Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking live on BBC's Talking Point ON March 4, said Russia would use its veto power in the United Nations Security Council "if the situation demands." Ivanov added, "Abstaining is not a position Russia can take, we have to take a clear position, and we are for a political solution."
Stratfor sources revealed Feb. 24 that the destruction of al-Samoud missiles by Iraq was a Russian initiative, presented to Washington in a bid to prevent war. Moscow also has announced it is prepared to send troops to back up inspectors -- another element of the Russian initiative.
From Russia's perspective, the initiative -- carried to Baghdad by former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov -- proved that a diplomatic solution is possible. Moscow succeeded in extracting cooperation from Saddam Hussein, answering U.S. criticisms and demands -- and therefore Washington's continued efforts to secure a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing war are unnecessary. As far as the Kremlin is concerned, not only does Washington's continued push for war ignore Russia's role as a mediator, but U.S. bribes and threats to win the votes of smaller Security Council members also make a mockery of the international body.
Russia is growing increasingly vehement in its opposition to the U.S. campaign in the Security Council, frustrated that Russian-secured Iraqi cooperation and the combined opposition of Russia, China, France and Germany are not enough to dissuade Washington from war. While Moscow does not want to confront the United States alone, it also does not want to accept that no amount of international pressure or compliance can thwart U.S. intentions. Hopeful that it can rely on France, Germany, China and the goodwill of the Muslim world in the aftermath, Russia indeed might veto the U.S. resolution -- marking a turning point in post-Soviet Russian politics and Russian-U.S. relations.
Moscow would prefer that the resolution never come to a vote, and it continues back-channel diplomatic efforts to that end. Moscow still is trying to sell Primakov's plan and is asking for a last chance to disarm Iraq peacefully "to the last rifle," but the White House insists that Hussein must go anyway. That is unlikely, so Moscow fears the war is inevitable.
Russia indeed veto the U.S. resolution, but only as a last resort. To do so alone would mark a turning point in post-Soviet Russian politics and Russian-U.S. relations. Stratfor sources in France and Russia report that Moscow, Paris and Beijing are working to arrange a collegial veto, in order to maximize the veto's impact and to deprive the United States of an opportunity to single any one of them out for retaliation.