Russian diplomats indicated yesterday that Moscow would oppose any resolution by the UN Security Council authorizing the use of force against Iraq if Baghdad violates the agreement brokered earlier this week by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. At present, "there are no grounds" for talking about the use of force against Iraq, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov told journalists yesterday in Moscow. The same message was conveyed in a Russian Foreign Ministry statement, which also specified that any use of force against Iraq could only be a last resort and would require approval by all members of the UN Security Council. French diplomats indicated yesterday that the French government concurs with the Russian. (Russian agencies; AP, February 25)
The comments from Moscow come as Washington and London push for a resolution threatening force in the event of a new demonstration of defiance by Baghdad. "It is absolutely essential that we are not back in this position in a few weeks’ or a few months’ time," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on February 23 in urging for approval of the resolution. (The New York Times, February 24; AP, February 25) The statement from Russia’s Foreign Ministry on the need for Security Council approval of any future military action against Iraq appears to be aimed at countering the United States’s warning that it will feel free to launch air attacks on Iraq if authorities there fail to comply with this week’s agreement. Washington has made clear its intention to maintain its military buildup in the Persian Gulf region.
Political leaders in Russia have credited diplomacy, and their leading role in it, for resolving the latest impasse between Iraq and the UN. The United States and Britain remain dubious of the latest Iraqi-UN agreement. They maintain that Iraq made the commitments it did only because those diplomatic efforts were backed by a credible threat of force. Moscow’s stance on the use of force comes despite the fact that Iraqi defiance of UN weapons inspectors has now precipitated two crises in the Persian Gulf over the past four months. UN inspectors have also pointed to a pattern of deception by Iraqi authorities in their efforts to thwart UN inspection efforts — observations that have gotten little attention in Russia.
Yeltsin Threatens to Sack Three Ministers.