Labour migration in Russia has suffered the shocks of the pandemic and the coming economic crisis, bringing about major changes to its present and future. Even today, many migrants find themselves in the difficult position of having to wait for the restrictive measures to be lifted, and their prospects of going home are vague (due to the borders being temporarily closed, as well as the fact that their home countries suffer from unemployment). Additionally, the access of migrants to the Russian labour market is shrinking rapidly. But do the massive changes that have taken place in 2020 constitute a turning point? How significant will their impact on the future of labour migration in Russia be? How will the situation in Russia be affected (and how much has it already been affected) by the changes in the Eurasian and global migration systems that have been brought about by barriers to migration that have only appeared recently? 
The Global Context
The “perfect storm” that has combined the coronavirus pandemic, a dramatic drop in oil prices, the unfolding economic crisis (that is worse than the crises of the last decades), the closing of borders between states (including borders within regional unions such as the EU and the EAEU), the sharp restrictions in international trade, the long-term demand for political populism in most host countries stemming from playing the “migrant card,” the drought expected in Europe and the United States, and the unprecedented plague of locusts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, will all make it far more difficult to manage migration flows throughout the world.
The consequences of this “perfect storm” that is unfolding before our eyes are so significant that they have prompted a series of negative forecasts, ranging from doubling the scale of the expected famine (according to the United Nations World Food Programme, or WFP, over 265 million people across the globe may face acute food shortages by the end of 2020, which is 130 million more than predicted in 2019) to predicting a revision of the outcomes of globalization, partially abolishing the global division of labour and gradually drifting towards the principle of the self-sufficiency of national economies (if governments fail to take control of the crisis within a year). All these forecasts focus on factors that will ultimately affect migration processes, from prompting new refugee flows out of Africa to the increased vulnerability of migrant workers in most host countries.
New Changes and Changes Long Underway
Rapid changes taking place all over the world in 2020 have altered the challenges involved in controlling migration.
Over the past few decades, Russia has seen major changes in external migration, including differentiation of inbound flows (an increase in the share of families migrating, more migrant women and children, and greater age diversity); growing numbers of migrants from small towns and rural areas; falling education and income levels, as well as greater cultural diversity (including languages and faiths), among newly arriving migrants; and a change in the structure of migration flows, with migrants from Central Asia dominating.
On the other hand, the main incentives for migration to the Russian Federation have not changed: Russia has the best economic situation within the Eurasian migration system; it has an aging population and thus needs a labour force, including unskilled workers. Demand for unskilled labour is evidenced by a stable inbound flow of migrant workers who are mostly employed in unskilled, physically demanding and low-paying (as seen from the calculations of person-hours) jobs.
Migrant workers have essentially become an integral part of Russia’s labour market, and the changes that have taken place in labour migration over recent decades, coupled with the emergence and growth of a “parallel community” with “migrant” services and infrastructure, make their rapid and large-scale return home less likely. For many of them, Russia has already become a second home, and their principal hope for a better future. Nevertheless, some migrant workers will go home in 2020 (let us not forget that many of them are natives of small towns and rural areas who will be able to sustain themselves through their small farmsteads), although the contributing countries have very limited opportunities for supporting their returning citizens. For instance, experts propose giving away land in rural areas and decreasing the tax burden.
Recent expert reviews analyzing the effects that the coronavirus pandemic has had on labour migration mostly focus on the short term, while predictions of falling labour migration into Russia use the 2008 and 2014 crises as points of reference. However, the 2020 economic crisis in Russia has its own specifics: the economic situation has deteriorated sharply, and the pandemic has only added to its woes; there has been a sharp drop in oil prices; international sanctions have continued; borders have been closed and economic activities suspended. Another important factor is the social anxiety that the people of Russia have increasingly experienced over the past several years, which has been exacerbated by the negative socio-economic consequences that can already be observed (small and medium-sized businesses closing, large numbers of Russian citizens being laid off and having difficulties paying their mortgages, the vulnerability of mass medical services that has been highlighted by the pandemic, etc.). The state’s mitigating response has been slow in coming, even though it involves minimal costs. Consequently, we can predict an unstable socio-economic (and even political) situation, which will lead to issues of managing migration flows being relegated to the background, while homebound migrant flows will be greater than during previous crises.
