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70 years after Auschwitz – deliberate attempts to rewrite history

MD Staff

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The last week’s Auschwitz ceremony marking 70 years since the notorious death camp’s liberation had a huge turnout. Three hundred survivors of the camp attended. Given the age of Holocaust survivors, the importance of passing their story on to new generations has never been greater. Comparing politicians to Hitler or countries to nazi Germany has become a commonplace insult. But the unspeakable horrors unleashed by history’s most vicious regime bear no comparison.

The Holocaust marked a systematic effort to exterminate entire ethnic groups — most prominently the Jews but also the Roma and Sinti — alongside the slaughter of homosexuals and the disabled. Millions of prisoners of war from the Soviet Union, Polish civilians and political and religious opponents of the nazis including communists, trade unionists, Freemasons and Jehovah’s Witnesses were also exterminated.
The world anti-fascist war which defeated the nazis resulted in efforts to ensure such atrocities would never happen again. But the collapse of the Soviet Union — which played by far the greatest part in defeating the fascist menace, as well as being the liberator of Auschwitz — has seen a deliberate attempt to rewrite history.

The European Parliament sponsors a Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, a pernicious attempt to equate communism with fascism. As Russian communist Il Melnikov said yesterday, virulently anti-Russian regimes in the Baltic states openly celebrate Waffen SS veterans.
Monuments to the Red Army soldiers who, in Winston Churchill’s words, “tore the guts out of the nazi war machine” have been torn down and broken up in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and, since the fascist-backed coup of February last year, in Ukraine.
Ukraine has seen the worst of the resurgence of fascism. New Year’s Day in Kiev saw rank upon rank of torch-bearing neonazi thugs march in honour of Stepan Bandera, who murdered thousands of Ukrainian Jews and Poles during the second world war.
Far-right groups Right Sector and Svoboda do not even bother to hide their racism — but as allies of the pro-EU regime in the country are politely ignored by Western governments, deemed useful for crushing the anti-fascist resistance in the east which hampers attempts to bring Ukraine into the Nato military alliance.

That context explains Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s bizarre comments – during his recent visit to Germany – about the Soviets attacking Germany in the second world war, and the Polish foreign minister’s reluctance to acknowledge Russia’s role. Anyone who dared to acknowledge the historical reality would have no choice but to disown the Kiev regime. The shameful and highly disturbing failure to invite Russia’s president was part and parcel of the same narrative that paints the Soviets out of the picture. That is no comment on President Putin himself, a right-wing and authoritarian leader who presides over a corrupt neoliberal state. But freezing out the Russians indicates a further step away from the global anti-fascist unity established during World War II.
There are few signs that the lessons of that war have been learnt in the West. The United Nations, originally designed to prevent the world from sliding into war again, is increasingly sidelined as Washington, London and Paris ignore a body which cannot be relied on to approve the invasions and bombing sprees that are now a routine tool of Western foreign policy. As war rather than peace is increasingly seen as the natural state of things, as violence, hate crimes and racism are again on the rise, we should use the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation to remember where they lead.

Polishing – Yes, but refurbishing – No!
The latest remarks of the Polish Foreign Minister, Grzegorz Schetyna, and the broader agenda they are part of – has invited international ridicule of his own by saying on Polish radio that it was Ukrainians, rather than the Russian Soviet Red Army, which liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp at the end of World War Two. However, this statement was not made by accident. His listeners were expected to draw a conclusion from it.
The Polish Foreign Minister’s remarks could not have been more ill-timed, against the backdrop of the carnage being carried out by Kiev in the East of its own country and its own people, which is turning the US-inspired local conflict into an effective proxy war between the US and Russia.

Russia has rightly accused Poland of engaging in a “mockery of history” to support the official US and NATO line on Ukraine. As UK-based journalist and writer Neil Clark recently said: “The fact of the matter is that it was the Soviet Red Army which liberated that appalling camp Auschwitz…Yet now in 2015 we are rewriting history to write out the role of the Red Army liberating Auschwitz for political purposes.”
All this was famously foreseen by George Orwell, who wrote: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history” and “indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing off of one part of the world from another, which makes it more difficult to discover what is actually happening …facts will be so dishonestly set forth in that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or for failing to form an opinion.”

