Veto Problem and US Reputation

"Saving Private Bush" - that is what the feverish 24 hour diplomacy at the UN Security Council looks like now. It is becoming increasingly clear that for all European capitals, including Moscow, the main problem is no longer Iraq, but America as a responsible and respected member of the international community. It should be helped to regain its role and its reputation.

This is the purport of British initiatives now being discussed at the Security Council by diplomats. On Wednesday, London unofficially asked for another 24 hours to discuss the matter, that is, for moving a vote on the "Iraqi" resolution from March 14 to 15.

Britain, it may be recalled, is trying to offer amendments to soften the earlier American-Spanish-British resolution. America has already expressed several times its scorn for these amendments and is hinting that it has already secured several extra votes at the Security Council. True, none of the six countries that are permanent members of the council now being conditioned by American diplomats has confirmed that it decided to vote for the American draft. Moscow and Paris have at least twice confirmed their former positions over recent days.

Thus, President Jacques Chirac has stated absolutely clearly that France would vote against a military solution "in any case". Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has said that "if a draft resolution is tabled, directly or indirectly opening the way to a war in Iraq, Russia will vote against such a resolution." That is to say, the issue is in general decided: the UN will not authorise a war. And we go back to square one: what the world will look like in this case - with or without a proposed war? It would be a world in which the US would find itself in unprecedented moral isolation. On Wednesday, for example, informal conversations were reported between Europeans that in such a situation it would be good to recall the British and Spanish signatures under the resolution, leaving the Americans alone. That would be a real blow to Bush.

But the world, in which America with its might will be unpopular, will suffer political damage. And this does not suit either Moscow or EU capitals, or China, and so on. Sources close to the Russian UN delegation say that over the past few days the subjects discussed there were not only Iraq. The US, Britain and Spain have been offered, one after another, alternative ways out of the situation: jointly to withdraw their doomed draft resolution, which is guaranteed two vetoes at a minimum - the Russian and the French. And accordingly, to start looking for entirely new models of conduct, which could give the US a chance to keep its face, not only during the crisis itself, but especially after it.

History does not end with Bush's solution to the "war or peace" issue. The US, like Germany, Britain, France and Russia, is to live in this world "after Iraq", whatever these words might mean.

A single superpower - it is now finally evident - has not materialised. Anti-Americanism, which we are witnessing throughout the world, is unprecedented. Now it will be necessary to align anew the structure of relations between countries which only recently proudly termed themselves an "anti-terrorist coalition".

In one of his interviews US ambassador to Moscow Alexander Vershbow has said that the French position is in general far from the purely Iraqi issue, moving to a struggle over a future world security system. Well, that is correct. Russia too is working for a world in which the Russians feel comfortable, and only then for other things, and specifically for Iraq's future.

But a comfortable situation for Russia, as for France and an absolute majority of UN member-countries, is one of continuing cooperation and dialogue with the US. A dialogue, it may be recalled, is something in which both sides equally speak and are heard. After attempting a different model of the world through the Iraqi crisis, the Bush administration crossed the line beyond which no American might can help.

Let us model a situation if the war does begin. As soon as it is launched, the Security Council would go through a new crisis. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was simply forced to state this week that any "unilateral military operation against Iraq without Security Council authorisation" would suffer from "lack of legitimacy", which may foil attempts at post-war arrangements in Iraq. He could not say anything else, since there is such a reality as the UN Charter.

It is not that the Security Council might condemn the American war as aggression - in this situation a role will be played by an American veto. The point concerns money. Thus, the EU leadership is considering refusing to finance any programmes for rehabilitation of the Iraqi economy if the Americans carry out a military operation against Baghdad without UN sanction, as Chris Patten, in charge of united Europe's foreign policy, told European parliament deputies.

What will then be done by the Bush administration - will it start lobbying one country after another, as it is now doing at the Security Council? But even America, it appears, will lack energy and money for this. Globalisation, as is known, means above all economic interdependence of the world. And this concerns America not less than the other countries.

But these are only the UN and only Iraq. And in May, it may be recalled, the Group of Eight is meeting, an elite club which also has the US as its member and those to whom American diplomats are rather sadly and timidly hinting about "consequences" of their behaviour. That is, France, Russia, Germany and so on.

Perhaps if the meeting were called to exchange speeches, the Group of Eight would now have ended in a scandal. But that club has several programmes in the pipeline. One is global partnership against proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction. This ten-year programme costing up to 20 billion dollars aims to destroy chemical weapon stockpiles in Russia, recycling retired submarines and so forth. Who needs it more - Russia or America?

G-8 has achieved an unprecedented level of trust in the struggle against terrorism. Little is known about this struggle, since all of it consists of operations mounted by secret services and exchanges of information. The latest G-8 meeting - at Kananaskis - approved, among others, an initiative to improve transport safety, also calling for joint efforts in particular in safe transportation of containers. Who, we may ask, needs these programmes more and this work on the "invisible front" - Europeans or America itself, which is simply guaranteed terrorism if it goes to war against Iraq?

There are also other issues common to this club, above all those concerned with money: for example, how to keep world finances from collapsing in face of some or other turn in the Iraq situation. So will the US want to paralyse the work of that club, whose members besides account for 49 per cent of world exports, and as much resources of the International Monetary Fund? Or can compromises and dialogue not be dispensed with here also?

There is also a need to press ahead with the ISS space programme, a station which can be approached now, following the Columbia shuttle disaster, only by Russian spacecraft. And then energy cooperation with Russia and not only with it, especially needed by America in the event oil supplies to world markets will objectively diminish because of an Iraqi war, as is now being suddenly predicted. Such examples are plenty.

So a "temporary cooling of relations", which the US promises Moscow and Paris now /forgetting, for a time, Germany, which has no veto right at the Security Council/, is as unprofitable to America, as to all the rest. What is beneficial is an ability to come to a compromise and better now than later when too much blood has been spilt.