With a Russian Veto, the U.N. Security Council is Not Fit for Purpose | Opinion

Grotesque and vile, these were the two words that came to mind when I was watching a recent U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine.

According to the ambassador from the Russian federation, Vasily Nebenzya, the oppressors are the oppressed; the heroes are the Nazis; the murdered are the killers.

Prior to his statement, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she would not dignify the Russian statement, or rather Russian lies, with a response. The problem is, even allowing Russia to make such claims on one of the most important global platforms in the world, is an embarrassing complicity in their actions. It gives Russia, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky astutely pointed out to the entire council, the right to vote in favor of killing Ukrainians.

In the council meeting, the American ambassador, supported by the U.K., stated that she would like to see Russia removed from the U.N. Human Rights Council. This has thankfully now happened, but neither country is brave enough to state plainly that Russia should not have a veto, let alone that it should not have a seat at one of the most important decision-making tables in the world.

As President Zelensky said at the council, this is not the first time that Russia has acted with such impunity. They have done this before in Syria, in Afghanistan, in countless other settings and they have never had significant action taken against them. They continue to believe, and indeed they are right, that they can get away with war crimes and the invasion of sovereign nations, without any repercussions.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Russian justification for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, as heard in the lies told by Nebenzya to the Security Council, will now be used to further justify and indeed, promote, Russia's anti-Ukrainian, and anti-West rhetoric. This speech, facilitated by the U.N. Security Council itself, will now form an integral part of the Russian propaganda machine that allows them to continue their warpath of destruction. I don't see how we can possibly begin to fight such an insidious threat to the Western liberal order when we ourselves are giving the aggressors the opportunity to continue promoting their lies on a silver platter.

Russia must be removed from the U.N. Security Council.

It must also be removed from all other international institutions: INTERPOL, the Human Rights Council, G20, the list goes on. Democratic values were already under threat around the world before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Now we need to rekindle the spirit of 1989. The more we allow Russia to participate as an equal partner in important global institutions, the more we degrade and devalue them and the more we are complicit in Russia's crimes.

The United Nations logo
The United Nations logo. ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainians are being massacred by Russians; they are being tortured by Russians; they are being raped by Russians. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified a total of 1,480 civilian deaths of April 4, 2022. Of them, 123 were children. Furthermore, 2,195 people were reported to have been injured. However, OHCHR specified that the real numbers are "definitely higher."

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently estimated that 7.1 million Ukrainians are now internally displaced. And why? Because Russia has been allowed to invade its neighbor based on lies. Dismissing their reasoning and not dignifying it with a response is not a luxury afforded to Ukrainians who are being stripped by Russian soldiers to check their bodies for Nazi tattoos.

Those NATO allies to whom Ukraine has appealed for military assistance and sanctions are simply not doing enough. Ukraine needs more planes, it needs more tanks and other sophisticated weaponry that it has been requesting for many weeks now in order stop Russian aggression. This is not an escalation of the conflict but rather the prevention of a genocide against the Ukrainian people and the destruction of Ukraine itself.

Ukraine is fighting the battle against Russia on the frontline and a battle for real support around the rest of the world. To win this war, Russia cannot be given any space to justify its actions. It must be immediately removed from the U.N. Security Council or else the Security Council risks a complacency that is tantamount to an endorsement of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

When Hannah Arendt coined the term "banality of evil," she was referring to the way in which bureaucrats, who dutifully obey orders, are perpetuating the evil system that they occupy. It was almost Kafkaesque to watch the U.K. president of the Security Council follow "protocol" and defend its position against Russian requests for various meetings to be held.

By allowing Russia to continue being a veto member of the U.N. Security Council, we risk playing into this very system. The council cannot continue with Russia as a member, if it does, it will not be fit for purpose.

Paul Grod is president of the Ukrainian World Congress.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.