Earlier this month in the United Nations Security Council, the world saw a preview of what Russian and Chinese global “leadership” looks like: a world order where the most vulnerable suffer for the political gains of those at the top.
Twice, Russia and China vetoed U.N. resolutions which would have ensured that lifesaving humanitarian aid could reach millions of suffering Syrians through vital border crossings. The remaining 13 members of the Security Council, along with U.N. leaders and nongovernmental organizations serving Syrians, strongly and publicly advocated for the renewal and reopening of three border crossings. But after days of intense negotiations, the resolution that passed allows only one northwestern crossing point to remain open for the next 12 months. Sadly, this one crossing will not be nearly enough for the millions of Syrians who continue to depend on U.N. assistance to survive.
This nefarious alliance within the Security Council is depriving millions of innocent civilians, including children, of essential food, medicine and care, all in the interest of solidifying the so-called legitimacy of the murderous regime of Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad. No truly great power would behave in this way.
The recent events at the United Nations have confirmed Vladimir Putin’s and Xi Jinping’s priorities. First, Russia continues to reach new lows in its quest to maintain a foothold in Syria and along the Mediterranean. Russia protects the brutal Assad regime without regard for its atrocities against the Syrian people. The United Nations has reported that Russia has assisted in the bombing of hospitals and civilian centers across Syria. Yet, the Russian regime’s active participation in efforts to oppress and deny relief to the Syrian people should come as no surprise. After all, this is how Russia’s leaders treat their own citizens.
Second, China has no credible interest in the Syrian conflict, yet it continues to veto resolutions that would provide lifesaving assistance — the overwhelming majority of which is provided by the West — to the Syrian people. The world has witnessed the horrific human rights abuses the Chinese Communist Party commits at home, including those against Uighurs and Tibetans. The party claims these are internal matters, yet China’s actions in the Middle East, which jeopardize the lives of Syrians, show that Beijing is not shy about meddling outside its borders. The United States supports the human rights of the Syrian people, just as we do the Uighurs, Tibetans and other persecuted minorities in China
As Russia and China continue to show their true colors, it is important to remember that the Americans are among the largest humanitarian aid providers to the Syrian people. The United States is leading the way on holding Mr. Assad accountable for the crimes he has committed, and we will continue to stand with the Syrian people by working toward a political solution. Syrians deserve a better and brighter future.
Going forward, the United States, the rest of the U.N. Security Council, private aid groups and other United Nations agencies need to increase the pressure on Russia and China. The world needs to know who is responsible for cutting off this lifesaving assistance to the Syrian people. This is not a confrontation between the United States and Russia and China. It is the entire world versus Russia and China.
In 12 months, when the Syria border-crossing resolution comes up for renewal again, Russia and China will almost assuredly again be on the wrong side of humanity. These actions highlight the attitude of China and Russia on the international stage, where callous indifference toward the rest of humanity is the trademark of their foreign policy.
It is imperative that we push back against this behavior now. If we do not, we will repeat this same fight for years to come. For the sake of the Syrian people, and the rest of the world, we must not let them win.
James Risch, an Idaho Republican, chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.