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NHC Concerned Over Deteriorating US-Russia Relations

06 October 2016

United States-Russia relations have become increasingly strained in the midst of continuous disagreements over the handling of the Syrian conflict. Cooperation in Syria was an opportunity for the two to strengthen ties after clashing over the annexation of Crimea. However, in recent weeks, this possibility has been considered less likely.

A chain of events in these efforts led the United States to cease peace negotiations on Monday. Soon after, President Putin suspended a 16 year old agreement between the two superpowers, in which they were each supposed to dispose of set quantities of plutonium. Gary Samore, the lead negotiator in the development of this nuclear treaty, says this is a purely political tactic that he expects will have no military significance. Nevertheless, this situation has sent red flags across the international political sphere and unearthed memories of the cold-war era.

Their disagreements could have direct implications for refugee-receiving countries should this tension prolong the crisis, and it is now alarmingly unclear how the situation will play out. In the United Nations, Western-Russia clashes are overwhelmingly apparent. The US has vetoed the Russian-backed Security Council statement on the shelling of the Russian embassy in Damascus, and Russia (as well as China) has vetoed a French-proposed resolution on Aleppo.

A proposal has been made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who has recommended that the UN urgently alter the veto capacities of the permanent members. He suggests that, in regards to concerns over war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, this veto power should be barred.

The set-up of the Security Council, especially in regards to the veto capacities of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, has long been a subject of debate. The world, at present, is facing a conflict that has rocked both the Middle East and the West, and is witnessing what is arguably the worst state of US-Russia relations since the Cold War. In light of these considerations, perhaps now the United Nations will be forced to reconsider the controversial structure of the permanent members of the Security Council.

A positive, stable relationship between the USA and Russia is fundamental to a functioning global system that is suited to solve world conflicts. The interdependency between states today relies on collective problem solving, and both countries have made commitments as partners to the OSCE to work toward efficient crisis management and to maintain European security, which is deteriorating as a result of these inflamed tensions. In the meantime, the NHC will continue to follow the relationship between the two power blocs closely.