Ukraine Challenges Russia’s Very Legitimacy as Member of the United Nations

Kiev’s ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, called on the secretary-general to produce a document that shows Russia can even be a United Nations member. No such document exists, he said.

Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, holds up a phone as he speaks at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council February 23, 2022. UNTV via AP

Ukraine’s ambassador at the United Nations early this morning called on his Russian counterpart to cede Russia’s presidency of the Security Council — and, more significantly, challenged the legitimacy of Russia’s membership in the world body.

At the same time that President Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine and Russia started showering that country with bombs, the Security Council took an emergency meeting to, ostensibly, prevent war. 

War erupted during the session, and the meeting — chaired by, no less, Vitaly Nebenzya, the Russian ambassador who serves as council president in February — became contentious.

When Kiev’s ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, got the microphone at the end of the meeting, he called on the secretary-general to produce a document that shows Russia can even be a United Nations member. No such document exists, he said, adding, “There is nothing in the Charter of the United Nations about continuity as a sneaky way to get into the organization.” 

What he referred to has to do with the end of what is now being called the First Cold War. In 1991 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as the Bolshevik tyranny was officially known, ceased to be. The Kremlin called its new country the Russian Federation, and by the end of that year it inherited the USSR’s seat at Turtle Bay.

Except, as Mr. Kyslytsya noted, neither the Security Council nor the General Assembly voted on the process that facilitated that succession, as called for in the U.N. charter. The charter lists the USSR as holder of the covetous council seat to this day.

So is Russia’s powerful position at the U.N., which the impoverished country used so as to throw its weight around the globe for decades, even legitimate? 

Only one other transfer of authority from one country to another occurred.

In 1971 Communist China took over the Chinese permanent membership of the Council, which until then was held by the Free Chinese government on Taiwan. That takeover, though, was at least done by a resolution that won a vote at the General Assembly.

This morning Mr. Nebenzya was the first council speaker to inform members that his country launched a military campaign that, he contended, was meant to aid two “independent republics” in eastern Ukraine.

In his turn, Mr. Kyslytsya turned directly to Mr. Nebenzya, demanding that he announce that Russia does not intend to take over his country.

“You have a smartphone,” Mr. Kyslytsya said. “You can call [the Russian foreign minister, Sergei] Lavrov right now. We’re waiting.” Then he added, “if you can’t promise that, you should resign” as council president. Visibly irritated, Mr. Nebenzya retorted that he didn’t intend to wake Mr. Lavrov.

After another round of Russia condemnations by member states, Mr. Kyslytsya once again turned to his Russ counterpart, saying, “there’s no place in purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell.”

Speaking with reporters afterwards, Secretary-General Guterres said, “I say to President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia,” and urged him to refrain from starting “what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century.”

America’s ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, then said that later today the 15-member Council would reconvene to discuss a proposed resolution condemning the latest Moscow assault. Russia, for now, maintains a veto power, however.

That means that any such resolution, even if supported by all other Council members, is bound to fail. So the resolution could be seen as only further exposing the futility of the United Nations itself.

Meantime, as the Kremlin launches its Cold War II and reshuffles all the rules, America will be facing a test on whether it will side with Ukraine as it challenges what has for decades been the one source of Moscow’s claim to legitimacy and power — its very membership in the United Nations Security Council.

The New York Sun

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