Qaeda, and how jihad uses chemical weapons,” September 16, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34262447.

[ix] Lister, Charles, “Viewpoint: West ‘walking into abyss’ on Syria”, September 28, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34371501.

[x] Id.

[xi] “David Cameron to call for new Syria peace drive at UN”, September 27, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-34372286.

[xii] ISIL captures last government oilfield in Syria, September 7, 2015, Al Jazeera, as found on the www at http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/isil-capture-parts-government-oilfield-syria-150907123935546.html; “ISIS captured Assad’s last oil field in Syria, activists say”, September 7, 2015, ABC News, as found on the www at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/isis-captures-last-oil-field-under-syrian-control/.

[xiii] Dawar, Anil, “Alarm as Syria sells 10,000 passports with few questions asked,” September 11, 2015, Express, as found on the www athttp://www.express.co.uk/news/world/604394/Alarm-Syria-sells-10000-passports-few-questions-asked.

[xiv] “How The Assad Regime Pushes Syrians Out, Fueling Refugee Surge”, September 14, 2015, NPR News, as found on the www athttp://www.npr.org/2015/09/14/440327641/how-the-assad-regime-pushes-syrians-out-fueling-refugee-surge?sc=17&f=1004&utm_source=iosnewsapp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=app.

[xv] Arshad, Mohammed, and Irish, John, “Russia seizes initiative in Syria crisis; France bombs Islamic State”, September 28, 2015, Reuters, as found on the www at http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/28/us-mideast-crisis-putin-usa-idUSKCN0RR0H820150928.

[xvi] Lardner, Cynthia, Game of Thrones Meets House of Cards, April 9, 2015, as found on the www at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/game-thrones-meets-house-cards-geopoliticalmeltdown-cynthia?trk=mp-reader-card and at  https://cynthiamlardner.wordpress.com/game-of-thrones-geopolitical-meltdown/,

But see “Ukraine conflict: France hopes to end Russia sanctions”, September 7, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34174382 (“French President Francois Hollande has said that following recent ceasefire progress in Ukraine he hopes to see the end of sanctions against Russia.” This is a bilateral or mutually beneficial move as, “EU sanctions and a subsequent Russian embargo have hurt many French and European companies.”).

[xvii][xvii] A third possible asset of the Russian government is its relationship with its wealthy neighbor China.  Oddly, this relationship is not explored in a single news article discussing Russia’s involvement is Syria.  It is well known that China lacks the energy necessary for its own people.  Syria is rich in natural resources.

Whether coincidental or not, China has visibly increased is naval presence.  Russia has a naval base on Syrian soil where, thus far, only large shipments have been received.  See Tikhonova, Polina, “Has Russia Just Entered Syrian Civil War?”  September 5, 2015, Value Walk, as found on the www athttp://www.valuewalk.com/2015/09/has-russia-just-entered-syrian-civil-war/.  See also Petras, James, “The Two Faces of Capitalism and Left Options”, September 7, 2015, Global Research, as found on the www athttp://www.globalresearch.ca/the-two-faces-of-capitalism-and-left-options/5474315 (“The US has mobilized its EU followers to impose crippling economic sanctions on the Russian state and private enterprises in order to weaken its oligarchical ruling class under President Vladimir Putin, force ‘regime change’ and return Russia to the status of the pillaged vassal state under Boris Yeltsin (1990-2000).

Russia’s capitalist state, dependent on the oil and gas industries and western investments and markets, has responded by building up its military defenses. Faced with a US-imposed economic blockade and the growing militarization of US clients on Russia’s periphery, Moscow is finally developing local industries to substitute for EU and US imports and establishing alternative trading partnerships with capitalist China, India, Islamist Iran and the center-left regimes in Latin America.”)

The most obvious evidence of Russia’s presence in the Syrian Civil War emerged in November 2013, when Russian newspaper Fontanka published an article, exposing the Slavonic Corps, consisting of mercenaries sent to Syria to protect Assad’s infrastructure, particularly his oil wells.

[xviii] “Syria: Mapping the conflict”, July 10 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22798391 (In July, it was reported that “Russia has sent advisers and hardware to Syria [and] had despatched an advance military team to Syria, as well as housing units and an air traffic control centre to an airfield.)

[xix] “Fighting around key Syria town ‘leaves 47 dead’ – activists”, September 5, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34165761.

[xx] Id.

