February 24, 2003


Russia plays its economic card over Iraq (Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Kara-Murza, February 23 2003, Financial Times)
Despite Russia's reminder to the US last week that it could still use its UN Security Council veto against military action in Iraq, Moscow's stance has generally been more conciliatory than that adopted by Paris. This may appear surprising given Russia's record of supporting Baghdad, and its opposition to UN and Nato military intervention against Serbia in 1999.

Yet there is a simple explanation. While Russia's relations with Serbia are characterised by long-standing feelings of ethnic, religious and cultural proximity, as well as the pursuit of geopolitical interests in the Balkans, Russia's attitude towards Iraq is pragmatic. To be more precise: its interests are economic. By recognising those interests as legitimate, and by making clear they could be furthered by the removal of the Ba'athist dictatorship, the Anglo-American coalition could win over Russian support.

The first and perhaps easiest issue to resolve is Iraq's $8bn debt to Russia. Needless to say, Moscow wants its money back, yet repayment is outof the question while the UN sanctions regime remains in place. There is, however, another way: the US-UK coalition could recognise Iraq's foreigndebts and guarantee their repayment by the post-Saddam regime.

It's time to stop paying off the creditors of totalitarian regimes. Let a few of these multi-billion dollar debts go begging and let's see who'll be willing to lend tyrants money. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 24, 2003 10:29 PM
Comments for this post are closed.