The Ukraine debate exposes the limits of the UN Security Council
On Thursday (September 22), almost seven months after Russia invaded Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, his Western partners and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a rare diplomatic confrontation in no one.
During a special session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the three chief diplomats of Ukraine, Russia and the United States mostly voiced their grievances and exchanged spades, while other members of the council discussed the impact of the war on their countries.
The main task of the UN Security Council, consisting of 15 members, each with one vote, is to maintain international peace and security. Russia is one of five permanent members of the UNSC, along with the US, UK, France and China, and has veto power.
The confrontation came the day after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilize hundreds of thousands of Russians to fight in Ukraine, annex parts of Ukrainian territory and threaten to use nuclear weapons.
Before the plenary chamber, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for these “ruthless nuclear threatsimmediately and adds that the fact that Vladimir Putin voted “to feed the fire he himself kindledshows his deep contempt for the United Nations.
«The international order we are gathered here to defend is being shaken before our eyes – we will not allow President Putin to get away with it‘ he explained.
«Only one man wanted this war. Only one man can end itadded Mr. Blinken. “Because if Russia stops fighting, that’s the end of the war. But if Ukraine stops fighting, it will be the end of Ukraine.»
A hasty exit
Mr Lavrov, who clashed with his Ukrainian and Western colleagues, including Mr Blinken, was late, only showing up for his own speech, which lasted about 20 minutes, and leaving immediately afterwards.
The head of Moscow’s diplomacy defended his country’s war and accused Kyiv and the West of directly interfering in this war by “Pumping arms into Ukraine and training its soldiers».
«We have no doubt that Ukraine has become a totally Nazi totalitarian state, in which the norms of international humanitarian law are being floutedsaid Moscow’s chief diplomat at the meeting.
«The decision to conduct a special military operation was inevitablesaid Mr. Lavrov, using the Moscow understatement for the war.
Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine poses a threat to Russia’s security, adding that Russia “will never accept it».
After Minister Lavrov left the room, Mr. Kuleba, who took the floor after him, replied that he “notes that Russian diplomats are fleeing, as are Russian soldiers».
Officials who attended the meeting later told the press that Mr Lavrov’s refusal to remain in the room was because “he could not bear to hear the clear messageshis colleagues.
The Russian diplomat is set to address the United Nations General Assembly in the most anticipated speech of the week on Saturday, as many expect him to send subtle messages interpreting Vladimir Putin’s latest act.
«Russian diplomats are directly complicit because their lies encourage and cover up these crimessaid Mr Kuleba.
The Ukrainian diplomat accused Russia of giving the world its version of “hunger games».
Food and energy insecurity caused by the Russian invasion should prompt other nations to side with Ukraine, Kuleba said.
«We must confront these threats together. Neutrality has no placehe added, citing the many countries in Africa, Latin America and others that have so far avoided taking sides.
Some members are unruly
EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell told the EU “will do everything to hold accountable those who suffered in the war».
Mr Borrell also accused Russia of “dragging the world into economic recession and a global food crisis” and added that Moscow had already lost the war “morally and politicallyand that it would also fail on the battlefield.
Meanwhile, the Chinese and Indian foreign ministers have called for negotiations and dialogue, without making any clear statements against Russia.
But just last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed their concerns to Mr Putin about his latest military escalation.
Western diplomats say this was widely seen as a public break with Moscow and a sign of Russia’s growing isolation, even among its perceived allies.
If Thursday’s meeting was an opportunity for public confrontation, it also demonstrated the limitations of this institution.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the body has met at least twenty times and has been unable to take any meaningful action regarding Ukraine, as Russia is a permanent member with veto power.
Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, deep divisions existed among permanent members of the Security Council, and some believed the war in Ukraine could spark a debate about new rules within the organization.
«The UN is likely at a crossroads, and Ukraine could be a turning pointFrench representative at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Nicolas de Rivière, told EURACTIV on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
This week in New York, some delegates reiterated their support for the UN Security Council’s reform plan but acknowledged it would take years for changes to come into force.
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