The proper role of the UN Security Council

RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev

The UN Security Council won’t pass a milder, revised resolution on Syria because Moscow, as well as many others, will vote against it. Russia does not want to see the Security Council used as a tool to squeeze Iran, just as it doesn’t want to see it turned into an ideological battlefield. Its mission is quite different.

London and Paris want to escalate

The Syrian resolution saga has been as fraught as any other in the Security Council. The stakes are always high in the Security Council. It is where convictions, cultures and interests clash. And now Syria finds itself in the middle of it.

The resolution on Syria proposed by Britain and France will be voted on before the end of the week, although President Dmitry Medvedev already warned at the G8 summit in Deauville that Russia will veto it. On June 9, the Russian Foreign Ministry reaffirmed this position. Foreign Minister Lavrov had already made several statements to this effect.

The veto in rarely used in the Security Council. If a country with veto power makes it known, either publicly or confidentially, that it is against some resolution, the resolution is usually not even brought up for discussion. What’s the point?

But then we have British Prime Minister David Cameron saying this: “If anyone votes against that resolution or tries to veto it, that should be on

their conscience.” Why have the co-authors of the resolution, along with the United States, chosen to force Russia and China to use their veto power, the last resort?

The explanation is simple. It’s not about Syria; it doesn’t matter whose friend, economic partner or ally the country is. It’s all about the perpetual struggle over the role of the Security Council.

The Security Council’s mission: Curbing aggression

The United Nations is a complicated but very effective and useful mechanism. Only one of its bodies has a legal right to punish a state by imposing binding sanctions against it – the Security Council.

The United Nations was created after the death of Hitler as a warning to future aggressors. The United Nations exists to punish acts of aggression among states. Only the Security Council can punish. Strange as it may seem, a resolution of the UN General Assembly, which reflects the majority opinion of the world’s 192 states, can be ignored, unlike a Security Council resolution.

But this doesn’t mean that the Security Council is free to choose its jurisdiction. In accordance with its name, it only deals with security. Syria is not threatening any country. The problem in Syria is over how its (let’s call a spade a spade) civil war is being waged. This is a war between opposing groups of citizens within one country.

This is not the first attempt to use the Security Council for purposes other than checking aggression. There have been many similar cases, for instance with Burma (Myanmar). The U.S. Congress continuously renews a resolution labeling Burma (a political dwarf) a threat to U.S. foreign policy. Then the United States or Britain feel an impulse to raise the issue of Burma and its military (now paramilitary) regime in the Security Council and receive a reminder from Moscow that Burma does not pose a threat to any nation.

However, there are soft resolutions that do not mention sanctions. This time London and Paris suggested a soft resolution in the hope that Moscow will abstain from voting. What’s wrong with soft resolutions?

Maybe they are not so bad after all, although they can serve as moral justification for a nation’s sanctions or EU sanctions, for example. But if some state decides to get creative and use the UN to slip into a resolution an item on the possibility of discussing the issue once more, it could get very far with such a document.

Right and wrong

Barring some surprise development, the Syrian issue will end up where it belongs – anywhere but the Security Council. For the fact remains that punishing Syria weakens Iran, its main ally.

It turns out that everything boils down to ideology. Ideology is a more or less standard collection of ideas about what is right and what is wrong. Ideology is almost like religion. But there are many collections like this in the world – they look similar but differ in many details.

Is it permissible to obstruct the operation of government bodies by peaceful, not to mention violent, means? The laws of all countries prohibit this. Can the government use power against protesters that are obviously violating the law? According to available information, the United States predicted the Arab riots and had had lengthy deliberations on this issue since September. It decided that the government in the Middle East is always wrong, and the rioting masses are always right. All that remains is to convince everyone else that this is the correct verdict. However, European society may hail revolutions whereas Russian society has a quite different attitude to them.

Sadly, the East-West ideological convergence that Andrei Sakharov dreamed of is not going to take place anytime soon. This convergence was supposed to happen at the societal rather than the government level. But societies still have different values. The East and the West still exist even though communism perished long ago.

It’s not that the West, the staunch supporter of law and order during the Soviet times, suddenly became an enthusiastic supporter of revolutions after the “revolutionary” Soviet Union was gone. The point is that today’s world is full of complex issues.

If protestors seize small arms and armor, as was the case in Libya, are they still in the right? If the government responds with air strikes on the crowds, is it in the right? We must discuss such issues at conferences and in the media but not in the Security Council.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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