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Russia’s Defense of the UN Charter as It Wages War Brings Both Outrage and Shrugs in the Security Council


António Guterres and Sergey Lavrov shake hands at UN Security Council meeting on April 24, 2023
At a Russian-led Security Council meeting on “effective multilateralism” through the defense of the UN Charter, António Guterres, the secretary-general, greets Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, April 24, 2023. The open debate, which Lavrov came from Moscow to preside over, featured tart pronouncements, yet the fireworks were surprisingly few as certain countries steered clear of isolating Russia. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Remarkably, it was business as usual at Monday’s much-anticipated United Nations Security Council debate on “effective multilateralism” through the defense of the UN Charter, chaired by Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.

The meeting occurred as Russia, a permanent member, leads the rotating presidency for April. Ukraine, which typically speaks at Council meetings pertinent to the war, avoided the session.

Indeed, against the backdrop of Moscow’s brutal assault on Ukraine, Lavrov, reading from rambling, prepared remarks that hit many of the Kremlin’s well-worn talking points in the last year — including Nato’s eastward expansion and the “shameful” and “criminal misadventures of Washington” in Yugoslavia, Libya and Iraq — delivered Russia’s vision for a new multipolar world. He called on member states to “revive the culture of dialogue, respect the purposes and principles of the UN Charter” and “the sovereign equality of all states,” adding, “This is what we all signed onto when we ratified the Charter of the United Nations.”

Seated to Lavrov’s right at the Council’s horseshoe table, UN Secretary-General António Guterres criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it a “violation of the United Nations Charter,” in addition to “causing massive suffering and devastation to the country [Ukraine] and its people.” He also read a long laundry list of the world’s woes that could be alleviated through diplomacy and multilateralism. He applauded the success of the Black Sea Grain initiative, presenting it as a “compelling example” of the “significance of multilateral cooperation,” and urged its “continued implementation.”

The grain deal, an agreement brokered by the UN, Türkiye, Ukraine and Russia in July 2022 to allow for the safe passage of Ukrainian grains to be exported from three of its Black Sea ports onto global markets, expires on May 18. Russia is threatening to cut it off, along with a side deal between the UN and Moscow meant to get Russian fertilizer further exported. While speaking at a joint press conference with Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Havana on April 20, Lavrov criticized the grain deal for prioritizing “commercial interests” over the humanitarian needs of countries of the global South by sending most of the grain and other agricultural products not to the poorest countries but to “Western countries or countries of other continents which are rather well to do.” (Guterres met Lavrov later on April 24 during which Guterres handed the foreign minister a letter to give to President Vladimir Putin, proposing extending and expanding the Black Sea initiative and addressing some of the problems with the separate fertilizer deal.)   

In Monday’s Council session, Guterres also addressed the recent violence and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan, where a war between two military generals exploded about a week ago. “The violence must stop,” he said. “It risks a catastrophic conflagration within Sudan that could engulf the region and beyond.”

In her remarks, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States permanent representative to the UN, accused Russia of “weaponizing” the Black Sea deal to prevent it from “reaching its full potential,” and for “violating universal human rights and fundamental freedoms” for unlawfully detaining American citizens like former US Marine Paul Whelan, who in June 2020 was charged and convicted of espionage and sentenced to 16 years hard labor in a Russian camp.

Elizabeth Whelan at the UN on April 24, 2023. Her brother, Paul Whelan, has been held captive by the Russians since 2018.
Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, who has been held in a Russian hard-labor camp for the last three years on charges of spying, stood up in the Security Council balcony to be acknowledged by Russia’s Lavrov, who waved briefly from his seat while looking at a pile of papers. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Elizabeth Whelan, Paul’s sister, attended Monday’s meeting and stood in the Council’s balcony as Thomas-Greenfield directed her remarks to Russia, the “hypocritical convener” that uses American detainees as “bargaining chips” and “human pawns.”

