Of no consequence: UN General Assembly debates Ukraine war, moves on

Special to WorldTribune.com

By John J. Metzler, September 27, 2023

The arc of history passed through the UN last week as the global Assembly debated and deliberated on the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Storm clouds from far off Eastern Europe descended over the delegations meeting in New York, who while largely and resolutely condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine eighteen months ago, still have not devised an effective diplomatic strategy to stop the bloodiest European conflict since the Second World War.

Thus, as the UN deliberated, and blinked, the world moved on. Ukraine fights on.

While both the General Assembly and a special Ukraine Crisis Security Council meeting featuring Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky rhetorically hammered away at “Putin’s war”, there were few substantive moves to actually stop the conflict.

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19. / Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

President Zelensky visited the UN in his trademark olive tunic to address both the General Assembly and the Security Council, warned that “Humankind no longer pins its hopes on the U.N. when it comes to the defense of the sovereign border of nations.” Reflecting the reality of the long-deadlocked Council, he went on to say that the fifteen-member body “had become useless as long as Russia has the veto.”

Importantly Zelensky is promoting a Peace Plan to end the conflict; Yet his plan demands a return of all captured and Russian occupied territories. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov scoffed that Kyiv’s 10-point peace plan was “completely not feasible” and that the conflict would be resolved on the battlefield if Ukraine and the West stuck to it.

Speaking before the General Assembly Lavrov slammed the U.S. and West claiming, “They are trying to force the world to play according to their own self-centered rules.”

Debate on Ukraine has followed predictable but slowly shifting lines with fissures now beginning to appear eighteen months into the war.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned, “Our world is becoming unhinged. Geopolitical tensions are rising. Global challenges are mounting. And we seem incapable of coming together to respond.”

The U.S.  and European countries are staunchly following a narrative; President Duda of Poland made an impassioned plea, “When unleashing the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin wanted to restore the Russian empire, to divide the world and to make Europe systematically dependent on his raw materials.  He has not succeeded! … Today, the victim is Ukraine. Tomorrow, it could be any one of us.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, though not making Ukraine the centerpiece of his address, stated, “It is Russia alone that stands in the way of peace, because Russia’s price for peace is Ukraine’s capitulation, Ukraine’s territory, and Ukraine’s children.”  Biden implored, “If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?”

Many concerns centered on the vital Black Sea Initiative, the UN brokered humanitarian deal allowing Ukrainian and Russian grain to be shipped to developing countries; the deal was blocked by Moscow last summer.

Slovakia’s President Zuzana Caputova stated, “We cannot allow Russia to turn the Black Sea Grain Initiative into its own Blackmail Initiative. To hold millions of vulnerable people hostage and turn Ukraine from the world’s breadbasket into Europe’s basket case.” The deal allowed for the shipment of 33 million tons of grain to needy markets.

Yet key states such as Brazil, India, South Africa are not on the Western political page. Turkey’s President Erdogan echoed, “The Security Council is no longer the guarantor of international security and has become a battleground where the political strategies of five countries clash.”

Developing World states, the Global South, though not largely pro-Moscow suffer the economic effects and aftershocks of the conflict. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, warned that the Ukraine war between “the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia, may unwittingly open the gates to a nuclear Armageddon.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Anwar Kakar barely mentioned Ukraine but cautioned, “Geopolitics is resurging when geo-economics should have primacy in the world. The world cannot afford Cold War 2.0.”

Egypt’s Foreign Minister, failed to even mention Ukraine among a long list of regional crises. The same was true with the Philippine Foreign Minister who equally stressed the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

Cleary the war remains at a stalemate despite the genuine heroism of the Ukrainian forces, which are boosted by massive U.S./NATO weapons supplies. While the Russians have taken hideous losses, the Ukrainians have failed to achieve the long awaited politically hyped breakthroughs. Will Western enthusiasm supporting a free Ukraine slowly ebb?

China is watching the Ukraine process and its outcome very closely.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]