How to Stop the Killing in Ukraine?
The Russian military strategy for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has been to unleash a campaign of genocide, defined as “the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation (or ethnic group) with the aim of destroying that nation (or group).”
A deliberate attempt to maximize civilian casualties using targeted cruise missiles, cluster bombs, and unopposed airstrikes directed at civilian populations huddled in their apartments, hospitals, theaters, schools, shopping malls, and shelters has shocked the civilized world. Some five million Ukrainian women and children have fled their homes as refugees to escape the unprecedented murder of civilians for territorial gain.
Realities on the Ground
This is an Immoral War: The images of human rights abuses are horrifying to anyone with a conscience. Continuation of the war is morally unacceptable and politically indefensible. Putin’s territorial aspirations don’t end in Ukraine. If not stopped here, what countries are next?
International Outcome: Russian President Vladimir Putin needs some sort of victory. At minimum, he will insist on annexing eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas region, which contains 30% of Ukraine’s coal and manufacturing exports. He also will not surrender his occupied southern land bridge that serves as a gateway to his unrecognized military annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Global Hostility: The most frightening danger to current world peace is the possible creation of a permanent, on-going, “Axis of Autocracy” linking Russia, China, and North Korea against a competing world bloc consisting of the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. China’s Xi Jinping, chairman and president of the Communist party, general secretary and commander-in-chief of the military of China, has been keeping one eye on Ukraine, while the other eye is focused on his own possible military invasion of Taiwan, claiming it as part of the Chinese mainland. If not stopped now, the war in Ukraine could escalate into a nuclear, biological, or chemical Armageddon for all mankind.
Economic Sanctions: Pressure has been applied to the Russian economy with limited global sanctions full of loopholes and exceptions. Neither the U.S. nor its NATO allies will commit to cutting off all economic trade ties with Russia, from the lowliest vodka sales to agreements to stop purchasing all Russian energy. Energy-poor European countries are understandably unwilling to cripple their own economies by cutting off all energy purchases now.
Military Assistance: NATO countries have sent Javelin anti-tank missiles; drones that can be programed into flying bombs; surface-to-air Stinger missiles; and other handheld weapons to the Ukraine military to bolster its defenses. Now Ukraine needs more potent weaponry – 155mm howitzers, Mi-17 helicopters, modern jet fighters, and Switchblade drones — to keep Ukraine in the fight as the War shifts to an eastern front. Continued delivery of better and larger numbers of heavy weapons does little to stop the killing.
Stalemate or Prolonged Conflict: Prolonging the conflict works in Putin’s favor to occupy and annex as much of the Ukraine as possible before negotiating a peace. Grabbing significant portions of eastern Ukraine, with its natural resources and manufacturing, and the access to the Black Sea ports, would leave a greatly weakened Ukraine, ripe for a later plucking or regime change.
Where is the United Nations When Needed Most?
Since its founding in 1945, the United Nations (U.N.) remains the one place on Earth where the world’s nations gather peaceably, discuss common problems, and find shared solutions that benefit all of humanity. The U.N.’s offices and agencies are tasked with everything from preventing wars of aggression to outer space cooperation, protection of human rights, better healthcare, and nuclear nonproliferation.
The fundamental purpose of the U.N. is to maintain international peace and security, and to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of illegal aggression or other breaches of the peace. The (U.N.) was founded in 1945 “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind… to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.”
Precedent for U.N. Military Action in Ukraine?
Most certainly. Some 97,000 “blue helmet” U.N. peacekeepers from 120 countries, who are members of their own national armies, work under the command and control of the U.N. Department of Police Operations to assist in implementing peace agreements. Such assistance can include peacekeeping troops, observers, police officers, and civilian engineering and rebuilding personnel. Previous U.N. peacekeeping actions include:
Korea: On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea by crossing over the 38th parallel. The United States immediately pressed for the United Nations to act. On June 25 and June 27, the United Nations passed directives urging a ceasefire and for all member nations to provide assistance to the South Koreans. The U.N. Security Council was able to pass these measures because the Soviet Union had recently boycotted the Security Council and chose not to participate. President Harry S. Truman did not press for a Congressional declaration of war. Instead, he classified the Korean conflict as a U.N.-led “police action,” operating under the authority of the Security Council.
Kuwait and Iraq: In 1990, the United Nations was confronted with yet another armed clash, this time between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and its neighbor Kuwait, in what later became known as the Gulf War. The United Nations responded quickly as it adopted resolution 660, condemning Iraq for aggression. On November 29, 1990, faced with Iraq’s territorial grab of Kuwait, the U.N. Security Council authorized the use of “all necessary means” of force against Iraq if it did not withdraw from Kuwait by the following January 15.
Functioning under the mandate of a United Nations resolution that approved the use of force in Kuwait, Operation Desert Shield saw the build-up of coalition forces in the Gulf region. The U.N. played a medical, communications, logistical, and security support role in the Gulf War to oust Saddam Hussein.