 

By kindness of the UK Morning Star Editor

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International Law

Retreating construct of the Contemporary International relations

Amel Ouchenane

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The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 indicated the end of the Cold War. The surprising end of the Cold War shifted not only the world order but also debates in international relations theories. It was unexpected by current international relations theories. Without any large conflict and war exploded furthermore without any transformation in the world system(anarchical), for instance, neorealists predicted that the world’s bipolar order would persist. Neorealists also claimed that international institutions did not have any effect to make war away because International institutions is a matter of material power challenge between states which are not only worried about the unlimited gain, but also relative gain in cooperation and integration.

After the Cold War, international relations discourse provided more diverse approaches to understand and analyze world politics. Constructivism theory is one of the models of the progressing emergence of international relations theory. Rather than diminishing other major theories, according to its holders and proponents, constructivism theory provides wider illumination a larger explanation for determining the dynamic and the function of world politics.

While realism and liberalism concentrate on material factors like power or corporation, constructivist theory tends to focus on the influence of ideas. Rather than considering the state for granted and claiming that it totally aims to survive, constructivists consider the identity and interests of states as an extremely flexible output of special historical processes. Moreover,  the constructivists focus is on the predominant discourse in society. This is because discourse shows and changes interests and beliefs, and sets accepted values, norms of behavior. Thus, constructivism is mainly interested in the main sources and roots of alteration and this approach has broadly substituted Marxism.

Constructivism, especially state identity theory explained by Alexander Wendt and Peter Katzenstein, has become far from the almost particularly rationalist mainstream of international relations theory. The constructivist theory, mainly seen as the most significant challenge to rationalist dominance, argues that the theoretical framework focusing on the concept of state identity, can provide an important alternative and option to rational choice theory. State identity is mainly about the non-material factors such as values, culture, norms, ideasetc, studied by the constructivist scholars. It provides very important causal links to support the basic arguments of constructivist theoretical framework.

The term Constructivism was adopted by Nicholas Onuf in 1989 and introduced as “people and societies construct or constitute each other”. the main assumption of constructivists is that the fundamental structures of international politics are social and these structures shape actors’ identities and interests. Therefore,  the world is structured by both knowledge and material factors, according to constructivists the main important relation is between agents and structures. Moreover, constructivists adopt a common concern when understanding and explaining how international structures are defined by ideas and how identities and interests of the states and non-state players are influenced by the structures.

The post-Cold War era played a significant role in legitimating constructivist approach because both liberalism and realism were unsuccessful in predicting this event and had difficulties explaining it. On the contrary, constructivists had an explanation based on ideas and norms; for example, the idea of “common security,” adopted by Gorbachev.Furthermore, constructivism theory argues that we live in a period where ancient values and norms are being challenged, limits and boundaries are fading and matters of identity and culture are becoming more prominent and outstanding. Unexpectedly, researchers have been drawn to theories that put these issues front and center.In the post Cold War era constructivism emerged into the stage of debates in international relations theories. However, some researchers and scholars criticize that constructivism “remains a method than anything else,  according to them constructivism does not offer an essential theory of world politics.Moreover, it provides a research approach that can be employed to understand and explain international political economy.Therefore, Constructivism should operate with other theories from different disciplines and branches like comparative politics, social psychology..etc.

On the other hand, constructivism has demonstrating itself as an effective theory in understanding and explaining world politics, especially after Alexander Wendt published his article, Anarchy is What States Make of It, which developed the basis of constructivism approach. It focuses more on the nonmaterial world and considers that material world changes are changed by the social world. Thus, the distribution of power and State’s military power do not automatically construct an international social structure. Even without any central governance which has authority over all states in the world, the international system does certainly become a “competitive security system”.

From a constructivist approach, the main problem in the post-Cold War world is how various groups visualize their interests and identities. However, power is not unrelated.  Constructivism focuses on how ideas, norms, values, and identities are created and constructed, how they develop, and how they change the way states comprehend and react to their situation.Thus, it matters whether the US adopts or denies its identity as “global policeman and whether Europeans realize themselves mostly in national or continental terms. Constructivist approaches are highly varied and do not provide a unified group of expectations on any of these matters.