“I want to direct your attention to the gallery where today we’re joined by Paul’s sister Elizabeth,” Thomas-Greenfield said, wearing a small pin on her lapel, combining the flags of the US and Ukraine. “I want Minister Lavrov to look into her eyes and see her suffering. I want you to see what it’s like to miss your brother for four years [and] to know he is locked up in a Russian penal colony simply because you want to use him for your own means. I’m calling on you right now to release Paul Whelan . . . to let Paul come home.”

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Lavrov reportedly waved his hand to Whelan during Thomas-Greenfield’s remarks but avoided making eye contact by looking at a pile of papers at his seat in the Council.

The US envoy also called for the immediate release of Evan Gershkovich, the 31-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter detained on March 29 by Russia and accused of espionage by its Federal Security Service while on a reporting trip in Yekaterinburg, a city located east of Moscow.

When a Wall Street Journal reporter (who said he was a friend of Gershkovich’s) asked Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, outside the Council chamber whether she had a response to Thomas-Greenfield’s call to release the journalist, she became visibly annoyed.

“Why are they [the US] so much focused on such situations? There are also other citizens of the world which are actually facing the same problems,” Zakharova said. “Unfortunately, the United States pays no attention to their destinies.”

Unlike Britain’s envoy to the UN, Barbara Woodward, who in the Council accused Russia of “trampling on the Charter” by invading Ukraine, or Switzerland’s ambassador to the UN, Pascale Baeriswyl, who “emphatically” condemned Russia’s military aggression and called on Russia to “without delay” withdraw all its troops from Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Gabon and Ghana, who in a quiet show of solidarity with Russia sent high-level foreign ministers to the debate to speak. They avoided overtly criticizing Russia.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, holds up a copy of the UN Charter
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the American envoy to the UN, held a copy of the UN Charter as she read Article 2: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

However, while Brazil’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, João Genésio de Almeida Filho, didn’t directly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Brazil has not done so in the last year, he reiterated his country’s condemnation of “the threat or use of force as a means of resolving disputes.” Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, recently traveled to China, where he suggested he and a core group of countries that included China could negotiate peace in Ukraine. Brazil’s former foreign minister, Celso Amorim, is reportedly traveling to Kyiv, although no date has been set yet.

We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on Russia's ideas of multilateralism?

Dawn Clancy is a New York City based reporter who focuses on women’s issues, international conflict and diplomacy. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previously, she has written for The Washington Post and HuffPost.

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Russia’s Defense of the UN Charter as It Wages War Brings Both Outrage and Shrugs in the Security Council
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Col Jennings
Col Jennings
11 months ago

For decades I have queried the ‘veto’ anomaly of the UN Security Council. Even at the outset the Charter was seen to be unworkable and yet 70 or more years later the big powers control and its total failure to act to prevent the exercise of wars is abysmal. Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is a clearcut example of the Security Council’s failure to contain the aggressor. I believe there is a good case to scrap the UN Security Council and reconstitute an all Nation’s Security Active Body.
The people of this world deserve better – war no more!

Ponle Sueez Akande
Ponle Sueez Akande
11 months ago

“These actions can be taken immediately without any changes to the current architecture and using existing methodologies and instruments. There is no reason not to act. And yet, the international community is not finding common ground. The group of Twenty (20) in particular remains at an impasse. But failing to listen to these clear cries for change would be a mistake, one that would lead to the decoupling of our global financial system, and an unraveling of multilateralism at large.” Deputy Secretary General tells Bretton Woods Meeting, 13 April, 2023.

Also, “At the halfway mark of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are slipping from our grasp.” The Deputy Secretary General further said.

As reported elsewhere: “Released on 13 April ,2023, the IMF Managing Director’s Global Policy Agenda 2023, highlights safeguarding economic stability, supporting vulnerable, and sustaining our future prosperity as the institution’s key priorities.It warns that the outlook for the global economy, is increasingly risky and uncertain and that” divisions within and across countries are deepening, exacerbated by rising fragmentation,”The Policy Agenda calls for strong policy action and pragmatic approaches to find areas of common ground to respond to shared challenges,”

“According to the (WBG) Development’s Committee’sChair’s statement, governors reaffirmed their commitment to achieving the SDGS and requested that the WDG continues its efforts to support: …………….
They also reiterated their call for”greater international cooperation and strengthened multilateralism to safeguard global economic integration,”

