France has called on the United Nations to authorize using "all means" necessary to end the carnage in Syria, bringing the civil war closer to the edge of a proxy war between Russia and the Western alliance.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday accused the United States of supplying weapons to Syria's opposition, hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton charged that Moscow is sending a new shipment of attack helicopters to Damascus.
Lavrov spoke during a brief visit to Iran, which along with Syria are two of Russia’s favorite nations for investment of nuclear development and arms exports.
The Russian foreign minister said that supplying "anti-air defense systems" to Syrian President Bashar Assad "in no way violates international laws.” Reflecting an increasing Cold War attitude, he added, "That contrasts with what the United States is doing with the opposition, which is providing arms to the Syrian opposition which are being used against the Syrian government.”
Pravda last November headlined “Russia and USA on verge of another Cold War” over an article concerning America’s missile defense system in Europe. Dmitry Medvedev, now prime minister, said that Russia will deploy new ballistic missiles that can guarantee the total destruction of the European part of the air defense system.
Lavrov’s accusations of Washington’s sending weapons to Syrian rebels was the first time Russia has directly fingered the United States.
One deterrent from direct Western military intervention in Syria has been the fear that the civil war could erupt into an all-out proxy war that could blow up into a regional conflict, with Assad backed by Russia and Iran and the opposition backed by the United States and Western allies. The likelihood of military intervention increased Wednesday with France's appeal, which would require the United Nations to use force if that is the only way to impose Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan.
Reporters grilled U.S. State Dept. spokeswoman Olivia Nuland Tuesday on Clinton’s statement concerning the attack helicopters. She refused to answer if the choppers were on the way or already had arrived.
One journalist implied that the shipment of helicopters was justified because Syria might need them to defend itself against Israel. Nuland replied, “I think the concern that we have is that the arms that the regime has are not being used for external defense. They’re not being used for external planning. They’re being used to kill their own citizens, especially civilians – women and children and men.”