The Positions of Russia and China at the UN Security Council in the Light of Recent Crises

01-03-2013

In 2011/12 China and Russia cast three vetoes in the Security Council against UN intervention in Syria to prevent government forces suppressing less well-armed oppositionists. This seemed to run counter to the willingness of these states to accept UN intervention in Libya at the beginning of 2011. How should this be explained? It also raised questions about the likely Russian and Chinese response to a possible worsening of the confrontation between the Security Council and Iran over its presumed nuclear programme. The answers derive from the posture of these two states towards the role of the UN in global governance generally, as well as their particular strategic concerns in the UNSC. There are apparent contradictions between the policies of the two states, as well as common threads. Russo-Chinese relations in the UNSC are also structured by the wider context of relations in the General Assembly, and by the efforts by both governments to promote a thickening as well as a harmonisation of foreign policies. But there are significant limitations on the likely extent of that harmonisation.

In 2011/12 China and Russia cast three vetoes in the Security Council against UN intervention in Syria to prevent government forces suppressing less well-armed oppositionists. This seemed to run counter to the willingness of these states to accept UN intervention in Libya at the beginning of 2011. How should this be explained? It also raised questions about the likely Russian and Chinese response to a possible worsening of the confrontation between the Security Council and Iran over its presumed nuclear programme. The answers derive from the posture of these two states towards the role of the UN in global governance generally, as well as their particular strategic concerns in the UNSC. There are apparent contradictions between the policies of the two states, as well as common threads. Russo-Chinese relations in the UNSC are also structured by the wider context of relations in the General Assembly, and by the efforts by both governments to promote a thickening as well as a harmonisation of foreign policies. But there are significant limitations on the likely extent of that harmonisation.

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Peter FERDINAND (University of Warwick, UK)