In the wake of Wednesday’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution to condemn last week’s deadly gas attack in Syria and force Syria to cooperate with an international investigation.
Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said the resolution “does not serve a useful purpose.”
It “appointed the guilty party prior to the investigation,” which he said is “incompatible with the legal norms.”
Russia had earlier objected to wording in the resolution that required Syria to provide flight plans and information about air operations on the day of the attack, names of helicopter squadron commanders, and access to air bases from which an attack may have been launched.
Russia’s action outraged Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said it was “no surprise to anyone that the Putin regime would shield the Assad regime” from accountability.
“To expect one war criminal to do anything other than protect another is unrealistic,” Graham said. “It is now time for Congress to pass sanctions against Putin’s regime for interfering in our election, as well as aiding and abetting Assad’s use of chemical weapons. The United States cannot give Putin a pass on either one of these outrageous acts.”
In the Security Council vote, Bolivia was the only nation to side with Russia. China, which has often in the past vetoed proposed resolutions dealing with Syria’s civil war, abstained on the vote.
President Donald Trump noted the significance of China’s action.
“I think it’s wonderful that they abstained. As you know, very few people expected that,” Trump said during a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “We are honored by the vote. That’s the vote that should have taken place.”
Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the U.N., slammed Russia’s action.
“With its veto, Russia said no to accountability,” she said.
“Russia once again has chosen to side with Assad, even as the rest of the world, overwhelmingly comes together to condemn this murderous regime,” she added. “We want Russia to use its influence to stop Assad. Today’s vote could have been a turning point.”
Haley made it clear the United States will chart its own course regardless of how little is done by the U.N.
“We are not going to look the other way. We are watching the regime’s actions carefully,” she said.
Russia is isolating itself from the rest of the world “every time one of (President Bashar) Assad’s planes drops another barrel bomb on civilians, and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death,” she said. “It is long past time for Russia to stop covering for Assad … and to push for peace.”
Haley also focused on Iran, an ally of Syria, calling it “Assad’s chief accomplice.”
“Iran is dumping fuel on the flames of this war in Syria so it can expand its own reach,” she said.