Constructivism varies itself from neoliberalism and neorealism by emphasizing and highlighting the ontological reality of intersubjective knowledge. It does not mean that constructivism neglected the material world because intersubjective knowledge and material world interact affect and influence each other. Furthermore, both the material world and intersubjective knowledge are not independent and not separated. They have relative autonomy.

According to Constructivism theory, the material world does not completely define how people, or states, behave. It only limits the chance of interpretation and the intersubjective world that people can build. Moreover, material body enforcing is restricted to social structure. Thus, constructivists do not mean the unlimited possibilities of social structure. However, people have the capability to interpret, as they cannot easily interpret the social world and their own material world. There is restriction of interpretation of the social world, that.the  material world changes and is changed by the social world.

Constructivism theory discusses the issue of anarchy in the international system, At a simple conceptual level, Alexander Wendt claimed that the realist conception of anarchy does not explain why conflict occurs between states enough. The main thing is how anarchy is understood, and Wendt argues that  “Anarchy is what states make of it.” He also argues that transnational communication and shared civic values are weakening traditional national obeisance and make an extremely new genre of political alliances. Furthermore, Constructivist theory focuses more on the role of norms, claiming that international law and other normative principles have decreased mainly the notions of sovereignty and changed the legitimate purposes for which state power may be used.

Constructivism theory recognizes the significance of nonmaterial power (culture, ideas, language, knowledge, and ideology) as well as material power because the two powers connect and interact to build the world order. For instance, nonmaterial power works through creating and recreating intersubjective meaning. It clarifies how the material structure, states’ identity, interactions and relations between states, and any other social facts should be realized and comprehended.

The end of the Cold War came as a surprise to the classical dominant theories, who failed to predict or explain the changes in global politics. However, it provided the opportunity for more evolution of critical thoughts, which started since the mid-1980s. The Realist approach in international relations was criticized largely for their materialistic approaches by constructivism, which speedily boomed and was known as a theory that focuses on the social dimension of international politics. This improvement towards the chance of change helped the theory to catch significant elements of the world’s relations: the many factors of mainstream presumptions and norms in world politics, which were threatened and challenged by constructivism.

Constructivism defied the theory of power politics, especially dominant perception of the threat and conflict in global politics and picked a fully different approach in studying the construction of the threat through  their fundamental focus on the social dimensions of international politics, therefore,  it recognizes them as socially constructed elements in the process of identity formation under the influence of the norms and shared values of society.

Discussing the Euro-Med theatre in his ‘Geopolitics–Energy–Technolgy’ book, for example, prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic states: “The MENA theatre is situated in one of the most fascinating locations of the world. It actually represents the only existing land corridor that connects 3 continents. Contributing some 6% to the total world population, its demographic weight is almost equal to that of the US (4,5%) and Russia (1,5%) combined. While the US and Russia are single countries, the MENA composite is a puzzle of several dozens of fragile pieces where religious, political, ideological, history-cultural, economic, social and territorial cleavages are entrenched, deep, wide and long. However, the MENA territory covers only 3% of the Earth’s land surface (in contrast to the US’ 6,5%, coverage and Russia’s 11,5%). Thus, with its high population density and strong demographic growth, this very young median population (on average 23–27 years old) dominated by juvenile, mainly unemployed or underemployed, but socially mobilized and often politically radicalized (angry) males, competes over finite and scarce resources, be they arable or settlers land, water and other essentials.

Competition in this theatre, that has a lasting history of external domination or interference, is severe, multiple, unpredictable, and therefore it is fluid and unsettled on the existing or alternative socio-economic, ideological, cultural and politico-military models, access, directions and participatory base.”

As we see, the work of constructivists was established around their aim in explaining the changes in world politics in the period towards the end, and after the Cold War especially when dominant international relations approaches and theories failed to predict the sudden change in the global politics. Moreover, this transformation raised the question about social construction and the methodology of international relations theories and their involvement and effects in the production of international power.

