Uniting Against Russian Tyranny
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(5 March 2022) — The vote in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on March 3, 2022, on the “Uniting for Peace” resolution confirmed that an overwhelming majority of the world’s independent states believe in the core fundamental tenets of the UN Charter, that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, no matter their military might or economic power, are inviolable. In an extraordinary strong show of unity, the UNGA voted overwhelmingly to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022, described by Russia as a “special military operation”. The resolution called on Russia to end its military operation and withdraw its military forces from Ukraine territory.
The resolution also reaffirmed the Charter principle that the threat of force or use of force which results in territorial acquisition is illegal under international law and the UN Charter. The resolution endorsed a statement by the UN Secretary-General, made on February 24, in which he called the use of force by one country against another a “repudiation of the principles that every country has committed to uphold.” He said also that the present military offensive of the Russian Federation against Ukraine is against the UN Charter.
This UNGA vote confirmed that the international community of civilized nations, without fear or favor, holds the Russian Federation guilty of gross violations of international law, broadly held international norms, and the UN Charter. The resolution also stated that Russia’s declaration and recognition of areas of Ukraine as independent republics is illegal. Specifically, the resolution described Russia’s declaration that secessionist-held areas of Ukraine’s Donbas territory as independent republics of Donetsk and Luhansk “as a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter,” and demanded that the Russian Federation “immediately and unconditionally reverse the decision” to declare these designated areas of Ukraine’s sovereign territory independent states.
In its demands, the UNGA reminded the Russian Federation of the UN Charter obligations to which all member states are committed. The resolution cited Article 2 of the Charter, which, inter alia, sets forth
“… the obligation of all States … to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin spurned efforts to engage in diplomatic dialogue to achieve a peaceful settlement of the situation. Instead, he has chosen to continue his pursuit of military options rather than diplomacy to settle international disputes as required by the UN Charter. In the meantime, Putin continues to prosecute the unnecessary war he started without any form of provocation or perceived threat against the territory of the Russian Federation. Countless lives are being lost in the conflict, and visual reports of Russian troops indiscriminately using massively superior deadly force in populated areas are nothing less than war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is inconceivable that the international community will not overwhelmingly support investigations, indictments, and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court to hold Russian political and military leaders accountable. In a civilized world war criminals must not be allowed to engage in such egregious acts with impunity.
Small countries should be particularly concerned when any other country under any pretext, whether claiming historical, ethnic, or any other nexus to the country seeks through threat or use of force to seize the territory of another sovereign state, or to subject the population of any country to their will. Most states accepted the truth of Russia’s violations of the Charter and international law and voted for the resolution.
It is an abrogation of responsibility of those states to their populations and to the UN Charter who failed to vote in favor of the UNGA resolution. While there were some surprises among the abstentions, there were no surprises among the four Russian client-states which along with Russia voted against the resolution – Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria.
Thirty of the 34 countries in the Americas voted in support of the UNGA resolution, and four abstained – Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Notably, all 14 members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were among the 141 UN member states voting for the resolution. CARICOM should find solace in the overwhelming UNGA vote affirming core principles of the Charter and international law. Two CARICOM member states face spurious claims on their territories from neighboring states. In the case of Belize from Guatemala which is before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and in the case of Guyana which faces a territorial claim from Venezuela which has refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the ICJ.
Putin’s military aggression and illegal invasion of Ukraine have shattered world peace and European global stability. His military aggression will not ease until he kills tens of thousands of Ukrainians and destroys Ukraine’s democratic institutions and the country’s physical infrastructure. While Putin has the power to succeed militarily, he will not destroy the will of the freedom-loving Ukrainian people. They will continue to fight to restore the freedoms they have experienced in the years preceding the invasion.
Putin will fail in his pursuit of restoring the Russian empire. He will face a United Europe, a Europe that will be weaned over time from reliance on Russian energy and food supplies. Not only will Putin be the loser, but the Russian people also will lose out on being a part of a global community striving for fundamental freedoms and economic prosperity. But all may not be lost if the Russian people are able to rid themselves of the world’s most egregious autocratic leader, today’s Russian reincarnation of Joseph Stalin. Putin may even be on track to face the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. His generals and close enablers, including his foreign minister and other high-level government officials, may follow the same path to accountability. But Putin’s accountability will only be realized if the people of Russia first remove him from power and the ICC can acquire personal jurisdiction over him and his fellow actors and collaborators.
The humanitarian effect of the sanctions against the Russian population could be brutal. With the Russian economy in a free-fall, the worse is yet to come. Russians were already challenged by an economy which was failing prior to the invasion of Ukraine. They will be hit even harder from the impact of sanctions. The rapid deterioration of the Russian ruble, as well as the effect on Russia’s grain trade and import of technology and spare parts for the country’s energy and manufacturing sectors will be devastating. The international community, in particular importers of grain exports will be impacted. Russia’s energy exports could be added to the sanction targets.
Importers of Russian grain and energy exports will need time to develop alternative energy supplies, including the increase in capacities of countries, such as new producers such as Guyana and Suriname, to produce and export oil and gas to satisfy the shortfall in global supplies. Similarly, growth in the capacities of grain producers and exporters to increase global supplies to meet the challenges of international food security will have to overcome challenges of climate change effects to increase global supplies.
Countries which fail to enforce the sanctions against Russia, and possibly future sanctions against Belarus, though challenged by the expected effects of the sanctions on the price of energy and food security, could themselves face secondary sanctions. The economies of Caribbean countries and other small countries are particularly vulnerable with very little capacity to cushion the effects. Decisions must be made on sound geopolitical, security, and economic considerations and not on ideological or emotional reactions. Each government will have to decide for themselves and gamble either way they perceive their national interests lie. Political leaders must ultimately act in the best interests of the people they serve.
© Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post