Vladimir Putin has succeeded in doing something that Joe Biden promised to do on the campaign trail but failed. The Russian dictator has truly managed to “bring people together.” In this case, he brought together 141 countries at the United Nations whose ambassadors voted to censor Russia and call for the immediate withdrawal of all of its troops from Ukraine. The idea that this is going to impress Putin or modify his behavior is rather dubious, but it’s yet another demonstration of the sheer tonnage of the world that is aligned against him at the moment. Only Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and Eritrea took Russia’s side and voted with them against the proposal. Now we are left to once again wait and see if any of this consensus translates to additional action that might slow Putin down. (NY Post)
The United Nations voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to reprimand Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The vote was 141-5, with 35 abstentions.
Widespread applause greeted the tally during an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly in Manhattan.
Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea all opposed the resolution sponsored by Ukraine.
Earlier, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, accused Russia of committing war crimes “so barbaric that is difficult to comprehend.”
None of the four “no” votes will come as much of a surprise to anyone, I’m sure. But there are definitely some interesting names showing up among the 35 abstentions and even a couple of surprises among the “yes” votes as well. Here’s the UN graphic of the breakdown.
The first and biggest name on the list of abstentions is China. Everyone has been holding their breath and waiting to see how far China would be willing to go to either back up Putin or walk away from him. They didn’t vote to condemn him, but they once again headed for the sideline and refused to stand by him. China has a lot to lose if they start getting hit with the sort of sanctions the Russians are currently experiencing and it appears that the cost has been deemed too high.
Cuba abstaining was also at least mildly curious. Barack Obama’s attempts at reproachment with Cuba really never went anywhere and they remain very friendly with Russia. But it appears that Putin has gone too far even for the comfort level of the Cuban regime. Perennial foes India and Pakistan both abstained, but so did most of the rest of the “stans.” They all have a lot of skin in the game being much closer to Russia and its muscle, so perhaps they can be forgiven for sitting this out.
South Africa and Vietnam were two other interesting abstentions. We might have to wait a bit before getting an idea of what drove those decisions.
The final point I wanted to make on this vote is that it will likely once again prove to be a test as to what actual power (if any) or influence the United Nations has in the modern world. Voting to condemn Russia is kind of redundant since most of the world has already condemned Putin in very public ways and even acted on those condemnations with economic sanctions. Vladimir Putin has little interest in the United Nations at this point and he’s unlikely to do much more than complain about the organization’s “offensive rhetoric.”
But if the United Nations could leverage a vote like this into something more concrete, then it might prove that it retains at least some level of influence. I’m unsure what sort of action that might be or how much I want them to hold that sort of power. But it could result in even more nations closing off their airspace to Russia or gaining the confidence to impose sanctions of their own. Sadly, I won’t be surprised if virtually nothing comes of this aside from another strongly worded letter.