The difficult situation today is fraught with unpleasant consequences both for migrant workers themselves and for the Russian labour market. In the coming months, migrant workers will be partially pushed out from the niches of Russia’s legal labour market in big cities. We know this from past experience (the crises of 2008–2010 and 2014–2016). However, purchasing power, which has been limited by the economic crisis, will work major changes in the shadow sector as well, curtailing the number of jobs even in those businesses that do not pay taxes (or do not pay them in full) and minimize their expenditures by way of the super-exploitation of labour. The shadow sector of the labour market is expected to grow. Foreign workers will compete with Russian citizens, and migrants will have certain advantages here, such as a willingness to work for lower hourly wages and in hazardous conditions, including those that are detrimental to their health. Today, the expected drop in quality of life in contributing countries (due, in part, to smaller money transfers from Russia) makes migrant workers a group that easily offers itself up for super-exploitation.
The changes that have taken place on the Russian labour market as a result of the pandemic (increased numbers of delivery persons, greater numbers of white-collar employees switching to online work, etc.) mean that jobs in delivery services that unemployed Russian citizens typically take as stop-gap solutions until they find a more permanent position will go to foreign workers in the medium term. The caregiving services (domestic workers) will continue to grow due to the aging of the Russian population, which will open up new opportunities for foreign citizens. In the medium term, agriculture will also offer more jobs to foreigners.
Two opposing trends will develop: the state will strive to collect more taxes, and entrepreneurs will strive to minimize their expenditures by hiring more foreigners, sometimes semi-legally and sometimes entirely illegally.
Obviously, in both the short and medium term, at greater or lesser pace, migration legislation will continue to be liberalized and the management of migration flows will become more flexible. For instance, during the pandemic, the President issued an executive order that eased the situation of migrants. In addition, a law was passed allowing those who wish to become Russian citizens to keep their previous citizenship, temporary residence permits were abolished and categories for obtaining Russian citizenship were introduced. These developments appear to be links in the chain of this gradual liberalization, no matter how slow it might be.
The events of 2020 will increase the number of foreign citizens willing to obtain a Russian residence permit or Russian citizenship, particularly among migrant workers who have years of experience living and working in Russia. Given the increasing competition with Russian citizens, migrant workers who want to reduce their outgoings will strive to improve their employability, and acquiring a more protected status will help them minimize risks in terms of finding employment and a place to live.
In the short term, when the restrictive measures imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted, emigration of Russian citizens, including skilled workers, might increase against the background of the economic crisis. Educational migration from post-Soviet states (states contributing to Russia-bound migration) will increase, and the number of migrants studying at Russian vocational educational institutions whose graduates have good employment prospects in Russia will noticeably increase.
Many experts expect an uptick in Russia political activity among the Russian people after the pandemic. This may lead to populist parties enjoying more influence in political life, using xenophobic and migrant-phobic myths to boost their popularity.
Migration Challenges for Russia
The changes that have already taken place and are taking place now have brought the issue of modernizing migration challenges in Russia to the foreground.
Crime and Terrorism
Foreigners have never accounted for more than 3–4 per cent of all crimes committed in Russia, as attested by the official data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. Even given the difficult circumstances that migrant workers have found themselves in over the past few months, we can confidently say that crime is unlikely to surge among them. Their long-term plans are geared towards working in Russia, and Russia has strict rules in place that involve deportation after two offenses (including administrative offenses), followed by a lengthy ban on entering the country. These two factors are a powerful deterrent against any illegal activities. Migrant workers typically find themselves breaking the law when it is difficult for them to overcome the barriers to their acquiring legal status in a lawful manner, and when it is cheaper to solve their immigration issues through illegal means. We are talking about buying fake registrations cards and/or employment contracts, not felonies that involve harm to life or health. However, such situations raise more questions about the height of the hurdles that migrants must overcome in order to obtain legal status than about the migrants themselves.
In both the short and medium term, mass migration into Russia is unlikely to generate an increased terrorist threat. However, terrorism challenges will become more relevant in the long term if the state withdraws the previous funding for integratory measures aimed at migrants of all categories, including the integration of foreign-born Russian citizens, particularly children of naturalized migrants. Additionally, given the possible increase in nationalistic sentiments and the growing numbers of terrorist attacks and right-wing crimes, targeting migrants will become a serious long-term challenge.
