Russia's Power Greed

Russia's Lavrov condemns EU oil sanctions on Syria

extracted from BBC.co.uk

Russia has condemned the EU's move to step up sanctions on Syria by banning imports of its oil, amid ongoing protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the sanctions would "lead to nothing good".

Oil accounts for about 25% of Syria's income and EU member states take about 95% of its oil exports.

At least 14 people were reportedly killed on Friday as protesters again came out in force across the country.

Activists said seven had died in suburbs of the capital Damascus, four in the central city of Homs, and another three in Deir al-Zour in the east.

The United Nations says more than 2,200 people have been killed since pro-democracy demonstrations began in mid-March.

I had my first-hand experience of the depth of soviet-era Russian indoctrination when I had a chance to work with a Kazakh and an Uzbekh at a meat processing plant in South Korea. If we Filipinos are so effectively indoctrinated by the Americans to the point that at some point we almost see them as gods, that is exactly how these former soviets still regard Russia. They see Russia as a moral icon and the west as the evil antagonist.

It is precisely this lingering psyche in the masses of their former dominions that Russia would like to tap as they strive hard to muscle through geopolitics and reposition themselves as the balancing superpower to the US giant. Together with China, apparently it has succeeded in, not exactly balancing, but providing resistance to the western dominance in international politics.

In the advent of the Arab Spring, this resistance was put on a new stage. While the west are eager to cash in on the revolution in the name of freedom and democracy (the usual rhetoric), albeit selfishly careful and selective, Russia and China chose to argue on the side of stability and sovereignty (the usual rhetoric too). While China's position can be interpreted as driven by its sense of integrity and political consistency with domestic policies and national security, Russia's is something else. With a market economy dominated by mafia magnates and a party system swarmed with oligarchs, the spirit of its politics is more of a predator. In that sense, its motivation is almost just identical with that of the west: the acquisition of as much of the the world's resources as it can, not only for domestic consumption but for economic opportunities.

The Arab Spring is ripe with such opportunities. The west saw that, albeit nervously, and Russia saw that too. So we have two opposing positions with almost exactly the same motivation. The difference is the west's policies is subject to the scrutiny of an open society while Russia only answers to its ruling party. Thus it was only natural for the west to take the position they took simply because it is where the moral sympathies of their constituent lies. Can we say the same of Russia?

Would we venture to say that Russians does not feel for the hundreds of Syrians braving the self-imposed frontlines of the Assad's army, all in the name of freedom and democratic change? Scores die each day Russia flaunts its security council veto power just so, as they say, Assad be given more time to reform. Are we to believe ordinary Russians are as impervious to arbitrary murder and blatant disregard of human dignity as its government? I seriously doubt it.

As the Arab Spring rages, this Russia will be gradually unmasked. If Libya is any lesson, the tide cannot be against the people's real and pure hunger for empowerment and liberation. What Russia's resistance only provides is the more likelihood of more and greater violence within Syria, which may translate to more innocent lives wasted and families shattered as a full blown and potentially protracted armed insurrection becomes increasingly imminent.

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