Will the UN become an April Fools’ joke?
"Can you imagine such blood thirsty despots as Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or Pol Pot presiding over the UN Security Council, charged with preserving global peace and harmony?"
TO begin with, let’s recall what Sri Aurobindo wrote in his 1950 postscript chapter to the second edition of The Ideal of Human Unity.
At the time when this book was being brought to its close [in 1918], the first attempt at the foundation of some initial hesitating beginning of the new world-order, which both governments and peoples had begun to envisage as a permanent necessity if there was to be any order in the world at all, was under debate and consideration but had not yet been given a concrete and practical form; but this had to come and eventually a momentous beginning was made. It took the name and appearance of what was called a League of Nations. It was not happy in its conception.... The League of Nations was in fact an oligarchy of big Powers each drawing behind it a retinue of small States and using the general body so far as possible for the furtherance of its own policy much more than for the general interest and the good of the world at large.
In a Foreign Policy article dated April 1, 2022 (not an April Fools’ joke) and titled “Putin’s War Is an Existential Crisis for the United Nations,” Colonel Yevgeny Vindman argued that the UN “needs to be replaced by an organization where one nation cannot escape accountability because it is in a special class.” Here is what he wrote:
On June 30, 1936, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia appeared before an international body [The League of Nations] that had been charged with maintaining world peace and providing a forum for resolving international disputes. Haile Selassie pleaded for his people to prevent further destruction by a power bent on a war of conquest, Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italy. The assembled nations listened and sympathized but ultimately took no action to stop the war. Three years after Haile Selassie’s address, with the League of Nations proven incapable of preventing state aggression, the world once again was at war....
Nearly 86 years later, history is rhyming.... Russia’s war in Ukraine has upended a world order established in the wake of a worldwide conflict and designed to prevent wars of conquest and to prevent one dictator from attempting to shift the boundaries of nations at his own whim. Again, factions are forming — either in support of the aggressor state, led by a despot who stands in opposition to basic human rights, or in favor of the established order that obligates nations to refrain from wars of conquest....
The consequence of ceding even one additional inch of Ukraine in a war of aggression like this is dire. Granting Putin anything short of defeat reinforces the notion for tyrants that they can change borders by force if they are willing to pay a price in the lives of their own subjugated masses. Tyrants will make this choice every time for their own interests.
Any real Putin victory that recognizes his gains means the demise of the post-World War II rules-based order and corrupts the value of the United Nations system.... The U.N. was meant to be a successor to the League, correcting its flaws. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has never been tested as it is now. How can the U.N. survive when one permanent member of the Security Council, charged with maintaining peace and security among countries, is the initiator of a war of aggression? The short answer is that it can’t in its current form. A successor to the U.N. or a modified U.N. must follow this war.... Whatever the new organization, a total veto by one special status state will be antithetical to the purpose of that body.... Ultimately, any body that seeks to uphold international norms must have the ability to hold all its members accountable should they violate international law. Putin’s actions, like Mussolini’s, have uncovered the failings of the U.N. If this body fails in crisis and cannot preserve order, it should fade into oblivion like the League of Nations.
To continue with Sri Aurobindo’s postscript chapter:
[T]hat such an organised endeavour [as that which led to the creation of the League of Nations] should be launched at all and proceed on its way for some time without an early breakdown was in itself an event of capital importance and meant the initiation of a new era in world history; especially, it was an initiative which, even if it failed, could not be allowed to remain without a sequel but had to be taken up again until a successful solution has safeguarded the future of mankind, not only against continued disorder and lethal peril but against destructive possibilities which could easily prepare the collapse of civilisation and perhaps eventually something even that could be described as the suicide of the human race. Accordingly, the League of Nations disappeared but was replaced by the United Nations Organisation....
In the constitution of the U.N.O. an attempt was made, in principle at least, to escape from [the errors of the League of Nations]; but the attempt was not thoroughgoing and not altogether successful. A strong surviving element of oligarchy remained in the preponderant place assigned to the five great Powers in the Security Council and was clinched by the device of the veto; these ... concessions ... have done more to create trouble, hamper the action and diminish the success of the new institution than anything else in its make-up.... A third attempt, the substitution of a differently constituted body, could only come if this institution collapsed as the result of a new catastrophe....
In the run-up to this year’s April Fools’ day, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, (Senator) Richard Blumenthal, and Jon Huntsman write in Time [emphasis mine]:
It seems like the worst April Fools’ joke in history, but an indicted war criminal, Vladimir Putin, is about to take control of the U.N. Security Council—with the implicit blessing of the United States, France, and the U.K—just weeks after his global criminal indictment.
On top of this, the man just designated as Putin’s emissary to address this session of the Security Council is his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov—who stormed out of the Security Council this fall when confronted with evidence of Russia atrocities against Ukraine. Last month a G20 summit in New Delhi erupted in laughter when Lavrov complained that Ukraine started the war by attacking Russia. How can the U.S. watch as this speeding car heads towards the cliff?...
