Why won’t Russia play ball with U.S. on Syria?

Russia depends on Syria, refuses to follow American calls for condemnation

John Dyer By John Dyer

Syrians in Damascus hold signs celebrating the close links between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Reuters/Khaled al- Hariri)

The end of the week means the closing of a chapter in the never-ending cycle of global news. Here’s what some foreign media outlets said about the United States and issues that affect us:

Putin’s principles

In the United States, we tend to scratch our heads when Russia refuses to join the international chorus of criticism against Syria. This week, the scratching occurred when Moscow on Friday voted against the United Nation’s condemnation of the Syrian government’s role in the massacre of 100 people, mostly women and children, in the city of Houla in late May.

But, according to Ria Novosti, the reasons for Moscow’s coziness with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are as clear as glass:

Syria has long been, of course, one of Russia’s strongest allies in the Middle East, and a reliable purchaser of Russian weapons. The Syrian port of Tartus also hosts the Kremlin’s only naval base outside the former Soviet Union. But is this all that lies behind Russia’s apparent willingness to leave itself open to allegations that it is propping up a bloodthirsty dictator?

“The Kremlin’s deeply held view of sovereignty as an unlimited right for political regimes to do as they please inside their states is one of the cornerstones of Russian foreign policy, and it has been especially dominant since the war in Libya,” wrote Moscow-based radio Kommersant FM commentator in a column for RIA Novosti earlier this week.

So Russia’s position, essentially, is realpolitik wrapped in principles. Kind of like a fist in a velvet glove.

Alleged U.S. spy nabbed in China

The BBC cast some light on the case of the Chinese state security official who was arrested Friday by police in China on allegations of espionage.

Citing Chinese-language press reports, the BBC said the Central Intelligence Agency essentially blackmailed the man, who reportedly passed secrets onto his American masters for years.

Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily quotes the monthly New Way as saying on 25 May that the official “fell into a pretty woman trap” set up by the CIA.

After the two were photographed in secret liaisons, he was blackmailed and agreed to supply secret information to the US, the reports say.

It’s a peculiar twist that a woman might have been used to “turn” the official. The exact fears were raised when President Barack Obama’s Secret Service agents were discovered to have patronized prostitutes in Colombia in April.

There’s the beef

On a more positive note, Taiwanese food safety officials deemed American beef safe on Monday after a delegation from the island country inspected a handful of slaughterhouses in the U.S., the Taipei Times reported.

Taiwan has banned imports of American beef off and on for years after mad cow disease was found in American meat facilities.

The delegation found that one slaughterhouse in Kansas wasn’t properly removing cattle tonsils, prompting the delegation to ban imports of beef from that plant, which produces around 10 percent of the meat that had been bound for Taiwan, the paper reports.

I wonder if anyone in that delegation has read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair?