Sudan's Key Ties at the UN

By Scott Peterson writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 31, 2004 | Go to article overview

Sudan's Key Ties at the UN


Scott Peterson writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


As the United Nations deadline passed Monday for Sudan to disarm Arab militiamen accused of genocide in Darfur, analysts say that Russia, which now holds the presidency of the Security Council, is not likely to lead the UN charge for sanctions against Khartoum.

Under pressure from Washington and some other Western capitals, Council members voted a month ago to consider punishing Sudan if it did not disarm and prosecute the janjaweed militia, which is allegedly responsible for a campaign in western Sudan that has left at least 30,000 dead and forced 1.4 million from their homes.

But Russia - which has used modest weapons sales, an oil deal, and closer ties with Sudan to bolster a broader presence in African markets - is not expected to focus on Khartoum's abuses.

And Russia is not alone: China, another permanent Council member, has closer ties with Sudan, and deep reservations about sanctions. Their opposition, along with that of Pakistan and Algeria, meant that the explicit threat of sanctions was removed from the first council vote.

The pattern was similar with Saddam Hussein's Iraq with which Moscow had far more lucrative arms and oil deals at stake. For Russia and China, it may all boil down to the pocketbook.

"China is deeply involved in Sudan, in oil export and transportation, and extraction," says Andrei Maslov, editor of Af- Ro: Russia-Africa Business Journal. "Russian companies are even subcontractors to the Chinese. The pipeline that will be built by Russians will be built for Chinese money, not Sudanese."

That's not the only deal. In late July - five months ahead of schedule and as the Council debate on Sudan sanctions raged - Moscow announced the final delivery of 12 MiG-29 jet fighters to Khartoum, to conclude a 2001 deal.

"Sudan is potentially a buyer in the future, and we don't have many buyers around," says Dmitri Trenin, a military expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center. "[Russia] is against sanctions primarily because those sanctions make some people happy, and they hurt Russian trade."

The UN is expected to hear a report on Sudan's efforts to rein in the janjaweed Tuesday, and debate sanctions Thursday.

Few expect Russia will get in the way of a sanctions vote against Sudan, if one comes up and has widespread support. China, which is the leading foreign investor in Sudan, with an annual trade value of roughly $1 billion, according to the Xinhua New Agency, has much more to lose.

For Moscow, the use of UN sanctions is broader than Sudan, which is why it doesn't want to lead this diplomatic fight. "This isn't really about Sudan, which is not a significant customer," says Pavel Baev, a Russia military analyst at the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo. "Russia is taking a line against sanctions . …

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