Eyad Abu Shakra

‘Cold War’ Climate Does Not Allow for Human Rights 

Two notable developments from last week deserve our attention. One is the Russian-Chinese veto against the US United Nations Security Council resolution regarding the displacement war in Gaza, and the other is the shooting attack on the outskirts of the Russian capital, Moscow, that left hundreds of casualties in its wake.

"Conspiracy theories," which many in the Arab world are fond of, are premature. It would also be naive, however, to take the statements of sympathy issued by most Western capitals following the attack at face value. As for the fact that ISIS claimed responsibility for the operation at lightspeed, it is nothing more than another indication of its nature and its operational intelligence structure.

However, let us first look into the background of the Russian-Chinese veto and the political message it sent. It came as no surprise that the two countries vetoed the American resolution, as Washington had previously rejected all the previous calls to put an end to the massacres and displacement in Gaza on the grounds that they did not condemn the Hamas attack of October 7, did not demand the immediate and unconditional release of the Israelis who had been kidnapped by Hamas, and did not punish the movement by rooting it out as a military force and political authority.

What we know is that Washington's terms are the same as the "explicit" conditions laid out by Israel. Since the "principal" being represented here, Israel, does not have the right to veto, the "representative," Washington, took it upon itself to veto four ceasefire resolutions at the Security Council, including a proposal that included Russian amendments.

In the most recent vote, the US resolution was supported by 11 countries and opposed by three: Russia, China, and Algeria (the only Arab country member of the current session of the Council), while Guyana abstained.

Of course, the US representative criticized the Russian and Chinese stance as "ridiculous". However, her Russian counterpart responded by saying that the United States has done nothing to rein in Israel and that it is now speaking of a ceasefire after "Gaza has been virtually wiped off the face of the Earth... We have seen a typical hypocritical spectacle." The Russian delegate went on to claim the American proposal was "highly politicized" and that its only goal was to appease American voters opposed to the ongoing war, and that it grants Israel immunity by not addressing its crimes.

The fact of the matter is that the international political climate exposed by the Gaza displacement war affirms that the "post-unipolar" era has begun. While it is premature to speak of the "fall of the American empire," we are seeing realignments, assessments are being reconsidered, and alliances are being re-evaluated or forged anew.

For example, Europe no longer accommodates countries that find a safe haven in neutrality. We now see these countries rushing to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Another example is the collapse of the broad matters of consensus that had been the pillars upon which "Western democracies," especially in Europe and its venerable political traditions, have long stood.

However, outside of Europe, which had been the strategic "stage" of the Cold War era and home to the countries of the Warsaw Pact and NATO, we now see "centers of power" emerging, and new crises threatening to shake the international frameworks. Likewise, some entities in the Middle East and beyond are revisiting the question of the primary move. Is it the United States or Israel (through its influential American and European "lobbies")?

Asia is home to two of the world’s largest countries, both members of BRICS, India and China. Changes to this grouping could be inevitable if India continues its gradual shift from a "parliamentary democratic system and a pluralistic state" comprising dozens of ethnicities and languages to an "ethno-religious dictatorship" where minorities are marginalized and could potentially be persecuted.

The implications of the shift, which is already underway and accelerating, could become evident in the upcoming elections. So far, however, major Western powers have not voiced any reservations about the policies of the Indian leader Narendra Modi, despite the fact that the aggravating situation could make addressing it frankly necessary.

Moreover, both India and China have ambitious foreign projects to forge global alliances founded on interests. Given the rapid rise of China as a technological, economic, military, and political power, the West has remained silent about Modi's policies, and some suggest that Western capitals - led, of course, by Washington - will have no choice, in the future, but to rely on India as a counterbalancing force against China.

Going back to Europe, the tzar in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, predictably won a new mandate after the Ukrainian war stirred "Slavic sentiments" and awakened the historic Russian sense of being targeted and besieged.

The war in Ukraine has provided Putin with a strong justification to tighten his grip domestically before settling his scores outside the country’s borders. The theater of the ISIS attack - exported to Moscow last week - served as a reminder of this to Russia and compounded its apprehensions of a "siege."

Indeed, what the Kremlin has done in Syria since 2011 is not very different from what the Israeli war machine has done and continues to do in Palestine. Back then, it was said that Moscow did not see a Syrian nation in pain, but a Western attempt to expand at its expense, especially after it had been pushed out of Libya. However, it is also true that the lives, fate, and future of the Palestinians mean nothing to Washington. In the calculations of the major powers and their vetoes, the people always come last.