Voice

Russia's Veteran United Nations Diplomat

Here's the formidable curriculum vitae of Russia's man at the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin. He speaks fluent English and has served previously as an ambassador to several countries and as a deputy foreign minister.

Bizarrely enough, Churkin also has some experience testifying before the United States Congress. In 1986, the Soviet government dispatched the junior diplomat to speak before Congress about the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. From the Washington Post's account of that testimony:

For more than an hour, the well-tailored diplomat, displaying an array of English slang and the Gorbachev emphasis on image, parried with members of the House energy, conservation and power subcommittee. He fended off the political barbs of one congressman as "mumbo jumbo" and advised the panel not to use such a "commanding tone" if it hoped to elicit cooperation from Moscow.

When subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) demanded to know why the Soviet government has failed to inform its own people of the accident, Churkin replied that "the citizens who were affected by the accident are very well taken care of, and if they have any medical problems they will not even have medical bills to pay."

The Multilateralist

China's Mild-Mannered Syria Diplomacy

China has maintained a very low profile thus far on the Syria question. As is so often the case at the Security Council, it has preferred to let Moscow take the lead. While Russian diplomats relish skewering the West, China's officials almost always prefer a milder approach. Reuters reports this morning on the latest bromides from the Chinese foreign ministry:

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei would not say explicitly whether Beijing would back or oppose the French proposal, but implied some reservations.

"China supports the U.N. Security Council in playing an important role on issues of world peace and security and is willing to remain in touch with all sides on the next steps by the security council," he told a daily news briefing.

"We also believe that action by the Security Council must be based on consensus reached after full discussions by all sides, should help ameliorate the present tension in Syria, be helpful to maintaining peace and stability in Syria and the region and be helpful to a political resolution."

While their tones are very different, it's highly unlikely that Moscow and Beijing will diverge if and when it comes time to vote.