The aggressor denounced by most Western countries, could Russia find itself banned from states? After economic sanctions have already been imposed, their diplomats have been expelled from several countries, and now the United Nations General Assembly is considering its possible suspension from the Human Rights Council on Thursday. On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed “to exclude Russia as the aggressor and initiator of war” from the United Nations Security Council, so as not to impede decisions on his assault.
A request that seems almost logical to a body that is supposed to be the guarantor of peace. But this conflicts with the status of Russia, a permanent member and veto of this Security Council since 1946. “It is a technically organized system around the victors of World War II,” says Dr. Gliniste, former French ambassador to Moscow. Which seems impossible to fix. “The charter must be amended, which requires the approval of the members,” the diplomat explains. However, Russia will immediately exercise its veto.
The United Nations did not wait for the war in Ukraine to try to reform this body. In 1995, the then-Secretary-General, Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali, estimated that “the Security Council will become illegitimate if it is not deeply reformed.” Since the following year, the possibility of the 1945 losers, Germany and Japan, as well as at least one African country, obtaining a permanent seat, has been raised, with the support of France. The proposal remained a dead letter, as did François Hollande’s proposal to add Brazil and India. “It’s an eel,” said historian Anne de Tingoy, a researcher at CERI’s Center for International Studies (CERI) Sciences Po, also referring to the French desire to “restrict the field of the veto.”
“You have to be clear, the veto is designed to ensure that the major countries preserve their interests,” admits Jan de Gliniaste. The Security Council has now been frozen in the image of the Yalta Conference.
Record the veto
Anne de Tengoy adds that the permanent seat gives Russia “more of an aura and influence than its true power”. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russians have used their veto 29 times, which is a record. Thus Moscow has been careful to keep the United Nations out of its intervention in Syria (which already led to its rejection of its candidacy to the Human Rights Council the following year), and has shown that Ukraine is part of his “backyard”. As of February 25, Russia responded to a resolution denouncing Ukraine’s “aggression” and demanding the withdrawal of its forces, while being the only country that voted “no”.
With this veto, Vladimir Putin also avoids referring the Security Council to the International Criminal Court over “war crimes” he is accused of committing, as well as the possibility of sending Blue Helmets. “A ceasefire is really needed,” exclaims the Inalko professor, who laments that “Russia is preventing the Security Council from playing its role.”
The paradox of balance
The historian even sees this as a contradiction, asserting that Russia is “very attached to its seat” and therefore would have every interest in seeing that “the United Nations assumes its responsibility in the field of peace and security.” Instead, the Security Council is “helpless” and the negotiations are not “under the auspices of the United Nations,” which could have a “leading role,” she said. But this absence is perhaps the best evidence of the balance that the United Nations must constantly strive for. “Being the only global organization, it is obligated to observe real power relations,” Jan de Gleniasti analyzes.
And, because another irony is facing the global ramifications of their decisions, he adds, “it is important that great powers avoid skepticism.” Even if it means looking away to avoid the ultimate danger? Excluding a large nation, or seeing someone shut the door, would actually risk the creation of a “regional United Nations”, which would not have to really worry about world peace. Anne de Tingoy’s opportunity to recall that “Russia is a nuclear state”, otherwise “reactions would have been different.”