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Why Aren't We Even Talking About The UN Option?

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Results of the UN General Assembly vote on the aggression against Ukraine, March 2, 2022 As social and mainstream media go into overdrive with ever more frenzied speculation about how the Ukraine crisis might best be resolved – or even just what could be sensibly done to help – there is one conspicuous absentee from the parameters of the discussion: the United Nations. Almost all the talk focusses on what response ‘the West’ or NATO might make, and under what circumstances, and yet to the extent that this would bring regional actors into conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia, there's an understandable hesitance to press the case. And rightly so: neither the West nor NATO has any more right to take matters into their own hands than Russia does in invading Ukraine. That's important, because if we want to avoid escalating this into a full-scale war, we need to be clear about the rationale for making any intervention. Though a case can certainly be made that both the US and the UK

Resolution 377: How the UN could use it to save Ukraine

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The General Assembly of the United Nations adopting the 'Uniting For Peace'   Resolution 377 A (V), o n 3 November 1950 [Note: The following is an extract from the last chapter of my book  SPEECH! How Language Made Us Human , originally written with the terrible events of the Syrian Civil War in mind (another truly international crisis). However, it applies equally to what is happening now in Ukraine. Executive summary: The UN has the power, the means and the responsibility to stop the war in Ukraine. To do so would be an act of peace, not war.] The UN was set up with the best of intentions. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the victors of the struggle felt the need to do something to prevent another world war from ever happening. The UN Charter, the founding document of the United Nations, was created for that sole purpose, and 193 countries of the world are now signatories to a legal agreement, in which they pledge to “ maintain international peace and securit

Ukraine: Time to stand up and be counted...

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Boris Yeltsin, P resident Bill Clinton, Leonid Kuchma  and John Major signing the Budapest Memorandum in December 1994 Let’s just get this straight. At the last count Vladimir Putin was in violation of at least three international treaties that the Russian Federation is signed up to. First, the UN Charter, which amongst other things prohibits signatories from using force – or even the threat of it – in the settlement of international disputes. Second, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which commits them to respecting the sovereignty of Ukraine within its existing borders. And third, the protocol of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits attacks on “installations containing dangerous forces” – such as the nuclear power station they’ve been shelling. Not to mention that the intentional targeting of civilians and civilian buildings also constitutes a crime under international humanitarian law. No matter what the justification, Putin is way out of line. Yet so far, he's getting away with i

"Deplores in the strongest terms." That's it? Seriously?

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So here we go again. Another blatant violation of international law, unfolding in full view of the world – not only in the mainstream media, but streamed live to every cell phone on the planet. We can all see what's happening, up close and personal – the distress of the Ukrainian people, the terror of war, the incomprehension of citizens uprooted from comfortable, 21st century lives in a large, civilized European city, watching their world being blown apart around them. And yet the United Nations, charged above all with "maintaining peace and international security" seems not only powerless to do anything about it, but unable even to call the situation for what it is. For the time is long past for 'deploring'. People are dying now, and this is only the start of it. What Russia is doing, whatever the provocation, the grievance, the justification in the mind of Vladimir Putin, is clearly against everything that the United Nations stands for. No matter that Russia wo

Why Talking Tough to Putin Won't Work

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Does anyone seriously think Vladimir Putin is going to back down just because we threaten him with more sanctions? Or supply a little more 'lethal aid' (in that weasel phrase) to Ukraine? Do we suppose that he hasn't anticipated all this, and already factored it into the equation? We're talking about a man who is playing chess, always working several moves ahead, and yet we seem to be playing checkers in response -- simply reacting to events as they happen.  Putin knows, for example, the extent of what we can do. And he also knows the extent of what we can't, or won't be willing to do. On top of that, he knows that what he can do by way of retaliation will be far worse: as well as vital supplies of gas and oil, Russia supplies significant percentages of key raw materials for the high-tech industries -- titanium, palladium and rare-earth minerals. Cutting off those would really hurt the economies of Europe and America. It would also cut off a huge source of Russi

The UN's Dirty Little Secret

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U S Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is quite right to call on the UN to act over Ukraine. As he put it, "This is  the exact kind of crisis that the United Nations – and specifically this Security Council – was created to prevent." A fter all, the maintenance of international peace and security is the UN's primary purpose  –   as enshrined in Article 1 of its founding charter.  However, he is quite wrong if he expects the UN to be able to do anything about it.  That's because as currently constituted, the UN is not only dysfunctional, it is effectively non-functional.  Why? Because the discussions at the Security Council, the inner 'cabinet' of the UN where all the substantive decisions are taken, are subject to a veto. That's the dirty little secret at the heart of the matter.  It's not called a veto, of course  –   but that's what it is . The technical description  is "a failure to concur"  – and that means that if any one of the five

Why Putin Won't Be Invading Ukraine

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Are we trembling on the verge of war? Is President Putin, his army arrayed around the borders of Ukraine, about to invade? The West seems to think so. Though the diplomacy continues, the embassies are being emptied, and foreign nationals urged to leave the country. It all seems very ominous, and despite the best efforts of European leaders to find a compromise, we are being told there is a "whiff of Munich in the air." Now Vladimir Putin may not be a very nice man. The regime he presides over may be authoritarian and brutal. But he is not stupid, and he must be very well aware that invading Ukraine would not be a smart move. Though the superior firepower of the Russian army would undoubtedly allow him to take Kiev within days, his troubles would only just be starting. Even aside from the sanctions that the West would impose (limited in scope and effect though they would inevitably be), Russia would be drawn into a long and bloody guerrilla war with no end in sight, cement its