4 April 1999

Russia's desperate attempts to play s super power role at the United Nations Security Council last Friday (March 26) are poignant - it showed how diminished it had become since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Moscow is in the throes of an economic calamity. It must be anguishing for Russians to realise that only a strong flourishing economy can regain its former superpower status. It has firepower, but without money, it can only harm itself if it goes beyond certain limits.

It badly needs IMF aid and the IMF has just agreed to loan it another US$4.8 billion (RM18.2 billion) giving it a brief lifeline.

As one diplomat told me: "You cannot be a superpower or be respected by anyone if you go around begging for money."

How true! I believe one should not discount Russia, after all it still has 10,000 plus nuclear missile warheads although it is unlikely that it will use them because "while they can destroy some places, in a nuclear world war Russia will be devastated." confided a major politician to me.

Malaysia supported the US-led Nato bombings of Yugoslavia to help the alliance of 19 nations halt ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo by the Serbs.

The Russian-sponsored resolution supported by India, China and Belarus described Nato's intervention as a flagrant violation of the UN Charter but, alas, it failed to condemn Slobodan Milosevic's unchecked repressive and massacre of innocent people of Kosovo for simply being Albanians, and neither did it make any reference at all to Milosevic's refusal to sign the peace treaty which Moscow helped promote and signed by the Albanian representatives at Rambouillet in France.

Milosevic wants to create a greater Serbia by exploiting the nationalist sentiments of the Serbs.

A sample: Whoever is a Serb and of Serbian birth and who does not come to Kosovo Field to do battle against the Turks (read Albanians), Let him have neither a male nor a female offspring. Let him have no crop.

I have quoted the above mantra from the Washington Post of March 28 from an article by Michael Dobbs.

The Russian resolution managed to muster support only from China and Namibia. India is not a Security Council member.

The five Nato nations on the Security Council - Canada, US, France, Britain and the Netherlands, were supported by Malaysia, Argentina, Brazil, Bahrain, Gabon, Gambia and Solvenia. It was a crushing and humiliating diplomatic defeat for Moscow.

A senior diplomat told me: "The Russian support for the Serbs was too apparent, betraying its lack of diplomatic sensitivity and displays too fierce a partisanship and was penalised. I had persuaded my capital to stay neutral but when I saw the draft resolution I told my government to support the Nato action."

I asked him: What if Russia took the matter to a specific general assembly. He replied:"If Moscow wants a bigger drubbing, try it."

For those who believe in human rights, the protection of people against genocide knows no boundaries and it is not only a right, but a duty of superior powers to intervene, that despots should not be permitted to slaughter their own citizens to remain in power.

Nato has the means and the will to intervene and it did.