Russia blocked action against Syria at the UNSC but, despite anti-NATO rhetoric, continued to cooperate in supplying forces in Afghanistan.
The EU and Russia found themselves on opposing sides of the conflict in Syria. Unlike on Libya the year before, Europeans were united in trying to persuade Russia to change its policy on Syria. Nevertheless, Russia (together with China) vetoed resolutions proposed by the EU to impose sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria. As Moscow dismissed criticism and continued its arms shipments to Damascus, the EU started to offer more significant support to the rebels. Although Europeans did not give up on attempts to change Russian policy – Syria was on the agenda of nearly every European leader whose interaction with Russia involves global strategic issues – they may not have done all they could to win Russian support at the UN. Given that Moscow is on principle opposed to regime change from outside, but at the same time does not necessarily see President Bashar al-Assad’s rule as a policy goal, Europeans hope that cooperation with Russia on Syria will be more fruitful once Assad has fallen.
Meanwhile, cooperation within the Middle East Quartet has stagnated but improved in Afghanistan. The EU and Russia issued joint statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his support for the two-state solution. Although Russia did not make much effort on the Middle East Peace Process, it successfully maintained relationships with Fatah, Hamas, and Israel. Russia criticised what it called NATO’s “artificial deadline” for pulling out of Afghanistan by 2014 and expressed fears that the country would turn into a major exporter of drugs and terrorism. However, it also warned about staying longer and claimed any continued NATO bases would require a UN resolution to be legal. But despite its anti-NATO rhetoric, Moscow continued its cooperation in supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan. In an unprecedented move, it even allowed a NATO transit centre to open at its base in Ulyanovsk – a city about 500 miles southeast of Moscow, and the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin.
|Leaders: France - Germany - United Kingdom|