BACKGROUND: Both before the Gulf war and today, it is Moscow that has taken the lead in diplomatic efforts to head off armed conflict. In both cases, these efforts have irritated the United States and, at least in 1991, they came to naught. However, unlike in 1991, this time Russia has taken on the United States publicly. By mid-February, Russia was warning that an American strike in the Gulf would jeapordize the good relations the former foes have forged in the post-Cold War world.
Russia's has many reasons for opposing the U.S.-led strike. One is pride: Russia may not be a superpower, but it is still a world power and it wants its voice respected. The unilateral style of current U.S. policy in the Gulf is regarded with resentment in Russia.
Another reason is financial: Russia inherited most of the markers owed to the old Soviet Union. In effect, Iraq owes Moscow tens of billions of dollars for Soviet era purchases. What's more, Russia's largest industries, from oil to arms production, are eager to resume business. Some do business with Baghdad in open defiance of U.N. sanctions.
The Soviet Union was in its final days when the Gulf war erupted and did not participate. But it also did not use its veto to block the U.S.-led coalition.
Since the war's end, Russia has been increasingly critical of the harshness of the U.N. sanctions. Most in the West see this primarily as a desire by Moscow to claim its debts from Baghdad. But the two also have ties going back many decades. Indeed, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, a former Soviet diplomat in the Middle East, is one who could be described as close to Saddam Hussein.
Russia involvement in Gulf War 91:
The then-Soviet Union sent one guided missile destroyer.
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