Russia and President Mugabe

The following is a translation of "Russland und China decken Simbabwe - Zynische Diplomatie", an article published in the German newspaper Die Welt
What Price a Nation’s Word?
14 July 2008

Does a nation honour its word? In Japan, last week, the Russian president, Dimitri Medvedev, joined with other world leaders including Angela Mekel, in condemning the brutality of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. The election in that sad country was stolen by the 84 old dictator. He did so using all the techniques of tyranny throughout history – torturing and killing his opponents, muzzling the press, giving the military-security elite the right to steal the nation’s wealth, allowing inflation to reach Weimar heights as a debauched currency destroys all economic hope. All those who can flee from Zimbabwe have. Three million refugees are in South Africa causing riots as they fight with native South Africans for economic space. Scores of thousands of Zimbabweans have fled to Europe.
Unlike Darfur or Chad where there is a war between factions or tribes sometimes with a religious element, the situation in Zimbabwe is a classic tyranny where a single monster of a dictator devours his people. Mugabe shames Africa and sends out the worst signal about that continent which in many respects is looking happier as its raw materials command mammoth prices and many of its leaders quietly govern their countries in a broad national interest.
Hence the anger and concern at the G8. The European Union already has in place sanctions against the Mugabe regime. Now the G8 agreed to make this a global priority. Yet when Britain, France and other democratic G8 members sought to take the spirit of Hokkaido to New York and get the UN to agree a condemnation and some modest sanctions against Mugabe they found that on his return to Moscow, Dmitri Medvedev had forgotten the agreement at Hokkaido and reverted to the worst kind of cold war style cynical diplomacy. Moscow ordered its ambassador at New York to say Nyet to the UN resolution on Mugabe. Russia acted with China in this disturbing new axis against democracy being shaped between Moscow and Bejing. Of course Russia wants its place back as a recognised world power but never before has Russia so quickly performed a 180 degree turn between agreement on Zimbabwe in Japan and three days later the tearing up of that promise in New York.
This is also a test case for Europe. Does Europe simply ignore Mugabe and treat Russia going back on its word at the UN as just a diplomatic game? Does Europe’s interests in seeing a stable Russia develop which sells its gas and oil to Europe and buys European products and services in exchange mean that Europe turns a blind eye to Russia’s support for the tyranny of Mugabe? In past times, the word for that behaviour was appeasement. Russia wants to turn the clock back to the cynicism and duplicity of cold war diplomacy. Does Europe have to play according to Moscow rules? The people of Zimbabwe are the main victims of Russia’s behaviour. So too is the UN which again shows itself impotent to deal with a regime that violates all UN norms and defies the international community. The question is does Europe have to do the same or can the EU start being honest with Russia and honest about the new axis which renders the UN impotent and the victims of tyranny without hope.