The risk of the coronavirus and other infectious diseases quickly spreading among migrants is rather high: studies show that migrants tend to live in overcrowded conditions, have limited resources for purchasing protective equipment and medication, are poorly aware of the recommended preventive measures, and generally do not have medical coverage as the price of even the most medical insurance that would include semi-regular check-ups is prohibitively high for them . Consequently, healthcare for migrants is the gravest challenge of all. Migrants fall under the most vulnerable categories during pandemics throughout the world, not just in Russia. International organizations have already voiced this problem.
Growing Xenophobia and Migrant-Phobia
It is possible that xenophobia and migrant-phobia in Russia may grow, and with Russian citizens losing jobs in large numbers, the possibility will only increase. In times of economic crisis, migrants are traditionally seen as competition for Russian citizens who work in menial jobs, which is only fair if heavily qualified, yet this idea is actively explored by populist politicians. Migrant- and xenophobia are unlikely to lead to serious ethnically motivated conflicts in the near future, but it will certainly increase the popularity of political parties and movements that use anti-migrant rhetoric.
The situation of foreign migrants has already deteriorated significantly due to the restrictions on inbound, outbound and domestic travel imposed during the pandemic. These restrictions apply equally to Russian citizens and the citizens of the EAEU states. Travel barriers being lifted gradually will hardly result in a quick and full recovery of the migration opportunities that existed before the pandemic. This is also a major challenge, since restrictions on the free movement of labour curtail both regional and international economic growth pace.
Increased Job Competition
The upsurge in unemployment in Russia that began in March–April 2020 and is expected to continue in the coming months will increase the competition between Russian citizens and migrant workers somewhat in the short term. In the medium term, the decrease in the size of the working-age population will weaken this competition. However, if the negative scenario materializes (see below), domestic migration will push job competition between Russian citizens and migrants in large cities to higher levels than before the pandemic.
Depopulation of Russian Provinces
One challenge that has invited little discussion is domestic migration, including seasonal work, i.e. Russian citizens from economically depressed regions travelling for seasonal work to regions that are the strongest economically. Crisis phenomena will spur on domestic migration, especially after the peak of the pandemic has been passed, and this will lead to the faster depopulation of Siberia and the Russian Far East. This is a long-term challenge.
The “Brain Drain”
The emigration of skilled workers from Russia will continue to be partially offset by the influx of talented and educated professionals, primarily young persons, from post-Soviet states. This includes educational migration. A small uptick in the “brain drain” from Russia can be expected in the short term, mostly due to the narrowing windows of opportunity for the young generation due to the socio-economic crisis in Russia, and inbound migration will not entirely offset Russia’s “brain drain.”
Prospects and Conclusions
As of right now, in May 2020, it is difficult to make any accurate estimates about the migration consequences of the “perfect storm” that we are currently experiencing. Not until the pandemic ends and the socio-economic crisis that is brewing becomes clearer. Nevertheless, some consequences for the global community, as well as for Russia, can be seen quite clearly even now.
The International Situation
In the coming years, migrants around the world will experience greater labour exploitation and become increasingly vulnerable. This will be due, among other things, to the growing poverty in countries that contribute to the workforce, as well as to the growing need for migrants to transfer money back home.
Against the background of tightened restrictions and greater obstacles to legal migration, both undocumented (illegal) migration and human trafficking will increase.
Famine and social unrest (including armed conflicts) stemming from unresolved problems with food supplies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East will increase the risks of new refugee flows.
If deglobalization does not lead to outright border closures and integration associations shutting themselves off (for instance, the European Union closing its borders), then it may, to a greater or lesser degree, result in new restrictions on migration. Having said that, the triumph of globalization is that it has been interfering with or even destroying the self-sufficiency of most countries for decades, increasing their dependence on the international division of labour, tourism, and trade. The cutting of international ties during the pandemic has worsened the situation in all states that depend on international supply chains. Consequently, a new upsurge in industrialization and reindustrialization in both developed and developing countries appears quite realistic. In the medium and long term, this development will bolster the demand for both skilled and unskilled workers and result in the obstacles to migration flows being somewhat relaxed.
Russia fits into most of the global trends outlined above.
In the short term, the EAEU partnership will take on more pragmatic, or perhaps stricter, forms. However, migration flows will not shrink. Instead, they will change their format: shadow labour relations will increase, as will the number of human rights violations; labour protection standards will deteriorate, and human trafficking will be on the rise. Thus far, the negative consequences of these changes are hard to assess, but in the medium term (the next three to four years), Russia can expect to see the following scenarios, all of which directly depend on the socio-economic measures the government adopts in the short term.
