That was the most dramatic session of the UN General Assembly as far as one call recall, maybe even since the day of its foundation. This is how Russian high-ranking diplomats classify in private their recent business trip to the United States. Last evening, the diplomatic delegation headed by Igor Ivanov returned to Russia.
Nonetheless, that was only one scene of an endless drama. "What shall we do?" many diplomats from around the world ask themselves this classic question expecting another round of the U.S. policy of using force against Iraq, its allies, the UN and the whole world community. At present, the dispute is limited to the forthcoming vote of the UN Security Council. In the coming days and weeks, Washington will be doing its best, lobbying its openly provocative anti-Iraqi resolution.
The point is to forward such conditions for the forthcoming UN inspections which are to expose programmes of creating weapons of mass destruction that would force Saddam Hussein to refuse to cooperate with the inspectors. If this is a success, then the Security Council will get caught in the American trap and will have to vote for the war. If the Security Council rejects the American tough project, then George W. Bush supported by the US Congress resolution (to be adopted on one of these days) will launch an offensive against Iraq all by himself (apparently, in conjunction with Great Britain).
In short, both developments allow Washington to prove that it can "twist the arms" of the whole world and this seems to be its primary objective, rather than a reform of Iraq or the Middle East. America's old dislike of the UN can now lead to a collapse of this organisation at least because the congressional resolution does not give the US president the right to violate the UN Charter. The Charter enjoys the status of an international treaty and is consequently supreme over any domestic legislation. This implies that, theoretically, the US unilateral anti-Iraqi campaign is a violation of the UN Charter and, once again theoretically, a ground to impose UN sanctions. However, no one is powerful enough to make America comply with them.
The status of Russian diplomats prevents them, just like the others, from openly stating that tolerance in respect to America's loutish behaviour, just like to that of Saddam's, also has its limits. However, it's not about Saddam, but about proving to the United States that its omnipotence is equally limited, in a friendly and polite manner.
A super state which denounces its international obligations is not only dangerous, but is also doomed to fail. Its failure will be caused by terrorists when its gets stuck in the Middle East and by its allies who will defeat it not militarily, but economically. And all this is happening when Moscow has just started to realise all the advantages of a rapprochement with the United States, to get used to the term "an alliance with America." Russian society is extremely slow in getting accustomed to new realities, for instance, to the fact that we now have to oppose America not as a strategic rival, but as a new friend and ally. In Russia, there are so few people who understand that when dealing with the Iraqi issue Moscow does not make a step back towards the "cold war" era. Russia is currently facing a situation similar to that of France, which has serious economic interests in the Middle East and in Iraq, in particular, but considers itself an old American ally.
Over the past year or two, France and Russia have been rivalling each other in becoming Iraq's main trade partner both within the Oil for Food programme and on its sidelines. Moscow is now believed to be ranking first (4.3-billion-dollar annual turnover), but Paris is not too far behind. As to the existing agreements concerning Iraqi oil deposits, France seems to be ahead of Russia, which means that the leader on the Iraqi oil market is not the LUKOIL-led consortium, but Totalfina-Elf. Both countries are perfectly aware that a war against Iraq implies the appearance of American companies on the market - period.
So far, the world community is enjoying the moment when it all comes down to the UN vote hiding behind the backs of Russia, France and China - the three permanent members of the UN Security Council whose veto right will decide the fate of the resolution on inspections in Iraq. A doubtful privilege of holding the first line is the only thing that makes Moscow (Beijing and Paris) different from other capitals where they are also desperately pondering on how to slightly limit the American omnipotence before an American own venture does it.