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Shame on Russia

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Maybe it’s some kind of gangster code.  All gangsters, of whatever stripes, stick together.

Russia and China took a steaming dump on the Zimbabwean opposition and much of the world by vetoing a UN Security Council Resolution that would place sanctions on Robert Mugabe and 13 members of his gang.  Nine countries backed the proposal, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Italy and Panama.  Five opposed it: Russia, China, South Africa, and Vietnam.  China and Russia carry the big veto stick.

The sanctions would have imposed a travel ban and frozen Mugabe and his thug’s assets.

In recent weeks, Mugabe has unleashed a chistka on the opposition throughout Zimbabwe.  The latest report is that 133 supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change have been killed in political violence.  Reports the AFP,

Among the most recent victims was a polling agent, Gift Mutsvungunu, whose body was found in a suburb of Harare on Thursday after he was reported missing last week, the MDC said in a statement.

“His body shows signs of intense torture, his eyes were gouged out and his backside suffered serious burns before his abductors killed him,” it added.

“There is reasonable suspicion that state security agents killed him, as his injuries are consistent with those of other deceased persons who were abducted and later killed by state security agents.”

Alas, the Russians couldn’t do the right thing. It seemed that Russia was on board two days ago.  The Financial Times reported,

Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe last night faced a growing likelihood of global sanctions after world leaders, including Russia, backed international action to resolve the crisis provoked by June’s flawed elections.

It seems that the G8 leaders figured that Medvedev was making an about face by signing his name to a statement calling for action against Mugabe.  Nope.  That was a press opportunity.  Going along with the crowd.  Plus Russia’s vote is a good middle finger to Britain and America.

I guess Russia is thinking, why they should do the Anglos any favors?  US wants missiles in the Czech Republic. The US is already talking to Poland about missiles. Now they want Russia to play a long. Not gonna happen.

It’s no surprise that many neighboring African leaders want the UN to stay out. Seven of them said as much at the G8. “Robert Mugabe may retire in a few years time,” was their view. I also get why the Africans don’t want interfere simply on principle.  It has never brought them any good.

Still, I can’t help but also speculate that Russia, China, the Africans, and Vietnamese don’t want to set any precedents.  The last thing they want is for the UN get in the business of poking its nose in a state’s right to use terror.  After all, you never know when it might come in handy.

Then again, its also not that simple. And of course you have to wonder what sanctions will do anyway.  Okay so Mugabe and his people can’t leave Zimbabwe and their asserts are frozen.  And that’s going to do what exactly?  It’s really just a gesture when you think of it.

However, it’s not like the Russians are providing much in way of a solution.  Russian senior G8 negotiator Alexander Pankin told the press, “Threatening sanctions is not the best way to settle the issue. We believe there should be negotiations between the parties involved with the participation of African leaders.”  Well that is nice.  The opposition shows up to the negotiations and gets slaughtered.  That sounds just as idealistic as thinking sanctions will make a difference.

But at least sanctions are something.  Sometimes such gestures are important. It also sounds like these are precise.  If they were general sanctions on the country as a whole, a la Cuba, Iraq, or North Korea, then forget it.  There is no reason why the Zimbabweans have to suffer more than they already do.

Plus, hitting Mugabe in his pocketbook might at least annoy him.  Or even better get him in trouble with his young wife.  As seven million Zimbabweans starve, Mugabe’s beloved Grace bounces around Europe buying $50,000 diamond encrusted Rolexes and staying in $20,000 a night, 33 room hotel suites.  She zips around in Hef’s old jet.  She’s known in Zimbabwe as the First Shopper.  I hope that travel ban also included her.  Cutting off her access to Ferragamo shoes, which can run in the few thousand a pair, might be the best way to send a message to Mugabe. “I have very narrow feet, so I wear only Ferragamo,” she says.

Shame on Russia.