Voting on a resolution concerning the invasion of Ukraine by Russia underway at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, March 2, 2022
THE MAIN PURPOSE of the United Nations (UN) is to keep enemies talking so that a world war doesn’t slip in forced by the egos of nations. All said and done, it has served this admirably even if, when it comes to minnows like Iraq that giants like the US attacked unprovoked, the UN not only was not a mute spectator but encouraged it. On the other hand, giants have not gone to war with each other and the earth is not a nuclear rubble. It is therefore with some curiosity that one must read reports of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky telling the UN Security Council this week that it was a useless body.
New York Times reporting on it said that Zelensky asked for the removal of veto power Russia holds in the Council, otherwise, “it would be powerless to resolve conflicts around the world, adding his voice to the rising calls to overhaul how the body works. ‘Ukrainian soldiers are doing with their blood what the U.N. Security Council should do by its voting,’ Mr Zelensky said on Wednesday, arguing that ‘veto power in the hands of the aggressor is what has pushed the U.N. into deadlock.’” True, except that the other countries holding the veto—including the ones supplying him arms—all have a history of doing likewise.
In the unipolar world of the recent past, where the US was the only superpower, the Security Council became a rubber stamp and everyone else traded their veto for favours. In a world of more than one superpowers, as when the Soviet Union existed earlier or China now, the Security Council becomes paralysed by counteracting vetoes, just as Zelensky is complaining about. This is in fact not such a bad outcome. Should the UN listen to Zelensky and come out with some plan to remove the Russian veto, the result is going to be both Russia and China, that hold over half the world’s nuclear arsenal, walking out. Zelensky’s demand is to make the UN a satellite of the US and its Western allies, essentially a bigger NATO. It will make the world a less safer place because the only point of two NATOs would be to make China and Russia even more aggressive and paranoid.
We can be sympathetic to Ukraine’s helplessness but there is really nothing it can do. Its war will have to be fought on its soil and by itself. Countries make themselves immune from such predicaments by becoming powerful and expansionists themselves, but that comes at its own cost. Russia and China have horrendous records of genocides against their own population. The US exterminated the native Indian population and remains the only country to have dropped atom bombs on another. Colonialism made Europe the centre of the world but by enslaving and exploiting the rest of the world. If they all look civilised today, it is because the barbarism made them the victors of the world. The UN keeps them reined against each other. It is not a very virtuous balance to maintain, but the alternative is worse.