What is Ukraine’s decision about?
The UN resolution condemns the “so-called illegal referendums” in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya, demands that Russia immediately and unconditionally stop “illegal annexation attempts” of those regions, and calls on the UN General Assembly to suspend and non-recognition of the annexations. The resolution (mainly directed by the European Union) affirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and demands the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the Russian army.
“Now is the time to publicly support Ukraine,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement on Monday. This is not the time to abstain from voting, soothing words, or ambiguity under the guise of neutrality. The core values of the UN Charter are at stake. By the way, the UN resolution basically has the value of a moral appeal.
What do you think Russia?
Russia rejects the resolution as a unilateral, cynical and polarizing attempt to advance, as Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has said, an “anti-Russian narrative.” Moscow says the referendums are legitimate and respect the objectives of the Russian military operation: to protect the Russian-speaking population of the four Ukrainian regions from the hostile pro-Western regime in Kyiv.
Diplomatically isolated Russia urged a secret ballot Monday so as not to embarrass sympathetic nations, an unusual suggestion that the meeting halted (107 countries voted against, 13 in favour, 39 abstained, including Russia and China not). Sensitive defeat for Putin on the day of the missile attacks on Ukraine.
What will happen now?
Dozens of the 193 UN member states have already spoken out in favor of the resolution on Monday. The debate continues on Wednesday. Then Russia and pro-Russian countries such as Belarus, North Korea and Syria will speak. It remains uncertain how officially neutral superpowers such as India, China and countries such as Iran and Pakistan will act. After that, member states vote on the resolution. This could also be on Thursday.
Last month, Russia blocked a similar draft resolution in the UN Security Council that also condemned the annexation. However, the United Nations decided earlier this year that the veto of the 15-member V-Council should always be explained in a plenary session in the General Assembly. The general meeting has no veto, but it cannot – unlike the V-Council – implement its decisions.
It has something of déjà vu.
True, at the end of February, Russia blocked a draft resolution in the V-Council condemning the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and ordering Moscow to stop the offensive. In early March, the General Assembly adopted a similar proposal, blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and removing it from the UN Human Rights Council. A large group of African and Asian countries, including China and India, abstained from the vote.
Can the United Nations really mean something?
Highly unlikely, due to the inherent inertia of the global advisory body, which is increasingly leading to impotence. As mentioned, the V-Council can enforce things, for example by sending a UN peacekeeping force, but is hampered by the veto of permanent members. The General Assembly is not subject to the veto, but it cannot impose anything. So Ukraine can’t expect much from the UN.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 is an ominous lesson. Also at that time, in the V Council, Russia blocked a resolution condemning the referendum on the future of Crimea and calling on member states not to recognize the result of this referendum. The General Assembly then adopted a similar resolution, with 100 votes in favour, 11 against and 58 abstentions. About 24 countries did not vote. Crimea is still in the hands of the Russians.
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Read the live blog about the war in Ukraine from Friday, March 31 here