1. The optimistic scenario.
Once the restrictive measures are lifted, the Government of the Russian Federation will launch intensive purchasing power support by pouring money into the economy and helping it emerge from the “slowdown,” with special attention being paid to small- and medium-sized businesses . Demand for migrant labour (both skilled and unskilled) will gradually increase, and in the medium term, those migrant workers who had gone into the shadow economy immediately after the restrictive measures were lifted and those who had temporarily returned home will have more opportunities for legal employment.
Centripetal trends in domestic migration (people moving to Central Russia) will remain in place, but there will be no major increases in seasonal workforce. Educational migration in Russia will continue at the same pace and will gradually become differentiated due to the influx of foreign students into Russian vocational educational institutions. Migration legislation will be further liberalized, thus stimulating the legal employment of Migrant workers. Considerable attention will be paid to the influx of skilled labour and to curtailing the “brain drain.”
This scenario implies migration flows returning to their previous levels in the short term and gradually increasing in the medium term.
2. The pessimistic scenario.
The Russian economy is slow to recover. Solvent demand is low. Real unemployment is growing. Jobs in economic niches that had been traditionally occupied by migrants are moving into the shadow economy. Migration-related corruption does not drop, or even grows and becomes a part of everyday life, making it more difficult for the authorities to manage the migration system. Business owners, particularly small business owners, prefer to hire migrant workers off the books. Super-exploitation of migrants continues or even increases. Non-payment of wages and other elements of human trafficking are not suppressed effectively and become more widespread. Foreign workers (including workers from Central Asia) are partially re-oriented to other labour markets. The “brain drain” and emigration from Russia continue, mainly in the form of young people.
Domestic migration into Central Russia is on the rise, as is seasonal work. Educational migration to Russia shows little growth, but Russian vocational educational institutions attract more foreign students. The liberalization of migration legislation slows down.
In this scenario, the migration flow will recover within the next one to three years.
Just which scenario will appear depends directly on the socio-economic situation in Russia and on the stability of its political development. Right now, the second (pessimistic) scenario appears more realistic.
Ivakhniuk I.V. The Eurasian Migration System: Theory and Policies. Moscow: MAKS Press, 2008 (in Russian).
 Poletaev D. V. and Y. F. Florinskaya. Migrant Awareness of Tuberculosis and HIV. Moscow: Krasny Krest, 2015.
 When Does Russia’s Economy Pass the Point of No Return? Working Paper. April 2020. Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Institute for the Economy of Growth. http://stolypin.institute/institute/kogda-budet-proydena-tochka-nevozvrata-dlya-rossiyskoy-ekonomiki/
From our partner RIAC
Coronavirus Shaping The Contours Of The Modern World
Globalization vs. Protectionism:
Globalization means the movement of ideas, products, technology, and people across borders and different cultures. It is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. It has social, cultural, economic, political and legal aspects. Globalization has made the world a global village and talks about co-operation and interdependence. Protectionism, on the other hand, is the restriction of movement of goods and products across borders to protect the national industries and economy. The major goal of protectionism is to boost up national economy, but protectionist measures can also be applied for security purposes. So, we can say that protectionists are basically anti-globalists and prefer domestic strength as compared to foreign co-operation.
Protectionism and Covid-19
Globalization has made the world so interdependent and interconnected that any economic or political change in one state creates a domino effect and influence many other states. For the pandemic, most states were initially blaming China, but as it slowly healed and the pandemic caused more devastating impacts in the western states, more fingers are pointing towards globalization. Multiple narratives are building regarding globalization where protectionists finally got a chance to prove how right they were all along.
Globalization not only played a vital role in the spread of this epidemic, it also made the economic crisis go global by affecting the supply chains. An epidemic that affected a single city in Dec, 2019, grew to become a pandemic affecting almost every state in the world through movement of people and goods. States that adopted strict measures and restricted the movement of people, have relatively less cases of corona virus as compared to other states. The worst impacts of corona virus so far can be seen in USA where New York City was initially the epicenter.
New York City is definitely one of the most crowded cities in the world where daily, thousands of people move in and out for various purposes. This could be one of the reasons of such devastating impacts of corona in NYC because the free circulation of people and goods allowed the virus to spread exponentially. On the other hand, if we talk about African continent, where most states are under developed, and the movement of people in and out of the continent is very less as compared to Europe and Americas, reported cases of corona virus are very low. As of Sep 11, 2020, in the whole continent, the highest number of corona cases is in South Africa, with a count of642k as compared to USA’s count of 6.49m. This provides evidence that movement of people played a vital role in the spread of this virus and movement of people has increased a lot since the rise of globalization.
