Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 4

Russia’s ambassador to NATO suggested yesterday that an article published by the “Washington Post” earlier in the day had helped confirm for Russia its dissatisfaction with the performance of United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) chairman Richard Butler. The article said that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was alarmed over evidence that UNSCOM had provided the U.S. government with intelligence information useful to Washington in its efforts to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (Washington Post, January 6).

Russia has long made clear its desire for Butler’s ouster. Lavrov yesterday suggested that the Washington Post article had justified to Moscow its distrust of the UNSCOM chief. Although both Butler and U.S. government officials reportedly denied the published allegations, Lavrov also said that the U.S. newspaper must have had proof for what it printed (International agencies, January 6). Russian officials have rarely given such credence to Western newspapers–including the “Washington Post”–when they have published articles which reflected badly on Russia. That has been especially true, for example, in the case of a spate of recent articles detailing Russian aid for Iranian nuclear, missile and biological weapons programs.

Lavrov’s remarks yesterday, together with the appearance of the Washington Post article, suggest that efforts by Russia, France and China to oust Butler will intensify in the days and weeks to come. Among permanent UN Security Council members, the United States and Britain have been the main defenders of the embattled UNSCOM chief. The battle over Butler is also directly related to the larger struggle over future UN policy toward Iraq. Russia is spearheading a drive to ease sanctions on Iraq and to make international weapons inspections in that country less intrusive. The United States and Britain continue to take a harder line on those issues.