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The invasion of Ukraine tests international institutions

16 21 0

Two weeks ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy excoriated the United Nations Security Council for failing to protect his country and he demanded action, reform or its dissolution.

His judgment of the UNSC’s utility is shared by many; it’s also a misreading of its design and an inexact assessment of its purpose.

Still, the invasion of Ukraine has been a test for international institutions. Many have been found wanting. Fortunately, several have risen to the moment. We should acknowledge their successes and distill their lessons.

Zelenskyy’s remarks were brutal. The U.N. Security Council, “the key institution of the world designed to combat aggression and ensure peace cannot work effectively,” he said, adding that the organization “was unable to carry out the functions for which it was created” because of Russia’s veto as a permanent member of the UNSC. That failure leaves, Zelenskyy said, “only one institution left in the world to guarantee the security of states. Namely — weapons.”

He demanded that the world body fix the problem — either eliminate Russia as an aggressor or remove Moscow from a position from which it can block action by the U.N. If neither of those two options works, he added a third: “dissolve yourself altogether.”

Fat chance. A country can be removed from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) with a vote on the recommendation of the Security Council. As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia — like the U.S., Britain, France and China — has a veto on any action it takes. Moscow isn’t going to agree to a move that strips it of power. After all, the invasion of Ukraine stems from a belief that Russia doesn’t have the power, influence and status it deserves.

A counterpoint to inaction at the UNSC is the U.N. General Assembly’s vote last week to strip Russia of its membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose members are required to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” Pointing to war crimes that appear to have been committed in Ukraine, the United States’ U.N. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, argued that “We cannot let a member state that is........

© The Japan Times

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