Critiques of globalization also argue that globalization is to be blamed for an epidemic that spread across borders and will soon plunge the whole world into recession. Interdependence because of globalization has made the world more vulnerable to such situations. For instance, China is one of the biggest markets in the world that exports antibiotics and telecommunications and remains an important part of most of the global supply chains. Half of the world’s surgical masks were made by China, even before pandemic. So, when the pandemic struck Wuhan, China, the supplies from China to the rest of the world affected many states that were dependent on China, and they ran out of important pharmaceutical inputs. Even the developed states like France ran out of medical masks and had to suffer because of lack of important medical equipment. This reveals the cost of such deeply interconnected global supply chains that create a domino effect.
Is Globalization ending?
Globalization has made the world a global village and undoubtedly facilitated the free movement of people, goods, ideas, cultures, information, and technology across borders. But on the other hand, it has also played a major role in the spread of diseases and has made states vulnerable to unexpected shocks. Globalists also believe that the medical or health consequences of corona would prove less destructive if states work together instead of working separately for the vaccine, as a competition. Adopting the nationalist or isolationist approach during the pandemic would crash the international economy and further increase the tensions. As the protectionists suggest, if we’d continue to protect only our national economies and keep on putting barriers on international trade, the national recession would soon turn into a global depression, as happened in 1930’s.Timely economic recovery is only possible through global cooperation.
I think that the threat of Covid-19 has created an extraordinary situation. Originating from Asia, and then causing millions of deaths all around the globe, the blame on globalization is legitimate. Most of the states in the world rely on their tourism revenue that has been affected badly due to corona virus. For instance, Saudi Authorities decided to cancel Hajj because of growing pandemic, and the impact on KSA’s economy would be dramatic. Similarly, Japan is one of the states that depend highly on tourism revenue from Chinese tourists and travel restrictions have caused severe losses. We have also seen how the supply chains are affected just because one of the major producers (China) was badly hit by the virus. Globalization seems to have conquered the world so there is no way that it can be avoided completely. However, after the pandemic, there might be a little change in the world order regarding high interdependency. States that were mostly dependent on China for their important supplies might try to produce the supplies on their own and prioritize their domestic industries over foreign industries because of the consequences they had to bear during the pandemic. Similarly, travel bans will surely be removed but people might hesitate to cross borders and move freely because there will be awareness regarding the risks related to free movement. So, I think that the pandemic has highlighted some backlashes in globalization, but it doesn’t mean that globalization has failed. We can say that it is fragile, despite or even because of its benefits.
Explaining the Durability of the Cold War System and its Sudden End
Courtesy of the outcome of the Second World War, the Soviet Union and the US emerged as the two superpowers. Allies in the second world war, after the defeat of Germany, and the subsequent end of the war, the alliance between the USSR and the US was short lived, and soon found themselves competing with each other. Devastated and in tatters, Europe once again became the battle ground – this time between the two superpowers who viewed Europe as the focal point to global domination.
As a result of the rivalry, the world was divided into two superpower blocs: one the US led capitalist bloc comprising of the West European States, and the Soviet Union led communist bloc comprising of Eastern European nations. As Kenneth Waltz posited an order with a stable bipolarity. And so, the period from 1946 until the end of the Cold War marked an intense hostility between the two superpowers. Although, no direct confrontation occurred between the two great powers, the period was characterized by space, arms and ideological race but most importantly, the race for global domination.
Development of the Cold War
Ideologically, there was a divide between the Soviets and the Americans. The capitalist US and its allies, and the communist Soviet bloc,were involved in an ideological confrontation regarding post-war configuration of Europe and the world. Here, in the ideological battle, the USSR wanted to spread communism whereas the US foreign policy (which had changed from isolationism to interventionism) was centred around its containment. This ideological confrontation meant that the ideological divide endured.
Domestic Political Structure
In the Soviet Union, there existed the lack of separation of power and the Soviet Leader Stalin was unchecked with his exercise of power which meant he could pursue whatever policy he saw fit and other domestic variables had no roles in restraining him. On the contrary, unlike Stalin, American President faced a disgruntled and hostile Congress, and in order to appease the Republican dominated Congress, President Truman was forced to change his policy towards the Soviet Union. He brought the now famous and a piece of masterstroke – The Truman Doctrine – to contain Soviet expansionism all over the world. This further divided the US and the Soviet leaders.
