February 01, 1999

The Way Things Should Not Be

In a rare display of political unity, Russia’s executive and legislative branches both condemned the US and British bombing of Iraq. Whereas Americans strongly supported the action (perhaps because they were distracted by the impeachment proceedings – it’s not for me to judge which tail was wagging which dog), the reaction across Russia has been overwhelmingly negative. Let me explain why.

First, as President Yeltsin said, the bombing “should be considered a blow to the whole system of international security, the central link of which is the United Nations and its Security Council.” Which is why Russia took the grave step of recalling its ambassadors to the US and Great Britain for consultations. As one high-ranking Russian diplomat said in an interview with Kommersant Daily, the reason for Russia’s indignation was not out of “some special love for Saddam Hussein,” but because of the US’s obvious attempt to offset the system of international relations.

Second, when Clinton deliberately ignored Moscow’s position, it was seen as a clear attempt to humiliate Russia and lower its international status. Many felt ashamed, as TV6 channel opined, that Russia “can be so deliberately humiliated.” After all, Russia is not just a country of matryoshkas and balalaikas. It is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a seat gained largely due to its role in the WWII victory.

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