Following the Russian advance into Ukraine, the United Nations Security Council had introduced a resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 25. The Russian Federation vetoed the resolution by virtue of being a permanent member of the council, with 11 of the council’s 15 members voting in favor of the condemnation.

Not so surprisingly, China, which had been supportive of Russia despite its declared neutrality in the recent UN meetings, abstained from voting. It can be remembered that Russia’s Putin and Xi’s China had exchanged statements of unlimited support following their meeting during the Beijing Winter Olympics, where the two leaders supported each other’s stances on the Ukraine and Taiwan issues.

India, a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), abstained to maintain its ties with the Kremlin and the States. The United Arab Emirates, which is also a US ally hosting American troops, had also abstained. For India and the UAE, Russia has been a major supplier of arms and spare parts for both countries. Without Russia, their ships won’t sail, their planes won’t fly and their tanks are stuck in the barn.

The failed draft resolution would have proclaimed Russia’s acts as a violation of Article 2, Paragraph 4 of the UN Charter, being “an obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.” The draft would also have the Russians halt their military campaign against Ukraine and order the immediate withdrawal of its forces from the sovereign territory. Additionally, the draft would have asked Russia to revert its earlier decision to recognize the independence of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Expressions Of Dismay And Condemnation From UNSC Representatives

After the resolution had been vetoed, a number of UN representatives expressed their dismay with the Russian veto, which was largely characterized as an abuse of power.

“We are united behind Ukraine and its people, despite a reckless, irresponsible permanent member of the Security Council abusing its power to attack its neighbor and subvert the UN and our international system,” said US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield after the resolution was vetoed.

United Kingdom UN Representative Dame Barbara Woodward went into detail as to how women and children in Kyiv, pensioners in Odessa, and innocent civilians throughout Ukraine were seeking shelter from the Russian gunfire and missiles. It was reported a few days ago that Ukraine’s underground metro was now being used as a bomb shelter, with thousands more fleeing the capital city of Kyiv, rushing toward the Western border to Poland.

“Make no mistake. Russia is isolated. It has no support for the invasion of Ukraine,” said the British ambassador, as she notes that history would remember what occurred that day and those who voted in defense of the Charter and for Ukraine’s sovereignty.

French Representative Nicolas de Rivière accused Moscow’s aggression of killing civilians and destroying vital infrastructure all for Russia’s ‘imperialist’ aspirations, calling the invasion a reconquest of the Russian empire. “The result of today’s vote is clear. Russia is alone,” he mentioned, adding that Russia is neglecting its responsibilities as a member of the Security Council and is “using the UN Charter to violate its fundamental principles.”

The United Nations Security Council voting on the resolution that condemns Russian aggression in Ukraine, which Russia subsequently vetoed (Iceland at UN Official Twitter Account). Source: https://twitter.com/IcelandUN/status/1498042775576756227
The United Nations Security Council voting on the resolution that condemns Russian aggression in Ukraine, which Russia subsequently vetoed (Iceland at UN (@IcelandUN) Official Twitter Account)

Indian UN Ambassador T. S. Tirumurti, who chose to abstain, commented that “dialogue is the only path forward.” UAE Representative Ambassador Lana Nesseibeh, who also abstained, noted that the United Arab Emirates would continue its effort to find ‘inclusive and consultative processes’ now that the draft had been vetoed. Meanwhile, UN Ambassador Zhang Jun, who was the only permanent council member to abstain, warned that such actions could “shut the door” to peaceful negotiation, citing the political and economic complexities of the Ukraine crisis and the subsequent invasion.

After not responding to accusations of abusing his country’s veto power, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya turned the tables on the draft’s sponsors. He claimed that the sponsors were “sipping tales” about the real situation in Ukraine, alluding to the West’s attempt to hide that they had been supplying Donbas with weapons.

“You have made Ukraine a pawn in your own game… this resolution is nothing other than yet another brutal, inhumane move on this Ukrainian chessboard”, he said

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In response, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, known for his fiery statements against his Russian counterpart, was in disbelief at Nebenzya’s “diabolical script,” which was in his words, “a rather detailed application for a seat in Hell.” Kyslytsya then asked the council to dedicate a moment of silence, which was followed by a round of applause throughout the chamber. “To pray for the souls of those that have already been killed or may be killed,” said Kyslytsya, inviting Nebenzya to “pray for salvation,” a heated Kyslytsya said.

After the meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres shared his thoughts to the press, “The United Nations was born out of war to end war… today, that objective was not achieved”. However, he stressed that efforts to find settlements must not cease and called back to how the UN Charter was able to stand firm in the past. 

Even with the failed resolution, Russia’s isolation in the results of the meeting remains a major point of interest. Furthermore, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya called for an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly to vote on a similar resolution where no country has veto power.

What Is A Veto, And Why Was The Russian Veto Expected?

The role of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is to maintain peace and security across the globe following the devastation of World War II. The UNSC is tasked to recommend adjustments or settlements for disputing parties and can resort to imposing sanctions on countries that the UN body deems acted inappropriately or had violated international law. Furthermore, it may possibly mobilize forces under the United Nations Command (UNC), as was seen during the Korean War, the first unified international command in history.

Despite its world-renowned status, the effectiveness of the UN’s ability to maintain the peace has been scrutinized throughout the years, mostly due to the permanent member’s veto power which had been abused or used to protect the P5’s allies (or themselves) despite committing human rights abuses, the act of war, and the like.

 A ‘no’ vote from any of the five permanent Council members can veto any resolution proposed to it. Currently, China, France, Russian Federation, the UK, and the US comprise the body’s permanent members.

Article 27 of the Charter of the United Nations states that resolutions with an affirmative vote of 9 members out of 15, including the concurring votes of the permanent members, can pass the UNSC. If in the case that any one of the permanent members utilizes their veto power in any resolution, the said resolution does not pass.

If you’re wondering where the veto powers came from, the authors of the Charter gave the victors of World War II the power to veto so that they would have a single voice on the matters of war and peace, assuming that they would agree on which specific resolutions to veto as a whole. However, it was soon realized that this was not the case and that the veto power of each P5 member was used to protect allies from sanctions and condemnations or protect themselves from sanctions and condemnations—as was seen with the recent Russian veto.

Non-permanent members also have the power of a veto in essence, just that it’s done collectively through a ‘no’ vote. If more than 6 members of the UNSC do not support a resolution, it will definitely fail as it can no longer have nine votes required to pass a resolution. While possible, this does happen quite rarely (almost never).

As recorded by the Security Council Report, Russia actually holds the most number of vetoes to date, with over 143 vetoes as of 2020, the US trails with 83. In 2018, Rusia also vetoed 12 resolutions pertaining to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against civilians during the Syrian Civil War. In fact, historically, the former Soviet Union was known to use its veto so much that Soviet Ambassador to the UN Vyacheslav Molotov had been nicknamed “Mr. Veto,” mostly due to counter the US’ reluctance to admit new members from the communist eastern block to join the United Nations.

 

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