Role of Decision Makers
On one hand, after the arrival of President Truman in the Oval Office, he was more open to aggressive policy recommendation from his policy-advisors. He put into effect several hostile policies targeting the USSR. Among others was the discontinuation of indemnification to the Soviet Union from Western part of Germany. Likewise, aid assistance to Greece and Turkey at a time of communist uprising also didn’t bode well with Moscow. On the other hand, Stalin played a monumental role of his own on the evolution of the Cold War. He considered Capitalism antithetical to his communist beliefs. Additionally, his actions showed he was just as willing to expand Soviet grip outside Eastern Europe – his support of communist uprising in Turkey and Greece as well as Soviet action in the Turkish Strait crisis is a testament to this. Not to mention, Stalin’s support of the North Korean regime to attack its southern neighbour South Korea. In sum, both the leaders in the US and Soviet Union contributed more or less equally to the development of Cold War.
Durability of the Cold War
According to Kenneth Waltz, an anarchic international system is stable if no changes occur in the system’s configuration. He has contended that in a world of bipolarity, two superpowers do not rely on their allies for economic and for material firepower. In such a system, whenever there occurs any disproportionate equilibrium in the system, both powers balance each other by virtue of internal balancing by relying on their own economic and military capabilities. And so, by this logic, it can be argued that a bipolar configuration of the international system is stable. In a bipolar setting, prime example being the Cold War, there was a clear delineation of friends and enemies. In this regard, the US was a threat to the USSR and vice-versa. This explains why, in the due course of the Cold War, when China and France acted on their own conscience, it didn’t destabilize the Cold War system. Similarly, in bipolarity, when there is an apparent conflict or a war looming anywhere around the world, it becomes a matter of prime importance to both the parties because by virtue of realism, the international system is a zero-sum game with binary outcome: either gains or losses. And so, bipolar system is also characterized by prompt response to unforeseen events. In a system of bipolarity, superpowers devise strategy keeping in consideration their material capability and self-interests, therefore, chances of uncertain actions and miscalculations are minimal, giving rise to the stability of bipolar system. In sum, Waltz posits bipolar system as the most stable in international politics which explains the Cold War durability. (The theory of International Politics by Kenneth Waltz)
Mostly, realist scholars have maintained the position that nuclear weapons contributed to the durability of the Cold War. They argue that it was the nuclear capability on both sides that deterred them from any major confrontation. According to Robert Jervis, nuclear weapon changed the dynamics of warfare. Equipped with most advanced of military technology, nuclear weapons have precision striking capability second to none. He posits that because nuclear weapons have Mutually Assured Destruction, it almost certainly guarantees that all parties to a nuclear war would be destroyed. With these things under consideration, from Jervis’ perspective, nuclear weapons provided nuclear deterrence and thus superpower war was averted. Likewise, structural realists, Waltz and Mearsheimer have also argued that the proliferation of nuclear arsenal became an instrument in preserving the stability of the Cold War system and they contend that further proliferation of nuclear weapons would make the international system more stable.
According to John Mueller, the world had seen two destructive wars and states had experienced the economic impacts and costs associated, not to mention the loss of life and property inflicted by the wars. Aftermath the Second World War, Europe was completely devastated and their economic revival needed assistance from the US. He contends that states had learnt the bitter lesson and this realization that wars are unworthy changed states perception towards great power conflict and thus, the cold war became durable.
End of Cold War
In the latter stages of the Cold War, United States was economically, politically and militarily more in a better position than the Soviet Union. According to structural realists, Reagan administration’s decision to increase military budget put pressure on the USSR to be in the arms race. This increasingly pressurized Soviet Union’s already strained economy which had significant investment in their military budget. It could be said that at a time when the US were making leaps and bounds in technology and funnelling more money in techno-military research and development, Soviet economy headed towards downward spiral.
