Grim Diplomatic Farce and Futility at the UN’s Security Council

  • 2014-11-17
  • By Askold S. Lozynskyj

The UN security council (photo: creative commons)

Yet another UN Security Council session debate was held on Nov. 12 concerning the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. This latest session was initiated by Ukraine's representative to the UN Security Council following the "elections" in the terrorist held territories of Eastern Ukraine on Nov. 3, and concerned the most recent invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, tanks, armored vehicles, howitzers and “humanitarian” convoys.

On the one hand Russian aggression against Ukraine is the subject of international concern at the UN Security Council. But on the other, the proceedings highlight the Council's utter futility on this issue; and more importantly, the proceedings underscore Ukraine's need to take on Russia by itself, despite the apparent sympathy of the global community.

In short, the UN Security Council has become little a television talk show on this issue, and there seems to be little purpose for this debate to even happen in this forum. Despite updates from UN undersecretaries and OSCE monitoring mission ambassadors, by the debate's conclusion, nothing had been resolved — all because Russia holds a veto on any action taken by the UN Security Council.

Perhaps the most striking example of how ineffective the international community has been in recent months is th​e ill fate​ of​ the​ Minsk protocol and memorandum of September 2014. In the wake of the Minsk protocol, all parties concerned agreed to OSCE monitoring of the 400 km border between Russia and Ukraine near the war zone. But, unfortunately, the OSCE in effect monitors a mere 2 km.

Still, the diplomatic charade goes on. Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin was absent during the debates on Nov 12. But his substitute took to the floor in his absence. Though Churkin has not been a credible man for some time now, his substitute was not only not credible — he didn't even seem to care that no one was believing anything he was saying. In arrogant and boorish fashion he simply attacked and attacked.

Perhaps, the substitute believed that offense the strongest form of defense; perhaps he believed this was the best way to deflect the debate from the real issues. He attacked the OSCE monitors themselves for being invited to brief the debate — thus attempting to poison notions of objectivity and render the whole debate a farce. He attacked the Ukrainian side for not abiding by the Minsk agreement. However, he offered neither examples nor evidence of how Ukraine has breached the Minsk agreement; and, exhausting himself in the process, he attacked Ukraine for not believing in the Minsk process in the first place, but simply using the “ceasefire” to regroup.

In response, in a classic case of non-committal diplomacy, the representative from Argentina actively participated in the debate — yet managed to say absolutely nothing. Ukrainian sovereignty was never mentioned by the Argentinian representative. Neither was Russia. The word “Ukraine” was used only in a geographic sense. Even China did better reinforcing its support for Ukraine's sovereignty. What continues to baffle me about the Argentine position — despite Argentinian President Kirchner's affinity to Putin and Russia — is that there is such a large and vibrant Ukrainian community in Argentina, who must either be saying very little about the matter, or just being plainly ignored by their president.

Meanwhile, Australia was assigned the role of chairing the Council meeting. Its representative concluded the remarks of the Security Council members. He spoke about the need to respect Ukrainian sovereignty and its territorial inviolability, and he blamed Russia for the conflict as well as the Malaysian Air tragedy.

However, the language excoriating Russia seems to lose much of its bite back home “down under”, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott was only days away from hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin himself at the upcoming G20 summit. How do you condemn a nation's actions for the Malaysian Air Tragedy, where over three hundred innocent people — including Australian citizens — lost their lives, and then proceed to wine and dine that same nation's president in lavish comfort at the G20? Only a politician or diplomat can answer that question.

The United Kingdom and France as usual spoke diplomatically in support of Ukraine and against Russian aggression and duplicity. So did Rwanda, Chad, Nigeria, Jordan, Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea and Chile. The representative of Lithuania as usual was particularly emphatic — manifesting a more pronounced understanding of Russian imperialism than the others.

Most disappointing, however, was the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power. She was brilliant, the best informed, the most forceful, the most articulate, generally disdainful of Russia and Vladimir Putin — and strongly supportive of Ukraine. She supported her comments with concrete evidence of Russian aggression and duplicity. But this was also disappointing, in a way, because she did not reflect the position of her President, who was, at the time, in the Far East, still happy to meet Vladimir Putin face to face at a conference in Beijing. 

Askold S. Lozynskyj is a former president of the Ukrainian World Congress, an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations