Interview: The darkest hour in the United Nations history
How would you characterize the Russia’s ascension to the Sec Council chair?
If we are speaking about the presidency over the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – it’s very straightforward: the presidency is held on a monthly rotational basis by each of the members. The major question, however, is why does the Russian Federation currently enjoy the privilege of the seat of the permanent member of the UNSC?
I support the official position of Ukrainian diplomats that Russia illegally usurped the seat of a defunct country – the Soviet Union. The UN Charter is very clear on this – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and not the Russian Federation, is appointed as a permanent member to the UNSC.
Moreover, Russia was not an original founding member of the United Nations, it never applied for U.N. membership so its admission has never been approved by the vote of the General Assembly, and Russian parliament has never ratified the UN Charter.
So, the fact that Russia’s criminal and genocidal regime will be presiding in April over the international body entrusted with maintaining world peace is symbolic of the catastrophic failure of the international community to resist grave evil threatening all of humanity.
It will be for the first time that the UNSC will be chaired by the state which:
– has been designated as an aggressor by the U.N. itself;
– is defying the order of the International Court of Justice to cease its aggression;
– and whose president is wanted on an arrest warrant of the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
It is contemptible that the international community is falling miserably short in taking meaningful action to repair this appalling situation. It is a stain on humanity.
How would you anticipate that the RF will leverage its chairmanship?
Russian representation at the UNSC is part of the Russian Federation’s propaganda war machine. Moscow will certainly use the ample procedural powers stemming from its presidency over the UNSC to continue its legal and diplomacy warfare against the international community which I call by the acronym WLD – Whitewash, Legitimize, and Deceive. Moscow uses the UNSC seat to whitewash its criminal actions; to legitimize them with some contrived and abused legal constructs; and to deceive the world with propaganda fakes and disinformation.
After the past deranged lies about “secret labs for chemical weapons,” “dirty bombs,” and “combat mosquitos”, we can expect anything from Moscow. It is likely, though, that the prime agenda item of Russia’s presidency will be to amplify the Chinese “peace plan” in order to paint Ukraine and the West as warmongers in the eyes of the rest of the world. Russia’s principle objective remains to erode international support for Ukraine. China’s so-called “peace plan” is of course not viable, and is beneficial to Moscow in a multitude of ways. It is a perfect tool of political attack on the alliance of countries supporting the defence of Ukraine to stop the flow of military equipment to Kyiv which is causing the Kremlin dread about Ukraine’s future counter offensive.
Moscow may also try to push propaganda disinformation narratives like whitewashing the Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant; justifying moving its tactical nukes to Belarus using anti-American “whataboutism”; criticizing Ukraine for “attacking” freedom of religion by painting a dark picture of “prosecution” of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, etc.
Moreover, I expect Moscow to advance the political and legal agendas of its partners within the new anti-western axis.
Finally, I don’t dismiss the risk that Russia will use its April 2023 UNSC Presidency as a diplomatic tool to provide political and legal cover for another escalation of its attack on the world peace and security. When Russia last held the UNSC Presidency in February 2022, Moscow abused its powers to hamper the efforts of the international community to condemn and halt Russia’s war on Ukraine. Considering Russia’s recent provocative rhetoric, I am most worried about the possible acts of Moscow’s nuclear terrorism at the site of the Russia occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Are there any means that Ukraine and allies at the U.N. can counter-act this development?
There are several legal and political scenarios of what can be done to counter Russia’s abuse of the United Nations. Some steps have already been taken, like when Russia was suspended from the UN Human Rights Council in 2022. The major battles are, however, about Russia’s seat on the UNSC and its vote in the General Assembly.
Ukraine is contesting the legitimacy of Russia’s UN membership based on the arguments I outlined earlier. However, the leading Western governments are reluctant to put their weight behind this approach. Russia’s partners would obviously also strongly oppose it, and China will certainly use its veto power at the UNSC to block excluding Russia from the UNSC.
Long before Russia’s 2022 large scale military offensive, Ukrainian legal expert Roman Sohn, former head of Ukraine’s parliament foreign relations committee Hanna Hopko, and I championed the approach of suspending Russia’s vote in the U.N. using the 1974 South African precedent when its delegation was suspended from participation in the General Assembly for crimes of apartheid. This approach relies on the rejection of the credentials of the Russian delegation to the United Nations by the Credentials Committee and the General Assembly followed by the ruling of the President of the General Assembly.
The benefit of this approach is that it cannot be blocked by a veto power of the permanent members in the Security Council. Considering the industrial scale level of Russia’s war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, we continue to believe that this approach would garner enough support in the General Assembly. What remains critical is to convince the United States to back this action.
We also proposed a different approach to overcome the obstacle of Russia or China’s UNSC veto power by using the U.N.’s “Uniting for Peace” resolution, which provides the General Assembly power to act should the UNSC fail to exercise its responsibility to maintain international peace. As we know, the UNSC has done absolutely nothing to stop Russia’s genocidal war, so there is no question about its failure to exercise its powers for repressing Russia’s aggression. Moving the decision making power to the General Assembly, where the majority of countries support Ukraine, could become instrumental for imposing a full international embargo on Russia.
Unfortunately, at this point, Russia’s April presidency over the UNSC will not be stopped. However, this situation must be used to publicly humiliate Russia. I hope that most members of the UNSC will have enough dignity to do an organized walk out on Russia to demonstrate that they will not accept the bloody criminals presiding over the body responsible for global peace.
Is the West naive about the RF’s exploitation of democratic institutions?
No, I do not believe so. Russia has for a long time unabashedly abused democratic institutions and tools in order to further its nefarious agendas. Ignorance about what Russia really is cannot be credibly pled after Russia has committed so many horrific crimes in multiple countries. And yet we still see biased reporting from the United Nations equating the aggressor Russia with the victim Ukraine which simply cannot be explained away as any kind of naïveté.
The UN is not the only international organization where Russia maintains its status. Another abhorrent example is the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).
It is unthinkable that a rogue outlaw state responsible for grotesque violations of the founding principles and rules of those organizations continues to enjoy the privileges of its membership and has decision power over their policies.
I believe that what we are dealing with is the lack of political will of Western leaders to take decisive action, and the fear of creating precedents that might one day become a problem for some Western governments themselves.
No permanent members of the UNSC want to create any precedents that could threaten their own power. They are forgetting though, that the world has changed in the last year, and that their resistance is self-defeating.
Also, we can see how the process of establishing a UN International Tribunal for Russia’s Aggression against Ukraine is facing quiet opposition, even from some of Ukraine’s Western partners. The fear of setting new precedents might result in preventing Ukrainians from having justice done for their suffering.
The spirit of our times demands change. I am convinced that our governments will have no choice but to embrace this change and start acting with more resolve regardless of their present unwillingness. The United Nations and UNSC will have to be reformed to be capable of performing their core function of promoting world peace. Otherwise, we all stand to lose.
Ariana Gic is a Canadian political and legal analyst, Director, Direct Initiative International Centre for Ukraine. Ms.Gic is sanctioned by the Russian Federation according to the Statement of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Personal Sanctions against the citizens of Canada, dated November 14, 2022.
Ms.Gic has co-led a years long international public advocacy campaign “Truth for Peace,” calling for recognizing Russia as the aggressor state waging unlawful interstate war against Ukraine since 2014, and designating Russia as a rogue state and a state sponsor of terrorism. More information about Ariana Gic can be found here.