“If you have good relations with a country, a government for years, for decades, then it’s not so easy to ditch those politicians and those governments because of political expediency,” Churkin said. “We are stronger on our allegiances than others.”
Tensions between the West and Russia have spilled over into a series of highly personal attacks at the United Nations. Last month, U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice derided Churkin’s appeal for a new probe into possible NATO killings as a “cheap stunt” aimed at distracting attention from the killing in Syria.
Churkin fired back at the Stanford-educated envoy, saying, “Really this Stanford dictionary of expletives must be replaced by something more Victorian.” Rice’s media spokesman posted a tweet with a photoshopped picture of Churkin on the head of “the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”
Asked if he was trying to change the subject from Syria, Churkin acknowledged that the Security Council has been the scene of “games of distraction,” but he said Russia’s concerns about the Libya mission were legitimate, asserting that the killing of civilians during the NATO campaign was “a real issue.”
Russia, along with Brazil, China, India and South Africa, believe “it would be extremely dangerous if” the West continues to be “carried away by this regime-change idea,” he said.
In Syria, Russia has pursued a complicated diplomatic strategy to shore up the regime, joining China in vetoing the Western-backed resolution threatening sanctions against Damascus, and introducing its own resolution. That resolution, now stalled, sought to focus the Security Council’s energy on backing a political settlement between the Syrian government and the opposition, and cutting off military supplies to the opposition.
Under the resolution, Assad’s army could still be armed.
Asked if Russia’s ongoing arms sales to Assad’s government were perhaps undercutting his government’s effort to pursue a political settlement, Churkin said: “We are not doing anything which is contrary to international law. Other than that, we don’t have to give any explanation to anybody.”