On March 17, 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin asserting that “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for an array of atrocities and war crimes committed against non-combatant civilians since his invasion last year of their peaceful sovereign neighbor Ukraine. There are five permanent members of the Security Council—the U.S., China, France, Russia, and the U.K.—which are collectively known as “the P5.” Each of them individually can veto any resolution.
The Security Council’s ten elected members, which serve two-year, rotating, nonconsecutive terms, are not afforded veto power and of course no other U.N. member nations have that power. In the decade since Putin’s return to office in 2012, Russia has exercised that valuable power a stunning 24 times, twice a year. China has used it ten times, once a year. But the U.S. has only exercised that power three times over the decade. What could be a better cause than now to use that power now.
According to Article 27 on the U.N. charter, any member nation that is a party to a dispute must abstain from voting. Last year, in violation of Article 27 and several articles of the U.N. Charter, Russia’s vetoed a Security Council draft resolution intended to end the Russian Federation’s military invasion of Ukraine. As a party in the dispute and as an aggressor nation, Russia should have recused itself from voting and been denied its veto power.
That proposal, submitted by Albania and the U.S., gathered support from 11 Security Council members but was vetoed by the Russian Federation. China, India, and the United Arab Emirates all abstained.... This was followed by a sweeping show of global unity with, 141 countries voting in favor of an UNGA resolution demanding an immediate end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russian blocked this, too. Shelby Magi and Yulia Shlamov of The Atlantic Council promptly and accurately condemned this situation stating that it “makes mockery of the Security Council.”
Astoundingly, history is repeating itself as, improbably, Russia also obtained control of the UN Security Council just after they launched their invasion on Ukraine a year ago. Russia exploited that position—part of a long history of Russian shenanigans at the U.N.—to shamelessly promote a false counterfactual narrative of Ukrainian neo-Nazis while burying meetings, speakers, and resolutions which did not align with their diabolical agenda....
On top of all this, Russia has never been admitted as a U.N. member nation, let alone a legitimate member of the U.N. Security Council. No nation, including Russia, has even been grandfathered in a surviving nation of a former fallen empire. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 thirteen of the fifteen former USSR republics, from Armenia to Azerbaijan to Uzbekistan, were required to apply to membership. Only Ukraine and Belarus had standing, as having been among the original members since 1945.
Nowhere in USSR diplomatic statements, was Russia identified as the equivalent of the 15 member USSR. One cannot simply join the U.N. by expressing its wish to join—it must be ratified through the formal process. With no application for membership, no review of a nomination, and no ratification vote, Russia is simply not yet a nation with any legal standing at the U.N.
The U.S., across political parties and Administrations, has been reluctant to exercise its UNSC veto power as career diplomats often possess a near determination for compromise and backchannel conversation but there are moments to stop the conversation and take a stand.
It is times like these that the U.S., the U.K., and De Gaulle had in mind in 1941 when they called for an international postwar peacekeeping institution with, crucially, veto powers by five superpowers—if their membership is in good standing. In the next five days, the U.S. merely needs to take a stand, saying no to Russia’s presidency, and calling to bypass Russia for the next nation in line to lead the Security Council.
To continue with Sri Aurobindo’s postscript chapter and to conclude:
The League of Nations came into being as a direct consequence of the first war, the U.N.O. similarly as a consequence of the second world-wide conflict. If the third war ... does come, it is likely to precipitate as inevitably a further step and perhaps the final outcome of this great world-endeavour. Nature uses such means, apparently opposed and dangerous to her intended purpose, to bring about the fruition of that purpose. As in the practice of the spiritual science and art of Yoga one has to raise up the psychological possibilities which are there in the nature and stand in the way of its spiritual perfection and fulfilment so as to eliminate them, even, it may be, the sleeping possibilities which might arise in future to break the work that has been done, so too Nature acts with the world-forces that meet her on her way, not only calling up those which will assist her but raising too, so as to finish with them, those that she knows to be the normal or even the unavoidable obstacles which cannot but start up to impede her secret will. This one has often seen in the history of mankind; one sees it exampled today with an enormous force commensurable with the magnitude of the thing that has to be done.
The thing that has to be done is the eventual realization of the ideal of human unity.
This article by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Sergiy Kyslytsya begins with these words: “Can you imagine such blood thirsty despots as: Adolf Hitler; Saddam Hussein; or Pol Pot presiding over the U.N. Security Council, charged with preserving global peace and harmony? It may read like one, but this is no April Fool’s prank—next month, Russia—and by extension, Vladimir Putin—will assume the Presidency of the U.N. Security Council. Known burglars are not given banks to run, nor are convicted sex offenders given charge of daycare centers. In the same vein, Putin should not be allowed to make a mockery of international diplomacy by becoming the face of global peace as he escalates his unjust invasion of Ukraine with new attacks daily.”