Cultural Revolutions

A Surprising Threat of Veto

Vladimir Putin, during his February trip to Germany and France, surprised Kremlin watchers east and west by threatening to veto any U.S.- or U.K.-sponsored resolution on military action against Iraq.  In Paris, Putin told reporters that, if a resolution on the “unreasonable use of force” against Baghdad were made “today,” Moscow “would act with France or alone” to block it.  He subsequently repeated the warning, calling it a “grave error” for the United States, which was threatening to act without the approval of the U.N. Security Council, to move against Iraq “outside of international law.”  Putin had earlier endorsed a proposal made by France and Germany to intensify U.N. weapons inspections as an alternative to war.

It is one thing for Moscow to endorse such a plan, while allowing France and Germany to take the political heat from the United States.  (Indeed, Washington did not appear to blame Russia for the proposal.)  It is quite another, however, for the Kremlin to risk a direct confrontation with the Bush White House, something Putin had studiously avoided since Moscow declared itself an American ally in the War on Terror.  

By pledging to aid Washington’s War on Terror, Moscow had dramatically shifted the focus of its foreign policy, which had previously emphasized reestablishing ties to Soviet-era allies in the Middle...

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