A sobering verdict on Russia and China from Prof. Ignatieff

Al Assad poster
A vandalised poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lies in a trash container in the northern city of Aleppo on July 24, 2012. A commercial hub and home to 2.5 million people, Syria's second city Aleppo has become a new front in the country's 16-month uprising, after being largely excluded from the violence. (AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC)

Michael Ignatieff, writing at the blog for the New York Review of Books, looks at Great Power Diplomacy and Syria and has some rather dire observations:

A vast swathe of the globe, from the Russian border to the Pacific, including the tributary states of the Russian near-abroad, is now in the hands of venal, ruthless, deeply corrupt, single-party elites. These elites—Russian and Chinese—will draw closer together, as they understand that they have made the same strategic choice. Both are using capitalism to consolidate political despotism. They both see the world as a battle between elites like themselves with unlimited power and Western elites whose power is limited by democratic liberty.When they look at the world this way, the Russian and Chinese regimes mock our view of history. They believe history is on their side. The economic crisis now entering its fifth year confirms their view that democracies are divided, incompetent, venal, hypocritical, and above all, weak. As Putin himself said in a speech in Moscow on July 9, our economic malaise is “weakening the dominant role of the so-called historical West.” Where the US and the West intervene, as in Iraq or Afghanistan, and try to impose what Putin called “missile-bomb diplomacy” we do not stay the course, and where we fail to back words with actions, as in Syria, we confirm the Russian and Chinese instinct that we are weak.

Read the rest of Ignatieff’s essay: How Syria Divided the World by Michael Ignatieff | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

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