Sanctions Not the Way to Prevent Russia from Attacking Ukraine. Rather, Involve the United Nations and Close All Western Consulates in Russia
Sanctions Not the Way to Prevent Russia from Attacking Ukraine. Rather, Involve the United Nations and Close All Western Consulates in Russia.
Russia’s massing over 130,000 soldiers and encircling Ukraine with heavy weaponry is not a mere training exercise, which would normally take place far away from other nations’ borders. It is clear intimidation, threatening invasion. Not only is attacking another nation a violation of the United Nations Charter, so is intimidation through massing troops and heavy weaponry near another nation’s border. Russia, a member of the United Nations, is not in good faith when it denies intimidating and generating fears of invasion, whereas Ukraine is not being aggressive militarily at all. Over the past fifteen years, Russia has been repeatedly violating Article 1 of the Charter which states the Purposes of the United Nations (maintain international peace and security), and Article 2 which states the Principles according to which its members shall act (respecting the sovereign equality of all members, and settling disputes by peaceful means in good faith).
Russia is not only a member of the United Nations, it is also a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, whose task is shouldering primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Russia’s aggressive intimidation against Ukraine, not to speak of an eventual attack, is in violation of its duties as a Security Council member (Article 24 of the Charter). Furthermore, under Article 27, any Security Council member being a party of a dispute must abstain from voting, due to obvious conflict of interest considerations.
Articles 33 through 38 of the Charter deal with Pacific Settlement of Disputes, whereby the Security Council has the power to “investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.” The Security Council has been derelict in its duty to take charge of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and it must be held accountable.
Articles 39 through 51 deal with Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression. The Security Council has also been derelict in dealing with Russia’s aggressions against and intimidations of Ukraine.
The United Nations Security Council cannot just stand by when a member nation, particularly a member of the Security Council, violates the provisions of its Charter, otherwise it loses credibility and effectiveness. Worse, by just standing by, the Security Council gives the impression of condoning violations, even of tacitly endorsing them, further undermining its influence and moral standing. The same applies when it does not react convincingly in cases of violations of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has happened all too frequently.
When a member nation of the Security Council violates the U.N. Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it should be immediately expelled from the Council, and not be reinstated until it has repudiated and apologized for its violations, reimbursed damages, paid a significant fine, and proved through its words and behavior that it will be a strong, consistent defender of the Charter and the Universal Declaration. When the United Nations fails to strongly discipline member nations that violate its rules and principles, it loses its reputation as a moral and effective institution and loses its legitimacy. That is what has happened consequent to its passivity regarding the serious, systematic violations of human rights, democracy, and of other nations’ sovereignty by communist nations over half a century. Notoriously, they systematically violated Article 13 of the Universal Declaration which states “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”; Article 17 which states “Everyone has the right to own property… No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property; and Article 19 which states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression… this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Instead of imposing sanctions, which generally do not work (especially in the short term) and invite a spiral of retaliation, the United States should focus on making the United Nations Security Council live up to its task, particularly when one of its members is violating its duties and time is of the essence. Russia would probably not want to have its public relations suffer greatly by continuing its aggressions against Ukraine and being officially reprimanded by the Security Council or even expelled from it. All Security Council members should be required to vote to discipline offending members. Any member not voting to do so should be reprimanded and disciplined. Honesty and impartiality must be a requirement of all members. Tolerating hypocrisy and dishonesty delegitimizes. If the U.N. cannot be an honorable and effective organization, its existence is not justified.
One measure the United States should insist on is that every member nation fulfill the requirement to promote and teach the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to all its citizens. So far, no nation has done so, not even the United States. It is time for the U.N. to insist that every high school teach the Universal Declaration along with the world history of human rights violations, without delay. The U.N. should also institute an annual Human Rights Day, with the presidents or prime ministers of every member nation reading the Universal Declaration on live TV in primetime and pledging to uphold it. Any member nation not observing this crucially important requirement should be expelled from the United Nations.
Another measure which could prove to be very effective in dissuading Russian aggression against Ukraine, would be for the United States and all the other democracies to close their consulates in Russia until it stops its aggression against Ukraine and submits to United Nations peacekeeping and conflict resolution efforts. Closing all their consulates in Russia and forcing the closure of Russia’s consulates would be a very strong gesture, showing a strong commitment to United Nations purposes and principles, an unambiguous repudiation of Russian aggression and intimidation. It would block tourism and other commercial exchanges in a perfectly acceptable way, being a reciprocal measure instead of a one-way economic penalty as are sanctions. No one can reasonably object if a country decides to close its consulates in another nation because of serious violations of the UN’s Charter or of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Russian government would then probably face strong pressure from its own citizens who would not want to be barred from taking vacations in the top democratic tourism nations, or deprived of quality imports.
It is time for the world’s true democracies to have the United Nations seriously enforce its mandate to peacefully resolve conflicts. If there is no will to do so, then the world’s true democracies will show their lack of character and determination to have a much better world, which will inevitably lead to a worse world, a much more dangerous one for all. As the history of Hitler/Nazi Germany illustrates, appeasement of aggressor nations led by dictators does not lead to good outcomes. There should be no doubt that not strongly enforcing the U.N.‘s Charter and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights is appeasement.
© Edward Sonnino 2022
February 8, 2022