The main dominant international theories were unable to explain the collapse of Soviet Union, especially the theories which focus on material power, and nuclear weapons. This is because, despite being a nuclear power, the Soviet Union collapsed. Neorealists tried to provide a simple explanation by telling the decline of Soviet power. But, the explanation focused more on domestic politics and economy than on the material structure of world’s distribution of power.Thus  it could not explain enough why the Soviet Union  and Gorbachev adopted decisions which could endanger its national security and survival and stop it from increasing its hegemony and power, However, neorealists were still certain about the significance of neorealism.

Another explanation was given by Democratic liberalists who tried to stress the people’s aims for freedom and objections to communism. Neoliberalism and the market economy favorably forced their hegemonies to the world and increased the validity of tyranny and command economy. However, while this evidence could explain the decline of communist ideology in the Soviet Union, it could not explain why such transformation and change happens in the 1980s. However, Neoliberals provided another explanation. Liberalism and communism interacted across political borders, especially the new way of thinking among top political leaders decreased the hegemony of communism and made the Soviet Union collapse. Therefore, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War presented a significant challenge for constructivists to understand. Wendt said that “material structure can have special impacts.

The distribution of power, anarchy in international relations and military power do not fix states’ identities and relations. State military power can be understood as a threatening power as well as protecting power for other states.

In addition, a nuclear weapon is a matter of perception. For instance, nuclear weapons in the hands of United States has a different meaning for Taiwan than a nuclear weapon in the hands of China. Therefore, considering states “like billiard balls of varying size” is not enough to explain and understand reality. Military capabilities of any state and the distribution of power in the international system are interfering elements but they are not able to understand relations between states. For example, two enemy or allied states can be divided by defining the material military structure. However, the states identification and social structure are important elements which define relations between states. Constructivism theory (actually rather an ontology) argues that common identities and a long history of alliance and cooperation between two states can be a strong ground of cooperative security system. On the other hand, other identities and a long history of conflict and struggle can build a competitive security system based on conflict and wars.

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International Law

Will Israel Be Expelled from U.N.?

Eric Zuesse

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The conditions of membership in the U.N. are specified in the U.N. Charter. Specifically, “Articles 5 and 6 of the Charter of the United Nations deal respectively with suspension of rights and privileges of membership, and with expulsion from the United Nations.” But the operative part is Article 6, which reads:

“A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.”

Israel certainly qualifies, but the United States Government, which is controlled by the anti-Shia and anti-Iran alliance between Israel’s Government providing the anti-Iran lobbyists and propagandists, and the Saudi Government providing the anti-Iran bribe-money, won’t allow that. Consequently, no matter how violative of the U.N. Charter Israel is, it cannot be expelled.

The United States Government likewise is routinely violating the U.N. Charter and cannot be expelled, because this very Government is on the U.N.’s own Security Council as one of the five permanent members: it would veto its own expulsion.

Consequently, a fatal flaw in the current U.N. Charter is that no vote by the U.N. General Assembly can expel a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Nor can they expel any member of the General Assembly that’s backed by one or more members of the permanent Security Council. Until this situation is changed and a stated percentage of the votes from the General Assembly can expel a member from the U.N. General Assembly, there can be no international accountability applied against a member of the U.N. Security Council permanent five nations; and the U.S. Government, being a member of that, will continue to be allowed to do whatever its Saudi and Israeli masters want it to do — thereby protecting both Israel and Saudi Arabia themselves, and giving each of those two masters virtually as much freedom-of-action as the U.S. has; the U.S. Government’s masters buy impunity, indirectly, from their protector.

This is not a world of international law; it is a world of international force — basically a world of conquest and submission (and subversion can be part of that), which mocks democracy internationally (and maybe even domestically), and therefore effectively corrupts and prevents democracy within all nations that the controlling masters in Saudi Arabia and in Israel demand.

The most fatal failure of the U.N. Charter is thus its prohibiting any amendment that one of the five permanent Security Council members opposes.