Liberal scholars have focused the end of the Cold War on the easing of heated tensions and hostility between the two superpowers. As a result, people’s movement to the USSR increased and in due course of time the liberal norms also spread among the domestic public in the Soviet Union. Likewise, dialogues and meetings saw landmark agreements towards control of arms race. prime example being the SALT I and SALT II agreements. Similarly, the US perception of USS under Gorbachev changed from hostile communist state to “normal social democratic great power”. In addition, from the perspective of individual leader, Gorbachev also played influential role, among others, he made several changes in the Soviet Foreign Policy stemming from progressive appointments in key positions in the ministry. His pursue of foreign policy slowly transformed Soviet image abroad. Agreement with Reagan on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) showed Gorbachev’s commitment to ending arms race.
Thus, on account, it can be argued that economic woes, lagging behind in the advancement of science and technology and arms race coupled with the spread of liberal norms and the progressive role by Gorbachev resulted in the end of the Cold War.
UNSC: Implications of widening Permanent Membership on its Effectiveness
With the emergence of regional and global powers, the call for increasing the permanent seats of the United Nation’s Security Council is becoming louder. On real grounds the UNSC is the only body of the United Nations which can take decisive actions and give out rulings on certain issues, especially the executive permanent members (Russia, China, United States, Britain and France). The permanent members have the power to Veto, which the permanent members have been known to use from time to time to stop the council’s decisions that are against their will. This veto power and the structure of UNSC is considered as discriminatory and controversial as the UN gives the status of equality to all the member states and UNSC is a question mark on that status.
Many feel that there is a need of reforms in the UNSC and that new permanent members should be added to the UNSC as they deserve to become the permanent members. According to the proponents of expansion and reforms of UNSC the current permanent members do not fairly represent the world order. Due to this, many states are seeking permanent membership of UNSC which will have a huge impact of the effectiveness of the UNSC in responding to threats to international security.
The UNSC is considered as the most powerful and influential body of the United Nations. It is mainly responsible for maintaining international peace and security according to the UN charter. It has the ability to make decisions that all UN members are bound to obey. This makes the UNSC an important body of the United Nations and gives it a powerful position in the world.
The UNSC is made up of 15 states; five permanent and ten non-permanent states. The permanent members remain unchanged as appointed in 1945 as chief custodians of World Order. The non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly of the United Nation for a two years term. Before 1965 there were only six non-permanent members of the UNSC but after restructuring the numbers increased from six to ten.
The UNSC has ideally a noteworthy scope of power and duties. To examine issues such as Armed Conflicts or Disputes which are a threat to international peace and security, the council meets throughout the year. It is authorized to take Military actions, order mandatory sanctions and call for cease fire, on behalf of the United Nations. Other roles and responsibilities of the UNSC include the appointment of Secretary General of the UN, the addition or removal of the members of the UN and electing the judges of the International Court of Justice.
Permanent Members and the “Power of Veto”
The UNSC “Power of Veto” means a negative vote by a permanent member on “substantive” draft resolution. Only the permanent members have the right to veto. The main purpose of establishing this system of Veto was to prevent and prohibit UN from taking actions against the founding members in the future.
The P5 have been accused many times for misusing the Veto power. The single negative vote of P5 carries the power to reject a resolution. The non-permanent members have a less important role in the UNSC as they do not have the power to veto. To pass a resolution nine votes are needed but if one of the P5 state votes against the resolution the other votes do not matter and the resolution is not passed.
The P5 states have used the veto power hundreds of times in order to serve their personal interests. From 1946-2016 the veto power has been used more than three hundred times. Russia tops the list by using veto 133 times. Most of the negative votes used by Russia were to serve the interests of its allies. For example, recently in the case of Syrian civil war Russian being a Syrian ally used the veto power 12 times to reject the resolutions related to sanctions and investigation of chemical weapons and referring Syria to International Criminal Court. The US comes second on the list by using veto 83 times from 1946-2016. Most of the negative votes by the US were on the resolutions related to Israel/Palestine conflict. China with 40 negative votes comes third on the list. Most of the negatives votes were against the resolution related to Taiwan issue, support of Russia, and on Burma Myanmar issue. The UK and France used 32 and 18 negative votes on the resolutions mostly related to Suez Canal and Rhodesian Crisis.
The Veto power system is unjust and un-democratic. It only serves the interests of the P5. The developing countries who are non-permanent members and non-veto holders have been longing for restructuring of UNSC and some of the new rising powers want permanent membership because they believe that they deserve to become a permanent member of UNSC.
