US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiles during a forum with students at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark, Thursday May 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The U.S. is heaping new pressure on Russia to change course and support international action in Syria, warning that intransigence by Moscow may lead to open civil war that could spill across the Middle East with devastating effects.
Speaking on Russia’s doorstep in Denmark, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton derided the Russian government for continuing to support Syrian President Bashar Assad, even after last week’s massacre of more than 100 people in the town of Houla. In pointed remarks Thursday, she said Russia’s position “is going to help contribute to a civil war” and rejected Russian officials’ insistence that their stance actually is helping to ease the crisis.
On the first stop of a European tour, Clinton said Russia and China would have to be on board before the U.S. and other nations might engage in what could become a protracted conflict in support of a disorganized rebel force.
Russia, along with China, has twice vetoed U.N. Security Council sanctions against Syria. Russia is Syria’s closest ally other than isolated Iran, and Clinton said that without its support the international community is essentially frozen from taking concrete steps to end the violence.
“The Russians keep telling us they want to do everything they can to avoid a civil war because they believe that the violence would be catastrophic,” Clinton said, noting that they are “vociferous in their claim that they are providing a stabilizing influence.”
“I reject that,” she said, complaining that in fact Russia is propping up Assad as his government continues a brutal, 15-month crackdown on dissent in which some 13,000 people have died.
A day earlier, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough said the U.S. is lobbying Russia to distance itself from its ally Syria and to Login to read more