The issue of what the conditions would be for amending the U.N. Charter was debated while the U.N. Charter was being drawn up in 1945, but nothing effective was agreed to, and so the U.N’s PR on the matter states only that “the question of future amendments to the Charter received much attention and finally resulted in an agreed solution.” They don’t say what that “solution” was, but there have been no controversial amendments made to the Charter, during its 73 years, so whatever it might have been was almost totally ineffective. A web-search for “U.N. Charter” plus “proposed amendment” produces no major “proposed amendment” but does, near the top, show what that (obviously failed) “agreed solution” (which the U.N. tries to hide) was; and it is:

“This concession took the form of Articles 108 and 109 concerning Charter review procedures. While Article 108 describes the required steps for making specific amendments, Article 109 introduces the option of a review conference outside of the usual General Assembly (GA) meetings with the purpose of a comprehensive “review” of the Charter. Both these avenues for making changes to the UN Charter include the criteria of two-thirds of the UN member states voting for and ratifying a proposed amendment. However, in addition, “all the permanent members of the Security Council” must also ratify before the amendment goes into force. This unanimous concurrence of the P5

[the five permanent members] is the biggest challenge to adopting any amendment to the UN Charter.”

In other words: The U.N. Charter’s colossal (and thus-far fatal) failure was in its including the 5-member permanent Security Council’s veto-provision to apply even to any proposed amendment to the Charter. Only an amendment which all five permanent members support can pass. Here is such an amendment. No matter how much of the rest of the world want a particular change to be made, it can’t be done unless all five of the permanent members of the Security Council will accept it. This is the harmful dictatorial power that the five permanents were granted, but it can be eliminated without eliminating the Security Council itself (as will be discussed later here).

Consequently: In order to boot Israel or any other international rogue-nation out of the U.N., an amendment would first be needed, which would apply a degree of accountability to each member of the U.N. permanent Security Council, by stripping the provision that inappropriately applies their veto-power even over the consideration of any proposed amendment. Obviously: amending the Charter should be a matter for consideration only by the General Assembly — without any veto-power being held by any one nation. Amendment isn’t regular U.N. action: it concerns the Charter itself.

The biggest difference between a religious Scripture and a democratic constitution (such as the U.N. Charter was intended to be for the entire world) is that whereas the former (Scripture) includes no provision for its being amended, the latter (a democratic constitution) does — or else it instead is actually a religious Scripture, something to be taken only on faith, no democracy at all, nothing suitable for the Age of Science, and thus for a future of democracy. This faith-basis being the actual epistemological status of the U.N. Charter — unless and until its amendment-section becomes itself amended to what it needs to be — that Charter is a religious Scripture, and the U.N. is more a religion than a democracy of any kind, so long as there exists any nation that can veto any proposed change to the founding document. Though intended to be the emerging democratic constitution for the future world, the existing U.N. Charter is instead just a type of religion, and this is its Scripture. (Though, as noted, uncontroversial amendments may be considered in it; so, the U.N. isn’t fully a religious institution.)

Consequently, to address these problems, I propose that the members of the U.N. Security Council that wish to establish through the U.N. a democracy and transform the U.N. so as to abandon its current status as being a religion, push, at the U.N., relentlessly, for a measure to unlock the U.N. Charter — to enable it finally to be significantly amended and allow a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to pass into international law as an Amendment to the emerging global Constitution, the no longer religion, but instead henceforth the democracy, of an unlocked Charter of the United Nations — thereby causing the existing Scripture to be henceforth a Constitution.

Unless and until this (the introduction of the General Assembly’s exclusive ability to amend the Charter) is done, there can be no progress, only continued regress to international dictatorship and a World War III, and so in the direction of even more global dictatorship — this time likely ending in global extermination (precisely what the U.N. was intended to avoid).

Any member of the Security Council who would oppose removing that provision — the veto-power’s extending even to any proposed amendment to the Charter — would be clearly an international pariah-Government and enemy of democracy, which all the rest of the world could then boycott and penalize outside the U.N. until that pariah-nation becomes defeated economically and thus effectively becomes coerced by economic means to become a decent member-state in the international community.

This is an existential issue for the future of a livable planet. A basic condition for progress is the elimination, from the Charter, of the clause:

“including all the permanent members of the Security Council.”

