Will Russia Apply Its ‘Syria Model’ to U.N. Diplomacy Over North Korea?

Will Russia Apply Its ‘Syria Model’ to U.N. Diplomacy Over North Korea?
Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., listens during the Security Council’s nonproliferation meeting on North Korea at U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 4, 2017 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

Russia is flexing its diplomatic muscles at the United Nations again. Moscow appears intent on using the U.N. to complicate American efforts to put pressure on North Korea and sow confusion over its own intentions toward Ukraine. Western diplomats should be alert, because Russia is a fine player of the U.N. game.

World leaders gather in New York next week for the new U.N. General Assembly session. All eyes will be on U.S. President Donald Trump. His Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will be absent. But Moscow knows how to make its presence felt in New York. Just days after Putin addressed the General Assembly in September 2015, Russia began its air campaign in Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad and his faltering regime.

Last year, the Russians signaled open contempt for the entire U.N. jamboree by launching an all-out offensive on the pivotal Syrian city of Aleppo as the General Assembly met. This was a humiliation for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who had tried to hash out a cease-fire around Aleppo in the weeks beforehand, and a disaster for the U.N. as Syrian or Russian jets attacked an aid convoy entering the city.

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