(CNSNews.com) – At a time when its relations with the West are undergoing significant strains, Russia assumes the presidency of the U.N. Security Council on April 1, a development that Ukraine’s foreign minister called a “bad joke.”
“Russia has usurped its seat,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Thursday. “[I]t’s waging a colonial war; its leader is a war criminal wanted by the ICC for kidnapping children. The world can’t be a safe place with Russia at UNSC.”
Kuleba’s Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, plans to visit New York where he will chair a Security Council debate on “Effective multilateralism through the protection of the principles of the U.N. Charter.”
Lavrov’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the issue was of particular relevance as some countries were seeking to “completely undermine the U.N.-centric system of international relations,” and replace it with a “rules-based world order.”
The last time Lavrov attended a Security Council meeting, last September, he delivered a statement then walked out during the proceedings, which focused on the Russian aggression against its neighbor and its plans to annex four regions held by its forces in southern and eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s assumption of the council’s rotating presidency will come two weeks after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for President Vladimir Putin’s arrest on suspicion of war crimes – specifically, the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children to Russia.
Russia’s presidency also comes two days after Russia’s FSB intelligence agency announced the arrest of and espionage allegations against Wall Street Journal journalist and U.S. national Evan Gershkovich, in what is reportedly the first incident of its kind since the end of the Cold War.
Initiatives responding to Russia’s imminent taking up of the gavel include a petition movement appealing to the 14 other council members to boycott meetings and so “paralyze” its presidency, and a joint call by an academic, a U.S. senator and a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow for the U.S. to veto Russia’s presidency and call for the next council member in line (Switzerland) to preside in April instead. Both moves would be unprecedented, and neither seems likely.
Asked earlier this month for the U.N. secretariat’s view of Russia, “a state that commits war crimes” presiding over the Security Council, spokesman Farhan Haq cited longstanding council rules.
“You’re well aware of the rules of the Security Council, including the alphabetical rotation of the member-states of the Security Council for the presidency of the council, which is a policy that is held throughout the lifespan of the Security Council,” he said. “And we have nothing further to say than that.”
(UNSC rule 18: “The presidency of the Security Council shall be held in turn by the members of the Security Council in the English alphabetical order of their names. Each President shall hold office for one calendar month.)
Critics have argued that Russia observes U.N. rules when it suits it, but ignores them at other times.
Last year Russia twice used its veto power to kill Ukraine-related resolutions in the council, in February and again in September. Yet Article 27 (3) of the U.N. Charter states that “a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting” in the Security Council.
Charter tug of war
In their article calling on the U.S. to veto Russia’s presidency, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), former Ambassador Jon Huntsman, and Yale School of Management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld called into question – as others have – the legitimacy of Russia having automatically inherited the permanent Security Council seat formerly held by the Soviet Union. (Unlike every other new member, Russia just assumed the seat in 1991 in a move not subjected to a vote.)
In the bitter dispute over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – or what Moscow terms its “special military operation” – the U.N. Charter has become the object of a tug of war, with both sides accusing the other of violating the foundational document.
On the first anniversary of the invasion last month, 141 U.N. member-states voted in favor of a resolution calling for “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Meanwhile Russia and China lead an informal coalition at the U.N. calling itself the “Group of Friends in Defense of the U.N. Charter,” whose main focus is pushing back against U.S.-led attempts to uphold the “rules-based order” established after World War II.
The “Group of Friends,” which largely comprises autocratic regimes targeted by U.S. sanctions, asserts that the “rules-based order” was invented by the U.S. and its allies to further their own interests and monopolize global affairs.
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