Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 18.12.2018
The United Nations is taking notice of the Russian Federation’s act of war against Ukraine on November 25. On December 17, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution entitled “Problem of the Militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as Parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.” The UN is clearly calling out the Russian Federation for its aggression against Ukraine and urges the Russians to get out of Ukraine, particularly Crimea.
When one UN member state wages war on another, as the Russian Federation is waging war on Ukraine, the proper forum is the Security Council. However, the aggressor in this case is a permanent member of the Security Council with the power of veto. The Security Council fails its UN Charter mandate because the Russian Federation is improperly allowed to wield a veto in matters concerning its invasion of Ukraine. It’s up to the General Assembly to rescue the United Nations as a force for peace.
These are the key elements of the just-adopted UN General Assembly resolution. Crimea is Ukraine and Russian troops on the peninsula goes against Ukraine’s national sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity. Russia is rapidly militarizing Crimea and this is dangerous to global peace and security. Russia is militarizing the Black Sea surrounding Crimea and the Sea of Azov and this causes great instability. The Russian Federation’s attack on three vessels of the naval forces of Ukraine on November 25 was an unjustified use of force and the Russians must release the vessels and their crews and equipment unconditionally and without delay. The Russian Federation is illegally restricting freedom of navigation in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait. The construction and opening of the Kerch Strait bridge is illegal and is condemned. Finally, the resolution urges the Russian Federation, as the occupying power, to withdraw its military forces from Crimea and to end its temporary occupation of Ukraine’s territory without delay.
The “Militarization of Crimea” resolution was presented on behalf of 31 member states and approved by 66 of them. 72 member states abstained, and 19 voted against the resolution. The countries siding with Russian aggression and against Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity are as follows: Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Burundi, Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Laos, Burma, Nicaragua, the Russian Federation, Serbia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
Ukraine took the initiative and brought about the successful adoption of the “Militarization of Crimea” resolution in the UN General Assembly. Ukrainian diplomatic efforts since the Russians attacked the Ukrainian Navy on November 25 have been focussed on building an international coalition to stand up to Putin at war. Active work is underway to bring Russia to account for aggression against Ukraine – which has been implacable since the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. Europeans who live in Ukraine have been fighting alone on the battlefront in Donbas, since April 2014, to stop the Russians. They count on other Europeans to help them now that open, undisguised warfare by the Russian Federation has been launched against Ukraine since November 2018.
On December 17, US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker said that “Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s vessels in the Black Sea has security, commercial, and broader implications that will require a considered response. Kurt Volker used the word “war” and he confirmed a build-up of Russian military forces at the border with Ukraine. The US Special Representative for Ukraine also said this regarding the Russian Federation’s attack on the Ukrainian Navy: “The notion that there needs to be a response and some additional sanctions and listing of names would occur seems to be one that's gaining some traction."
The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, presented to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, a list of the people involved in the attack on the Ukrainian naval vessels. This is the basis of new sanctions which must be the start of a coordinated response by Western democracies to expanded Russian aggression against Ukraine. Urgings by the UN General Assembly will not stop Putin at war. New sanctions and other punitive measures by a united front of Western democracies might.