That phrase must be removed both from Article 108 and from Article 109, Paragraph 2, both of which say:

“108. Amendments to the present Charter shall come into force for all Members of the United Nations when they have been adopted by a vote of two-thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratified in accordance with their respective

[individual national] constitutional processes by two-thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.”

“109:2. Any alteration of the present Charter recommended by a two-thirds vote of the conference shall take effect when ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two thirds of the Members of the United Nations including all the permanent members of the Security Council.”

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are: China, France, Russia, UK, and U.S. U.S. would try to block removal of that phrase “including all the permanent members of the Security Council.” On 14 May 2018, Russia’s Sputnik News bannered “UK Has no Plans to Move Embassy to Jerusalem, Disagrees With US on Issue – May”, and this indicates that the U.S. well might be the only member that would fight to block democratization of the U.N. — to unlock the Charter for all U.N. members.

The precipitating event for this call for correcting the Charter would be the virtually unanimous repugnance of the entire world other than the U.S., regarding Israel’s string of brazen in-your-face violations of the Charter and of much of international law. Taking advantage of this intense global outrage — plus of the many outrageous actions by the U.S. Government itself — provides a rare opportunity to make the long-delayed but essential reform of the U.N., as follows:

America is the only member, of the five permanent members of the Security Council, that is so under the boot of Israel and of the Sauds. America is controlled by its own aristocracy, which are heavily interlocked with those of Israel and especially of Saudi Arabia and its other vassals, such as UAE but more broadly including the Gulf Cooperation Council of Arabic fundamentalist-Sunni royal families — and that includes a large portion of the world’s wealth. The American portion of that Imperial alliance includes control over many of the world’s largest consumer-brands, and is thus (unlike either of its masters) especially highly vulnerable to international public-image problems, such as any consumer boycotts.

There might be a way to save the world. This might be the way to a progressive future, reversing the worst of what has happened after the death of FDR (who, more than any other person, laid the groundwork for the U.N.).

Though the U.S. Government might succeed in winning the UK’s support to block democratization of the U.N., such boycotts might produce a democratic victory, if not immediately, then still within a reasonably short time, such as happened when apartheid was removed from South Africa. But this victory would be not only for the Palestinians — it would be for all peoples everywhere — a world moving in the direction of international democracy, no longer like now, in the direction of increased international dictatorship.

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International Law

Liberum Veto and the Monkey and the Pea

Dr. Andrey KORTUNOV

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To paraphrase the beginning of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: all effective structures are alike; each ineffective structure is ineffective in its own way. The problems with the effectiveness of the UN Security Council are in many ways unique, as unique as the body itself. In recent years, only the laziest have failed to reproach the Security Council for dragging its feet, acting irresponsibly, getting bogged down in political infighting and pointless rhetoric, and being unwilling or unable to agree on the most pressing crisis situations, from Syria and Ukraine to Palestine and Myanmar.

For all its diversity, criticism of the Security Council has two main points. The first point is related to the composition of the Council itself, and the second is connected to the procedures of its operation. The current choices for the Security Council’s permanent members, or Big Five, are questionable to say the least. China is represented, but India is absent. France and the United Kingdom are present, but Germany or the European Union as a whole are not. Neither Africa nor the Middle East nor Latin America are represented. As for procedures, the primary bone of contention is the veto enjoyed by the five permanent members, which allows any of the Big Five to block any and all decisions that fail to please them.

It is clear that the first of the two problems looks more interesting, though the second one is of more importance. The prospect of expanding the Security Council promises a great deal of diplomatic scheming, behind-the-scenes negotiations and cunning subterfuge. However, as long as the right of veto remains, and as long as the obvious differences in the viewpoints of the permanent members regarding fundamental international problems persist, extending membership of the Security Council – regardless of which countries are let in – will make very little difference. On the contrary, “democratization” under the same old procedures will only serve to further complicate the possibility of ever reaching any agreement.

It is worth remembering that the constant abuse of a similar, albeit much more democratic principle of liberum veto (free veto) in the Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth eventually led to the irreversible decline and subsequent partition of one of the most powerful states in medieval Europe. Unfortunately, in recent years, the right of veto has been used more and more actively by some members of the Security Council. And it is Moscow that has set the tone. In the past two years alone, the Russian Federation has used its veto power nine times in connection with the Security Council’s examining the situation in the Middle East.

