The UN Security Council in crisis




The Manila Times


AFEW days ago, the United Nations Security Council applauded itself for approving unanimously a resolution aimed at restoring peace in the Ukraine. Presenting the resolution to the press, the proud sponsors of the resolution, the permanent representatives of Norway and Mexico met with sarcasm-laden reactions from questioning reporters. Why would they not be derisive? From a reading of the terse resolution, the Security Council appears to be shirking the responsibilities the UN Charter primarily imposes on it in the maintenance of world peace and security by delegating them to the head of the Secretariat. The UNSC expresses its support of the efforts of the Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a peaceful solution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and requests him to report to the Security Council in due time. Antiseptic The resolution is so obviously brushed with a powerful antiseptic as to be guaranteed universal approbation, including that of Russia, which had vetoed a similarly intentioned resolution that called a spade a spade. Nowhere in the approved resolution does the word “invasion” occur nor is Russia or its autocrat President Vladimir Putin identified as the invader. Not the slightest reference is made to the resolution passed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly which condemned the Russian aggression and its terrible effects in the strongest terms. In the UN hierarchy, Russia and the other four permanent members of the Security Council occupy the highest rungs; the Secretary General is subordinate to them. He owes them courtesy, which must be why he visited Putin first and then Ukraine President Zelenskyy. The P5 do not only have the power of veto over resolutions in the council. They also have the power of veto over important appointments in the UN system. Among them is that of the UN Secretary General. Each of them can veto anybody’s original appointment to that office as well his reappointment. The former secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali had only one term because the United States objected to his reelection. If Russia will be unhappy over how SecGen Guterres handles his mandate from the Security Council, he may suffer the same fate as Mr. Boutros-Ghali should he care about a second term. SecGen Guterres has not minced words from Day 1 of the invasion, deploring it as an unprovoked aggression against a sovereign member-country of the UN. The UN Secretary General rides on history’s currents; he may consider how history judges him in the future more important than how the P5 regards him. At any rate, his task is as delicate as walking on a tightrope. Anyway, whatever the SecGen recommends to the Security Council, Russia or any other permanent member has the power to veto his recommendations if they’re not acceptable. Let us suppose that the SecGen recommends that President Putin be held accountable for the many war crimes he and his soldiers are committing in Ukraine. Because that recommendation is subject to veto, Mr. Putin will most likely get away with murders without number. Civilians that have been killed by Putin’s missiles in Ukraine alone are in the thousands; there are thousands more in Georgia, Moldova and Syria. Under the present situation, that will happen no matter how deeply the world attaches the label ”pariah” to Putin or Russia. Russia, in addition to getting away with murder, may also be rewarded pieces of Ukrainian real estate. The fighting on the ground has in the view of experts reached a stalemate, but Russia is occupying Crimea and areas in the Donbas region. In the negotiations, Russia’s annexation of these areas might be legitimized, and Putin’s minimum goals for invading Ukraine will have been accomplished. Is this an underlying reason for Russia’s