Russia Running UN Security Council? Symbol (And More) Of A Broken World Order
It sounded made for April Fool's: Russia is taking over the presidency of the UN Security Council, the highest governing body in the world. But this is all too real. It's time to rethink how the council works, Pierre Haski writes.
PARIS — "A disgrace, an extreme absurdity, a symbolic blow to an international order based on law" — Ukrainian officials were left stunned, almost at a loss for words to describe Russia's appointment on April 1 to the presidency of the UN Security Council.
But the appointment is completely above board. Russia didn't scheme or cheat to get it: the rules of the Security Council, established in 1945, schedule a monthly rotation among the council's 15 members, and it just happened to be Russia's turn.
Of course, Ukraine's dismay is entirely understandable, as the nation watches its invader — whose head of state is wanted on an international warrant for crimes against humanity — be appointed to lead the body that aims to build global peace.
To prevent Russia from presiding over the Security Council, the country would have had to choose not to take the presidency; even if the remaining Security Council members voted to exclude Russia, the country has the same right as any other permanent member to veto votes, and would never have allowed such a resolution to pass.
Two notes: first, although presidency gives Russia some influence over the Security Council's agenda, it will have little practical impact. On the other hand, Moscow does derive some sense of legitimacy, which may serve the country in future diplomacy.
Of another era
The second lesson: the United Nations is no longer an instrument suited to our era.
The rules of the UN were established after the Second World War, aiming to improve on the impotence of its predecessor, the League of Nations. The UN gained additional powers, but the war's victorious powers, which included the Soviet Union, also wanted to protect their interests.
The right of veto, reserved for the five permanent members — China, the U.S., France, the UK and Russia — represented a safeguard clause for the powers at the time. But it proved poisonous during the Cold War, first with the Soviet Union and continuing since then as the relationship between Russia and other Security Council members has deteriorated.
Today, the UN is politically paralyzed, in a state of brain death. Only its specialized agencies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency or the World Food Programme, are currently playing a role in Ukraine.
So, just like in 1945, it is now time to rethink the post-war organization of the world, which should not allow an aggressor country to organize debates on peace. This won't be an easy compromise to make, as it is likely that neither Moscow, Beijing nor Washington will agree to give up powers to an institution that could turn around and impose something on them.
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