As per the chair’s statement, while there were “other views and different assessments of the situation” most members of the Development Committee recognised that “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has continued to have massive humanitarian consequences and detrimental impact on the global economy.” Similarly, the IMF Managing Director’s Global Policy Agenda 2023 emphasizes that ending the war in Ukraine “remains the single most impactful action” to support vulnerable countries”

The Development Committee is a WBG /IMF ministerial forum for building intergovernmental consensus on development issues, and is formally known as the Joint Ministerial Committee of the Boards of Governors of the Bank and the Fund on the transfer of Real Resources to Developing Countries.

” For the first time in 32 years the Human development Development Index has declined for two years in a row , reaching its 2016 levels. Poverty and hunger are on the rise, while inequalities have widened. These crises come upon top of a climate emergency that continues to batter vulnerable economies and populations, making our asks of them to lift themselves out of destitution not only unrealistic but disillusional.” According to the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations.

All the foregoing official assertions and warnings confirm the precipitous state of the political and economic situations in the world.

We need to act very fast, and it shall be irresponsible of me if I do not reveal more boldly than hitherto that I have the ideas as veritable solutions to the global catastrophic challenges. I am the expected Messiah, avatar, the CHRIST.

Knowledge of history, economics, econometrics political economy, political science, philosophy, psychology, pedagogy, industrialization, urban and regional planning, religion, jurisprudence, law, sociology, business development, business administration, public finance, etc, altogether, is required of the innovator of the veritable solutions to the global catastrophic challenges.

Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, Hobbes, Locke, Descartes, Rousseau, Roscoe Pound, Montesqeiu, Kant, Adam Smith, Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin, Madison, Keynes, Friedman, Einstein, Ford, W.W. Rostow, Hegel, Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc, were some of the exemplars who wrote books at critical historical epochs of catasrophic challenges, as breakthroughs to the challenges

I can do the same now for the United Nations as these exemplars mentioned above did, but I lack and I need financial grant to comprehensively document my ideas as veritable solutions to the global catastrophic challenges of today.

Ponle Sueez Akande
Tell +234(0)7043321950

Ponle Sueez Akande
Ponle Sueez Akande
11 months ago

As reported: the chair of the meeting, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, against the background of Moscow’s “brutal assault” on Ukraine, hit many of the Kremlin’s well- worn talking points in the last year – including NATO’s eastward expansion and the “shameful”and criminal misadventures of Washington” in Yugoslavia, Libya, and Iraq – and delivered Russia’s vision for a new multipolar world. He was further reported to have called on member states to ” revive the culture of dialogue, respect the purposes and principles of the UN charter” and sovereign equality of all states”, adding “this is what we all signed onto when we ratified the charter of the United Nations.”

The war in Ukraine must be stopped. And the only way to achieve this is to profoundly appraise the above remarks of Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia.

Before the war in Ukraine, have the same allegations and judgements been made, then against the US and NATO in other quarters than Russia? The issue of unipolarity is a viral concern, being now worked against by many nations, and is indeed the principal principle being rejected in the proposals for democratisation of the United Nations, world parliament, the reforms of the security council, permanent membership of the security council for an African nation, a new sovereign world currency independent of the US Dollar, etc.

The democratic credentials of the United Nations are grossly questioned, with the United States of America being alleged, indeed adjudged, of hegemonic control of the instructions of the United Nations. And, the global governance is perceived as grossly unipolar, with the G77 and China making serious efforts at a transition to a multipolar world order or global governance.

