Russia has decided once again to line itself up with absurd and offensive positions by vetoing the Srebrenica resolution in the UN Security Council.
Here is what looks to be the final text.
Most of it is the usual rather convoluted language of UN-speak recalling and noting earlier positions. I suspect that the key passage the Russians would not accept was substantive paragraph 3:
Agrees that acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite to reconciliation, calls upon political leaders on all sides to acknowledge and accept the fact of proven crimes as established by the courts, and in this context, condemns denial of this genocide as hindering efforts towards reconciliation, and recognises also that continued denial is deeply distressing for the victims.
If I am right, it makes one wonder why the sponsoring countries led by the UK decided that this passage was so important as to risk a Russian veto of all the rest of the text, which conveyed a stern and balanced enough message on Srebrenica and war crimes generally.
It is obviously annoying if not repellant to any normal people that various Serb leaders duck and weave on this ‘genocide’ issue, effectively ‘relativising’ the Srebrenica killings to just one unusually nasty massacre among many others. That said, they are now effectively empowered by this Russian veto in claiming that despite at least two clear international court rulings there is no international political consensus on the status of the Srebrenica massacre. RS leader Dodik can now boldly claim that following this veto his odious evasions on Srebrenica are not hindering ‘reconciliation’.
Passing the resolution without that passage (had the Russians indeed accepted that deletion as good enough) might have left the Bosnian Muslims infuriated, but it would have established the link between Srebrenica and genocide firmly and unambiguously in a binding UN resolution by merely stating the facts of the legal judgements as facts. Better that than nothing?
Plus it is odd (to me) that the language in this passage is so prescriptive: Agrees that acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite to reconciliation… This seems to me to be politically but also substantively unwise. It pushes too hard and almost invites the Russians to say so. In South Africa the Truth and Reconciliation process did not demand that any Afrikaner entering it sign a paper accepting that apartheid was a crime against humanity. Rather the process let people slowly but surely find their own way through these darkest of moral mazes by searching their own souls. That is surely a much sounder approach to reconciliation that actually reconciles – approach it slowly but surely, not by telling people what they have to think and say. RS leader Dodik can now boldly claim that following this veto his odious evasions on Srebrenica are not hindering ‘reconciliation’. Is that really a good outcome for UK and wider Western policy? No.
All of which said, the fact that Russia has vetoed this one is impressive. UNSC resolutions are rarely vetoed, especially when they have an essentially declaratory character. It just goes to show how far Moscow is prepared to go these days to make a stand against Western governments on positions of supposed principle that do make sense on some ways of looking at things but scarcely qualify as ‘principled. A few years ago this sort of thing would have been sorted out in hard bargaining within the UN P5 countries. Now there is no mood favouring all concerned making smart deft concessions to close such gaps. Hence many strategic issues simply rot, in a dangerous way. See Syria and others.
And it also goes to show just how far the Obama/Clinton Re-Set button idea was incompetent in itself and then just not delivered in a way that mattered. But we knew that already.