Quest for Permanent membership of UNSC
The number of states has increased since the formation of the United Nations. The number of states increased from 51 to 118 until 1965. In this year the non-permanent seats of the UNSC were increased from six to ten; the permanent seats remained unchanged. Now as the number of states has increased to 192 the proponents of the restructuring of UNSC are demanding reforms in the UNSC and demands the enlargement of the permanent seats of the council.
The non-permanent seats are distributed on the basis of geography and the contributions made by the states or international peace and security. The representation of the permanent members of the UNSC is not proportional. The current structure of the UNSC is opposed by many states and they are asking for reforms.
Former Secretary General Annan proposed two models for the reforms in UNSC. The model A suggests to expand the number of UNSC seats to 24, including 3 new non-permanent seats and 6 new non-permanent seats with veto power. The new permanent members should be from Europe (1 seat), Americas (1 seats), Africa (2 seats), and Asia Pacific (2 seats). The model B also suggests the expansion of seats from 15 to 24 but does not include new permanent seats. It suggests the 4 year terms for 8 members. Africa, Asia pacific, Europe and Americas will each get 2 non-permanent seats with a 4 year term. Another additional non-permanent seat will also be created.
Another group asking for reforms is G4 (Group of four) which includes Japan, Germany, India and Brazil. The G4 states are aspiring for permanent seats in the UNSC. These 4 states are economically and politically very strong. If more seats are created in the UNSC these countries are most likely to become permanent members.
Japan contributes the second largest sum to the UN’s regular budget. Germany is the third largest contributor. India is the World’s largest democracy and 2nd largest population. It is also the world’s largest economy and third largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping missions. Brazil is the largest country in the Latin America with the largest population and economy. Russia UK and France support the G4 aspirations.
There is another group called “Uniting the Consensus”. This group includes Pakistan, Italy, Colombia and Canada. This group opposes the expansion of the permanent members of the organization. There are also other models suggested by other states and groups such as Regional model (Italian proposal), Panama proposal etc. the most discussed are the G4 states who are putting a lot of effort to get permanent membership.
How effective is the current UNSC:
The UNSC was formed in order to ensure international peace and security. It has been successful in achieving some of its goals but failed to achieve others. One of the Success of the United Nations Security Council is that after its formation the world has not seen another world War like the first and second World Wars. The credit for this success goes to all the member states that have contributed politically and economically to improve the organization. The peace keeping missions of the UNSC in Angola, Liberia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti and several other states were successful. The efforts by Secretary General U Thant during the Cuban missile Crisis are also appreciated. He was responsible for the negotiations between US and USSR during Cuban missile crisis in 1962. His efforts helped to save the world from nuclear holocaust.
The success of the Security Council is on one side but there are some failures of the council which are criticized. The council was not able to avert interstate conflicts. It failed to stop the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Cambodian genocide of 1975-79, Somalian civil war of 1993, the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 and Sri Lankan Civil war. The council was powerless during the Cold war period and several substantive resolutions were rejected at that time. It has been almost three decades since the cold war ended but the power politics between the states specially the P5 states is still going on. The misuse of the Veto power by P5 to serve their own interests is a huge failure of the Council. Due to this Veto power the Security Council was and is unable to respond to several threats to the international security.
The debate on increasing the permanent members of the UNSC has been going on for quite some time and states like India, Japan, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia have had tried to become permanent members in the past. Although the current system of the UNSC is quiet objectionable on democratic grounds because states like Japan, Germany etc. who have grown out to be strong regional and global powers have been long bereaved of the luxury of sitting at the elders table (the Permanent members) in the UNSC. The UNSC’s current structure lacks proportionality as the P5 chose themselves. The restructuring of UNSC and increasing the number of permanent members can undoubtedly help bring about a balance of power in the region but unfortunately it can have some serious negative impacts in the effectiveness of UNSC in responding to threats to the international security. The widening of permanent membership of UNSC would definitely weaken its potential to respond to the threats to international security. First of all it is already very hard to get a unanimous decision from 5 members with different interests hence further increasing the number of permanent members with the power to veto will result in new members too abusing the power just like the current 5 permanent members for their benefit. In a system like this, with such diversified conflicts of interests any practical decision making will become almost impossible. Another issue is that the regional powers like Pakistan and Canada cannot afford to see their rivals handed a bigger gun. Especially inclusion of the G4 countries like India will face heavy resistance because of the fear of them abusing the power for their personal gains instead of working towards international peace and security. Strong resistance against this can lead to further instability in the already unbalanced international system.
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