UNITED NATIONS, Feb 23 (IPS) – The widening political crisis in Ukraine, which has taken a turn for the worse with the declaration of two new independent states—the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic — is likely to prove once again the ineffectiveness of the 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC).
The UN’s most powerful political body, whose primary mandate is the maintenance of international peace and security, has remained paralyzed because of the threat of a double veto by Russia and its new found ally China against any possible sanctions or resolutions condemning Russia for an attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity – and a resulting violation of the UN charter.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who abruptly cut short an overseas trip, declared: “Let me be clear: the decision of the Russian Federation to recognize the so-called “independence” of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions is a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”
“Our world is facing the biggest global peace and security crisis in recent years – certainly in my tenure as Secretary-General. These principles are not a menu. They cannot be applied selectively”.
He said the UN’s 193 Member States have “accepted them all and they must apply them all”.
“I am also concerned about the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping,” he said, criticizing the Russians, who claimed that any troop movements in and around Ukraine were meant for purposes of “peacekeeping.”
IPS spoke with Andreas Bummel from Democracy Without Borders Executive Director. He said that Russia’s invasions in Donetsk (and Luhansk) is a clear violation the UN Charter.
He pointed out that President Putin has questioned the independence of Ukraine. “Russia’s actions obviously represent a breach of international peace and security which must trigger international sanctions.”
He argued that Russia cannot use its Security Council veto to block a UN response or a condemnation. Russia acts only in its interests, so the misuse of the Security Council veto here is not acceptable, he said.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) should be called on to investigate whether there is a violation.
Bummel stated that misuse can be reconciled to the UN Charter.
“In addition, given the Security Council’s impotence in this situation, the UN General Assembly needs to assume its subsidiary competence as the UN’s highest body”.
Under the principle of “Uniting for Peace”, he pointed out, an emergency meeting of the General Assembly should be held that overrules a Russian veto in the Security Council and which mandates sanctions or other measures it deems necessary.
Speaking from the White House, US President Joe Biden condemned President Putin for his aggression against Ukraine, saying that Russian action is “a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community.
A new set of sanctions was imposed by the US, mainly against Russian oligarchies and their families.
“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors?” Biden asked.
Putin, in an address to the nation, claimed that all of Ukraine was “created by Russia” and described the country’s pro-Western government as a threat to Russia.
James Paul was the Executive Director for the New York-based Global Policy Forum. author of “Of Foxes and Chickens” – Oligarchy and Global Power in the UN Security Council” told IPS the veto power certainly tends to freeze Security Council action whenever the core interests of the five Permanent Members are in conflict.
“This has always been a deep problem of the Council and prevented it from being effective, not only when vetoes are cast but also when they lurk in the background and sabotage action”.
He argued that the issue in Ukraine isn’t just the moment of highest danger, but the long-term buildup that revolved around the post-Soviet security structure in Europe, and the expansion to the east of NATO.
He suggested that this could have been handled by the Council, and an EU security system, which would have also included Russia. “Instead, we saw a whole series of moves by the United States that the Russians saw, not unreasonably, as threatening”.
Paul stated that US-Russian hostility was exacerbated rather than eased by the activities of the Council, and the veto use. Paul is an important figure in NGO advocacy at the United Nations, as well as a well-known writer and speaker on UN policy issues and the UN.
Meanwhile, the UNSC has remained politically impotent because the veto powers of the big five, namely the US, UK, Russia, China and France (P5), have always been a major obstacle in resolving some of the world’s ongoing military conflicts and civil wars – whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya or Yemen.
Asked about the deadlock and the potential veto by Russia, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “We get things done by engaging every single day with other countries, because sometimes the veto power isn’t as powerful as you might think when other countries are unified in expressing their concerns”
Mandeep S.Tiwana is the Chief Programmes Officer of CIVICUS. This global alliance includes over 9000 civil society organizations in more than 175 nations. IPS reported that the veto power held by the Security Council permanent members has been a significant hindrance to future generations being free from the scourge and danger of war, as promised under the UN Charter.
Invoking outrage selectively by the P5 about military aggression, war crime and crimes against mankind is a big obstacle to peace. He said that civil society groups have worked tirelessly for years to convince the P5 not to exercise their arbitrarily veto power.
He stated that ironically, even though they are meant to keep international security and peace, P5 continue to produce and spread weapons of war, which fuel major conflicts.
Paul elaborated further by stating that the Council was a wrestling ring and a platform for fighting and staging arguments in order to gain public attention and media coverage.
The US was able to rely on France and the UK for much of their support and has managed to whip several elected members of Council into submission as part of this drama.
“So, what we see today is a Council that is (as so often in the past) sidelined while other initiatives like the Franco-German effort take place beyond the UN. Germany is the strongest European power and we see it acting stronger than ever before. The Europeans can’t use the Council, so they are using other means”.
“The veto is and always has been the Council’s political disease”, declared Paul.
Over the UN’s history, an average of 82, USSR 91 and the Russian Federation have exercised about 28 vetoes in the UN’s 76-year existence.
US Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, speaking at a Security Council Emergency Meeting on Ukraine, told delegates, that President Putin asserted that Russia today has a rightful claim to all territories – all territories – from the Russian Empire; the same Russian Empire from before the Soviet Union, from over 100 years ago.
“That includes all of Ukraine. This includes Finland. It also includes Finland, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It includes parts of Poland and Turkey,” she said.
Putin’s goal is for the entire world to go back in time. The United Nations was not around at the time. It was a time before empires controlled the entire world. The rest of the world is moving forward. It’s not 1919. She added that it is not 1919.
“The United Nations was founded on the principle of decolonization, not recolonization. And we believe the vast majority of UN Member States and the UN Security Council are committed to moving forward – not going back in time”.
“We must all stand with Ukraine in the face of this brazen attempt to usurp Ukraine’s sovereign territory. There can be no fence-sitters in this crisis,” she declared.
IPS UN Bureau Report
© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service