However the history of the United Nations reveals the hitherto necessity and inevitability of the United States hegemony. And, unless we undertake a dispassionate analysis and appreciation of the past relationships of the United Nations and the United States of America, we may not properly envision the path constituting breakthroughs to the conjunction of convoluted multicrises now confronting global governance and national governance

The United States has since inception, or thereabout, of the United Nations contributed twenty-five percent (25%) in financing the budget of the United Nations, as the strongest national economy in the world. The US Dollar has, for this reason, been the official international currency. These facts cannot be denied, nor reasonably regretted, notwithstanding the present desirability of transitioning to a multipolar world order, or global governance, in the face of the recent economic empowerment of many other nations; chief among which is China. With the countries of the European Union, typified by France, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa, and many others teaming up with China in the quest for a rapid transition to a multipolar global governance or world order, and democratisation of the United Nations; it is only reasonable to embark on reforms of the United Nations. No doubt; but we must not be confrontational in our approach. A mediatory or conciliatory approach is necessary, is the sine qua non, in order not to further disrupt global governance.

Those on each side of the two divides must empathize with those on the other side. This is the only path to the solution to the war in Ukraine.

We can only continue to put either Russia or United States of America to shame, in the present global circumstances, to the perils of all humanity.

The United States of America is top important to the whole world not to be treasured. So also, the U.S.S.R, and now Russia, had or has been a great asset to the whole of humanity, as a dialectical check on the international capitalist manipulations of the United States of America.

We must not forget at this critical epoch that the United States of America gave us, humanity, the Constitutional entrenchment of the foundamental human rights, fought its civil over the practical abolition of slavery, which lord Mansfield, in England, had many decades before judicially adjudicated to be unlawful, evil.

Do we forget in the heat of the moment President Abraham Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy and the others so like? Or, were Hegel, Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin and such others evil?

What is playing out is the natural evolution of dialectical materialism, at this epochal juncture of today’s world; the fallouts of the respective counteracting forces of capitalism and communism, towards an ultimate rational definite centrist ideology prevailing. Centrist ideology is welfarism; the greatest good for the highest possible number of the people.On the other hand, unbridled capitalism breeds inequalities, corruption, crimies and criminalities, and, generally, sufferings.

Gorbachev’s glasnost and pereistroika, described by Putin as the worst crime against humanity, was not caused by Putin, and is the rationale for the war in Ukraine. Gorbachev confessed- the truth should guide us out of this conuldrum- that he was procured, as a young man, and guided by the West, to become the president of the U.S.S.R, in order to execute the disintegration of the U.S.S.R, the Union.

We must first remove the ills of capitalism and representative democracy, before we improve communism.

We should desist from labelling Putin/ Russia, or, Boden/ United States of America, as evil.

Capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, feudalism, slavery, hegemony, racism, et Al, have been practiced by all races of humanity, All humanity is guilty. We must all join hands in attempting to exorcise evils in the governance and cultures of all humanity.

Ponle Sueez Akande
Tell +234(0)7043321950

Ponle Sueez Akande
Ponle Sueez Akande
11 months ago

Russia /Ukraine war must be stopped. How do we go about this?

We should ruminate over the above remarks of Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, in Russia’s defense of the UN charter, as it wages war

We will find the path to the solution, stopping the war, in the remarks. The key phrases are ‘unipolar world order’ and multipolar world order’ The question is how do we rapidly transmit to a multipolar world order? Also, what does Russia or Putin want to do with Ukraine? .

The radical and first step is that the countries of the EU and the USA should immediately join the BRICS. The follow-up steps shall be comprehensively documented in the form of many books to be urgently written by me and for which I need financial grant.. Let the United Nations or some other body or coalition urgently provide me with facilities and I will immediately start and complete soon the comprehensive documentation; with the assistance of many professional, in order to gain speed, as the works which shall normally take me alone between five and ten years, shall be completed in six to ten months.

As part of the solution, we shall excogitate innovations on rapid implementation of the sustainable development goals agenda.

We should desist from blaming Russia or The United States. This will only continue to fuel the fire of the war.

USA was for a long time past the strongest economy in the world, and the strongest military power. These made inevitable that the United States of America dominated the world affairs all this while change to multipolarity and democratisation of the United Nations or global governance are required urgently.

The United States of America a long past contributed twenty five percent in financing the budget of the United Nations and also contributed military personnel, equipments and weapons to UN missions. And we would only be wise if we make for a peaceful transformation to the required multipolar global governance.

Ponle Sueez Akande
Tell +234(0)7043321950

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