The Strategist

UN, Deeply Split by Statements About Cooperation

10/05/2015 - 17:03

This week, many participants of the General Assembly may have seemed that the UN is going through a kind of reboot, which coincided with the 70th anniversary of the organization.

Basil D Soufi vie wikimedia
Basil D Soufi vie wikimedia
Seven decades after the Second World War gave impetus to the creation of the United Nations, the tone of the annual performances of the major world powers’ traditional leaders at the General Assembly of the organization, which includes 193 States, has acquired a new amazing color – not taking in the account the details of these performances.

Almost all the leaders, from the US and China to Iran and even Russia, talked about the importance of a multilateral approach, common goals, the end of the domination of one power in the international arena and shared priorities. Countries, that previously used this forum to speak out against the current international system, in particular Iran and China, are suddenly talking about the need to strengthen it.

The head of China Xi Jinping said that the UN "has reached a new historical starting point." Seven decades later, after what he called a "people's war of resistance against Japanese aggression and the world anti-fascist war," he called on all countries to establish "a new type of international relations, which are characterized by win-win cooperation ... community of common future for all mankind."

To confirm its words, China, which until recently, as a rule, has ignored the UN and refrained from voting on the Security Council, announced its intention to contribute to the prosperity of the organization: the fund of 1 billion dollars for the maintenance of international projects of the United Nations over the next decade , $ 100 million in military assistance to the African Union, as well as, most importantly, China's participation in UN peacekeeping system, with 8000 troops provided. (For comparison, now there are only 50 military personnel from Canada).

And this new spirit of multilateralism - at least in rhetoric - was felt throughout the week: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that "today opens a new chapter in relations between Iran and the world," and he used the successful conclusion of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program and the end of sanctions against Iran as an opportunity to call for a "united front" in the struggle against extremism and terrorism.

It seemed that the leaders came even to a consensus on the question of a common military purpose: almost aeveryone expressed their desire to use military means and global alliance to defeat the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State.

"We are offering ... working together on the basis of international law to meet the new challenges we face and creating a truly broad international anti-terrorist coalition", - said Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was supported by President Barack Obama: "The US is ready to cooperate with any country, including Russia and Iran to resolve the conflict."

Yet, right here the spirit of the multilateralism began to wane: expressing their interest in global cooperation under the auspices of the United Nations to resolve conflicts - in Syria and abroad - the leaders talked about completely different and often completely opposite things.

Mr. Putin, whose invasion of the Ukraine have quarreled him with most of the members of the United Nations, since it violated the sovereignty of another state, spoke of the need to use military force to maintain power in Syria for the dictator Bashar al-Assad, and condemned those who threatened Mr. Assad’s sovereignty.

- We must finally acknowledge that except for the government forces of President Assad and Kurdish militias in Syria, nobody are fighting "Islamic state" and other terrorist organizations - said Mr. Putin. – It is possible to radically solve this problem only by restoring nationhood where it was destroyed. It should be done by strengthening the institutions of power, where they have been preserved or recreated, by providing comprehensive assistance - military, economic, financial – to countries, which found themselves in a difficult situation."

He backed his words up with large-scale military campaign that began shortly after his speech at the General Assembly.

Mr. Obama and his allies, on the other hand, insisted that peace will come only when Mr. Assad leaves the throne.

"Assad is the root of the problem, so he cannot be part of the solution", - said the President of France Francois Hollande. Mr. Obama called for a "managed transition of power from Assad to a new leader, as well as an inclusive government."

On Friday, the leaders of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey issued a joint statement in which they called on Putin to stop air strikes on the positions of the Syrian opposition.

With this, the united front on Syria ended. In addition to the passive-aggressive debate around this issue, most of the applications on international cooperation were only a thin outer shell that hid a complete lack of understanding on the meaning of these words.

Mr. Xi, for example, has devoted much of his speech to the disclosure of traditional ideas of Chinese communism - that there is no real international values and liberal order; that, as a scientist Sean Breslin said, UN’s values  "are not universal, but rather are the product of history, philosophy and the trajectory of a small number of Western countries."

Most of Mr. Putin’s speech was devoted to condemn of democracy and anti-dictator movements in the Middle East, Ukraine and other countries, which he called fiction of the Western dark forces, manipulated the United States.

"We believe that attempts to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the United Nations are extremely dangerous," - said the Russian president. These are words that, at first glance, look acceptable to all the world leaders, but in fact, as the events of this week showed, they disagree on whether such people as Mr. Putin oppose any attempts to undermine legitimacy or whether they are the personification of these attempts.

original by Doug Saunders, The Globe And Mail