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May 31, 2012

Russia to Block Syria Military Intervention

by Jessica Golloher

MOSCOW - Russia said the United Nations Security Council should not consider new measures to resolve the crisis in Syria and signaled it would block any effort to authorize military intervention in its Middle Eastern ally.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow has consistently maintained that dialogue with both the Syrian opposition and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is necessary for peace.

The comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States would need Moscow’s help if military intervention in Syria is to take place.

Masha Lipman, a political analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow, said she is not surprised by the Kremlin’s stance.

"I think Russia has taken a firm stand that it would not be allowed to use the U.N. Security Council for regime change, for toppling a national leader. This is Russia’s firm stance that this is not what the U.N. Security Council is for," Lipman said.

On Sunday, Russia supported a non-binding Security Council resolution that strongly condemned the killing of more than 100 civilians in Houla last week. Moscow also criticized Assad’s government for using heavy weapons in population centers.

Syria is Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East. The relationship dates back to Soviet times. Russia sells arms to Damascas as part of a deal that allows Moscow to maintain a naval base there.

This is why many world leaders say the Kremlin is key to stopping the violence in Syria.

But Lipman, with the Carnegie Center, said Russia’s relationship with the United States may also point more towards why Moscow will not back military intervention in Syria.

"Russia has made it very clear that it will not come on board with Western countries, especially given the physical stage in U.S.-Russia relations," said Lipman. "This stand will remain firm."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Moscow does not support the Assad government and that the Kremlin would like to see U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan’s cease-fire enforced.

He said that Russia is certainly worried by continuing attempts to derail Mr. Annan's plan.

Other world leaders say it has been six weeks since Annan unveiled his peace plan, and it has yet to work. Secretary Clinton maintains that the Kremlin’s policy on Syria could lead to a civil war in Syria.