Sunday, April 13, 2008

UN Scorned in US-Russian World View

There is just one mention of the United Nations in the White House summary highlighting noteworthy aspects of the "strategic framework" agreed to by Presidents Bush and Putin at Sochi on 6 April. It occurs in the final paragraph, and refers to their commitment to "work with all major emitting economies to advance key elements of the negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change."

There are more references in the full text but they do little to recognize that the United Nations was conceived as an organization central to the international strategies of all its 192 member States. In fact the first mention of the UN puts that idea firmly aside: "Going forward, we intend to deepen our cooperation wherever possible, while taking further, even more far-reaching steps, to demonstrate our joint leadership in addressing new challenges to global peace and security in accordance with the principles of international law, taking into consideration the role of the United Nations."

The next mention comes in passing, as the two sides take note of their "Joint Statement on the INF Treaty at the sixty-second session of the UN General Assembly." (The statement committed them to "a high-level dialogue to analyze current and future intermediate-range and shorter-range ballistic and cruise missile threats and inventory options for dealing with them.")

The third reference is more direct but hardly supportive of the primacy of the UN in multilateral affairs: "We are determined to work closely together on all the major global international issues that confront us, including the pursuit of peace in the Middle East, security and stability in North East Asia through the Six-Party process, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere around the world, working with other nations through the United Nations, as well as other international and regional mechanisms, including the NATO-Russia Council and the G-8, to strengthen our cooperation wherever possible."

The fourth reference is more of the same: "We will expand our cooperative efforts through continued partnership in the United Nations and in other multilateral fora to include the OSCE, NATO-Russia Council, and the G-8, and in expanding the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. We will advance our counterterrorism goals at the United Nations, including through strengthening the Counterterrorism Committee and the [Security Council resolution #] 1267 sanctions regime."

That is it.


Three days after the Sochi Summit UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in Moscow, his first visit since assuming office. He met with Putin and his successor Dmitry Medvedev, who assured Ban, according to ITAR-TASS, "that the UN was the only global body with the authority to resolve international disputes." That was a lead-in to expressions of discontent with what has happened in Kosovo, a Muslim-majority province of Serbia that declared itself independent in February and was immediately recognized by the three Western Powers on the Security Council.

With China and Russia in opposition, the Security Council cannot legitimize Kosovo's secession, but Ban has been less than eager to note that or the danger of a widely destabilizing conflict if the situation is not peacefully resolved. Russian unhappiness with that is said to have been conveyed in rather personal terms: a threat that Moscow would veto a second term for Ban as Secretary-General.

According to published reports Medvedev also offered a carrot, the prospect that the Russian Federation would be open to a significant increase in its contribution to the UN budget. (One publication cited a Kremlin source in saying that Moscow would be willing to match Washington's 22 per cent share of the UN's $2 billion biennial budget; that would be a stunning spike from its current 1.2 per cent.) But it was to no avail. At a Press conference Ban said it was impossible to retrieve the pre-February position of Kosovo, and unrealistic to expect that it could be done.

Meanwhile, Kosovo authorities are reported to have moved quickly to dismantle the infrastructure of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), asking it to vacate two centrally located buildings in Pristina. Reports in Kosovo newspapers say that UNMIK will close its doors in June, and be replaced with a "UN Office in Pristina;" how that can be arranged in the teeth of Chinese and Russian opposition remains to be seen. Also subject to speculation is whether the Serbs in Kosovo will now declare the independence of territories where they are in a majority; if they do, we could be in for another murderous confrontation in the Balkans.

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