Canada has not been punched above its weight on the world stage since the Liberals came to power in 2015, but could vindicate itself by leading a movement to immediately expel Russia from the United Nations and its Security Council.
It’s unacceptable that Russia remains on the United Nations Security Council and keeps a veto that has basically deadlocked the body over the years and prevented it from taking action against the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia and four other countries — China, the United States, France and Britain — have permanent seats on the Security Council because of their sacrifices in the Second World War. Yet this system no longer makes any sense. Countries must insist on changes as Russia continues its immoral war against a fellow UN member state.
Russia is a terrorist nation and its president, Vladimir Putin, has been charged by the International Criminal Court with war crimes. Russia should have been expelled a year ago, after the General Assembly condemned its invasion of Ukraine and called for Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw.”
But expulsion can only be granted by the General Assembly if requested by the Security Council — a request that would be blocked by Russia’s veto. This effectively means that the Security Council cannot meet its responsibilities, which are to identify threats to peace or acts of aggression.
The council is also empowered to ask parties in a dispute to settle their differences peacefully and it can recommend terms of settlement or send in the “blue berets” to keep the peace. But it does none of these because of Russia’s veto.
An urgent reform would be to disallow the use of a permanent member’s veto if the veto-holder itself is the cause for concern. Another would be to open an inquiry into the questionable legality of how Russia grabbed the Soviet Union’s permanent seat in 1992.
The presidency of the Security Council rotates monthly among its 15 members and Russia presided in February 2022, when it invaded, and again last month as its rampage continued. It is apparent that Putin timed his invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, in part because Russia held the Security Council presidency that month.
After the invasion, Russia was still in the presidency, and the council immobilized from taking immediate action. Worse, even if the action had been demanded, its veto, and presumably China’s, would have blocked any effort to intervene.
“The choice of an aggressor country for the leader of the UN Security Council has met with reflections on whether the UN can fulfill its fundamental principles enshrined in the UN Charter,” wrote Paulina Piasecka, a national security expert in Warsaw, in a Polish publications. “It forces us to face the bitter truth. The rules born from post-World War II trauma have less and less meaning.”
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As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy put it, Russia’s presidency on the Security Council is “absurd.”
The United Nations does important work, in terms of oversight and aid, but must be rehabilitated. No country should have a veto over peacekeeping efforts. Canada, a strong supporter of the UN and multilateralism, could play a role by demanding changes that would allow for Russia’s removal. Now.