[xxi] Brennan, Christopher, “US warns Putin’s foreign minister against dangers of increased aid to Syria’s Assad as reports claim that Russia is setting up ‘forward operating base’ in war-torn country”, September 6, 2015, The Daily Mail, as found on the www at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3223951/US-warns-Putin-s-foreign-minister-against-dangers-increased-aid-Syria-s-Assad-reports-claim-Russia-setting-forward-operating-base-war-torn-country.html#ixzz3l9P1p8LA “Se(cretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister on Saturday and warned that increased presence could lead to greater loss of life

Call comes amid unconfirmed reports that soldiers speaking Russian have been seen fighting anti-government rebels in Russian-made vehicles

The United States has warned Moscow about dangers of increased aid to the Syrian government amid multiple reports that Russian soldiers had begun participating in the country’s civil war.”).

[xxii] Lister, Charles, “Viewpoint: West ‘walking into abyss’ on Syria”, September 28, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34371501.

[xxiii] “Toying with Russian troop deployment to Syria, Putin appears ready to reset relations with US”. September 7, 2015, as found on the www athttp://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/09/07/toying-with-russian-troop-deployment-to-syria-putin-appears-ready-to-reset/.

[xxiv] Id. See also “Syria conflict: US presses Russia on military build-up,” Supra Endnote xxvii (“Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence correspondent opined:

Russia’s backing for Mr Assad should be seen not as a vote of confidence in Syria’s embattled president but as an investment in a country where Rmkussia believes it can play out its foreign-policy role.

Indeed Mr Putin’s military deployments signal that he will not let the Assad regime fall. This does not mean Mr Assad will be there forever.

[xxv] Starr, Barbara, “U.S.: Russia may be seeking proxy in case Syria’s Assad falls”, September 26, 2015, CNN Politics, as found on the www at http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/26/politics/syria-putin-russia-american-strategy/

[xxvi] Id.

[xxvii] “David Cameron to call for new Syria peace drive at UN”, September 27, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-34372286.

[xxviii] “A stronger UN: The Elders hold high-level talks in Liechtenstein”, September 7, 2015, The Elders, as found on the www athttp://www.theelders.org/article/stronger-un-elders-hold-high-level-talks-liechtenstein (Gro Harlem Brundtland, Deputy Chair of The Elders, said, “The UN is a vital part of our global security and governance infrastructure but it has to change – its present arrangements are neither normal nor reasonable.”).

[xxix] “Syria conflict: US presses Russia on military build-up,” September 16, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34263955 (“”Secretary Kerry also reaffirmed the US commitment to fight ISIL (Islamic State) with a coalition of more than 60 countries, of which Assad could never be a credible member, and emphasised the US would welcome a constructive Russian role in counter-ISIL efforts.”).

[xxx] “Syria conflict: Russia ‘to continue Assad military aid’”, September 15, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34256389 (“Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged continued military support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad despite growing concerns over Moscow’s role in the war… The US would prefer to see more “constructive engagement” from Russia with the coalition against so-called Islamic State (IS), spokesman Josh Earnest said.”).

See also Wagner, Laura, “Putin Defends Russian Military Support For Syrian Regime”, September 15, 2015, NPR News, as found on the www athttp://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/09/15/440578356/putin-defends-russian-military-support-for-syrian-regime?sc=17&f=1001&utm_source=iosnewsapp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=app (“Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended his decision to provide military assistance to the Syrian government, saying that cooperating with Bashar Assad’s regime is necessary in order to defeat ISIS…”)

[xxxi] Arshad, Mohammed, and Irish, John, “Russia seizes initiative in Syria crisis; France bombs Islamic State”, September 28, 2015, Reuters, as found on the www at http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/28/us-mideast-crisis-putin-usa-idUSKCN0RR0H820150928 (“Russia appeared to seize the initiative in international efforts to end the conflict in Syria…U.S. officials said Kerry was working on a new political initiative in New York that would include Russia and key regional powers.

It was announced in Baghdad that Russian military officials were working with counterparts from Iran, Syria and Iraq on intelligence and security cooperation to counter Islamic State, which has captured large areas of both Syria and Iraq.

The move was seen in the region as potentially giving Moscow more sway in the Middle East.

Russian President Vladimir Putin derided U.S. efforts to end the Syria war, which has driven a tide of refugees into neighboring states and Europe.

“We would welcome a common platform for collective action against the terrorists,” Putin said in an interview on Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

The United States, Britain and some other allies in recent days have softened demands that Assad immediately leave power, raising the possibility that he could stay during a transition.”).

[xxxii] Bays, James, “Russia steps up Syria support ‘to stop fall of Assad’”, September 26, 2015, Al Jazeera, as found on the www at http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/russia-troops-syria-stop-imminent-fall-assad-150926180925801.html (“Russia intends to step up its military involvement in Syria to prevent the “imminent” collapse of the Syrian government, the EU’s foreign policy chief [Federica Mogherini] has told Al Jazeera.”).