The struggle against the veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council has been going on for a very long time, without much chance of success. More than anything, it is a question of status, especially for those members whose position in world politics and whose economies are on the decline. To deprive them of their special status would be to inflict a crushing blow to national pride, to reduce them to the level of “ordinary” countries, and to forget their role in the creation of the United Nations. To be fair, let us recall that the permanent members of the Security Council are still the UN’s primary donors, accounting for more than 42 per cent of the organization’s total budget.

Besides status, however, the right of veto is also a question of practical national interests. For all their differences, each of the members of the Big Five values their sovereignty and would not like anyone, including the United Nations, to interfere in it. The Big Three of Russia, China and the United States are particularly critical of this issue. And the veto provides almost absolute guarantee of sovereignty to the select few.

So what should be done? Actually, the international community has little choice. You can do things the nice way, or you can do things the hard way. Doing things the hard way would mean commencing the procedure for a radical revision of the UN Charter so that a significant part of the Security Council’s authority would be transferred to the General Assembly. At the same time, you could get rid of the veto. In theory, such a procedure is provided for by the Charter itself: Article 109 allows for a United Nations General Conference to be held for this purpose with the support of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly and any nine members of the Security Council.

This is a rare case when the veto right of the permanent members of the Security Council is not valid. This procedure for the revision of the UN Charter has thus far never been implemented. And this is no coincidence, as it contains serious risks for the United Nations as a whole. Everyone understands that while it might be possible to take apart the complicated machine that is the UN, putting it back together again would be another thing entirely.

Doing things the nice way would mean convincing the permanent members of the Security Council of the need to take “voluntary” restrictions upon themselves in the use of the veto. There has been an active Code of Conduct campaign behind the scenes at the General Assembly for several years now that is designed to exert moral pressure on the permanent members of the UN Security Council to at least not to block those resolutions related to crimes against humanity and genocide. Strangely enough, the campaign was initiated by France, which is itself a permanent member of the Security Council. Presently, more than half of the UN’s members have joined the campaign. However, Russia, the United States and China, in a rare display of solidarity, refuse even to discuss such a possibility. The logic of the Big Three is understandable: start with voluntary restrictions and you can end up with an actual withdrawal of the veto power as a whole.

A multitude of other options exist to reduce the dependence of the practical work of the UN on the veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council. Some suggest extending the powers of the UN Secretary General. Others talk of resurrecting the now dormant Military Staff Committee. And still others believe that the solution to the problem lies in the transition to “subsidiary” peace-making by having the United Nations transfer a number of important functions in this area to “authorized” regional organizations. In any case, in order for these or other similar proposals to be implemented, a consensus is needed among the Big Five, something that is sorely lacking at present.

However, try as you might, the end will always come. The current situation in the UN Security Council should not be considered normal. It is difficult to believe that this abnormal situation can last indefinitely. In failing to resolve critical regional and global crises, the Security Council suffers serious damage to its reputation, damage that extends to the United Nations as a whole. This is not even the point; more importantly, the chronic paralysis of the Security Council reinforces and justifies the temptation to bypass the UN Security Council and sometimes circumvent the modern system of international law in general. For now, actions bypassing the Security Council are still perceived as the exception, but they could soon become the rule. For now, they are frowned upon, but soon they could become the norm.

Historical – and even everyday – experience suggests that those not willing to sacrifice a part risk losing the whole. Unfortunately, the United Nations is not at all immune to the fate of its predecessor, the League of Nations, which left the political scene quietly in the late 1930s, at the precise moment that international efforts to prevent a new world war were needed most.

To return once again to Leo Tolstoy, this time to one of his children’s fables: “A monkey was carrying two handfuls of peas. One little pea fell out. He tried to pick it up and spilled twenty. He tried to pick up the twenty and spilled them all. Then he lost his temper, scattered the peas in all directions and ran away.” The permanent members of the UN Security Council are still in the second stage – twenty peas have already been spilled. Will it reach the third stage?

First published in our partner RIAC

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