Serbian ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. In July 1995, a Srebrenica massacre resulted in the death of over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys by Serbian separatists. Bosnian Serbs declared independence from Bosnia-Herzegovina in order to unite with Serbia. On December 21, 1995, fearing the continued slaughter of Muslims, theSecurity Council established the United NationsInternational Police Task Force (IPTF) as the first United Nations peacekeeping force in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Yugoslav Wars.
United Nations Funding by the U.S.
For the last 75 years, the U.S. has paid the largest share of U.N. funding. In 2020, the most recent fiscal year with full data available, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. contributed about $11.6 billion for the collective U.N. budget, which includes its mandatory assessment for regular U.N. business, plus peacekeeping expenses, the Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization (WHO). U.N. entities funded by voluntary national contributions include such agencies as the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and some 15 other U.N. agencies.
If the U.N. can no longer ban wars of illegal aggression, or prohibit the use of military force as a viable approach to gaining permanent territory, why should the U.S. continue to fund roughly 22% of the U.N. budget?
U.N. General Assembly Actions on Ukraine
Less than two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, on March 2, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly in an emergency session, voted overwhelmingly — 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions — to “demand that Russia immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” The resolution was sponsored by 94 countries and needed a two-thirds majority in the Assembly to pass.
Four states sided with Russia in voting against the U.N. General Assembly resolution for “unconditional withdrawal” and peace. The five naysayers represented a pantheon of international pariahs: Kim Jong-un’s Supreme Leader of North Korea; the Syrian Arab Republic, a Russian satellite; the dictatorship of Eritrea (known as the North Korea of Africa) bordering on the Red Sea’s “Horn of Africa;” and Russia’s stooge, Belarus. More significantly, the 35 countries who abstained from voting included China, India, Pakistan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Bolivia, South Africa, and Vietnam.
The General Assembly resolution is not legally binding, but it is an expression of the views of the U.N. member nations. The day after the General Assembly resolution vote, Russia was the sole vote against a similar resolution in the Security Council, where it is one of five nations to hold a veto. Therefore, the resolution was not upheld, so Ukraine’s allies referred the resolution back to the General Assembly where there is no veto power.
A Possible U.N. Path for Peace in Ukraine
Here is the good news! The General Assembly resolution showed that the U.N. “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.” It was the first time in 40 years that the Security Council referred a crisis back to the General Assembly and only the 11th time an emergency session of the U.N. General Assembly has been called since 1950.
General Assembly resolution 377(V) is known as the “Uniting for Peace” resolution. Adopted in 1950, the resolution resolves that “if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility to act as required to maintain international peace and security, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with the view to making recommendations to UN members to restore international peace and security. If not in session, the General Assembly may meet using the mechanism of the emergency special session.”
Has the U.N. Officially Defined Illegal “Aggression” by a Member State?
General Assembly resolution 3314(XXIX) was adopted on December 14, 1974, after Security Council requested the General Assembly to reach a U.N. “Definition of Aggression.” An “act of aggression” is defined as the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the U.N. Charter. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine clearly falls into this category. Specifically, the General Assembly defined illegal “Aggression” as follows:
Article I. Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this Definition.
Article 2. The first use of armed force by a State in contravention of the Charter shall constitute prima facie evidence of an act of aggression although the Security Council may, in conformity with the Charter, conclude that a determination an act of aggression has been committed would not be justified in the light of other relevant circumstances, including the fact that the acts concerned, or their consequences, are not of sufficient gravity.
Article 3. Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall, subject to, and in accordance with the provisions of Article 2, qualify as an act of aggression:
(a) The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof.
(b) Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State.
(c) The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State.
(d) An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State.
(e) The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement.
(f) The action of a State in allowing its territory, which it has placed at the disposal of another State, to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State.
(g) The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein.
Article 4. The acts enumerated above are not exhaustive and the Security Council may determine that other acts constitute aggression under the provisions of the Charter.
Article 5 (1) No consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military, or otherwise, may serve as a justification for aggression. (2) A war of aggression is a crime against international peace. Aggression gives rise to international responsibility. (3) No territorial acquisition or special advantage resulting from aggression is or shall be recognized as lawful.
What Role Could the U.N. Play in Ukraine?
Despite a Russian veto in the Security Council of the General Assembly resolution of March 2, 2022, there is a rationale that the U.N. General Assembly could and should take appropriate action to immediately promote a ceasefire, a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, and the pursuit of a diplomatic solution.
Ukraine is a charter member of the U.N. when it was formed in 1945. It officially declared its independence from the USSR on August 24, 1991; it has remained an independent nation for the last 31 years. The unprovoked Russian effort to annex the territory of its neighbor by a military invasion is an illegal assault on the U.N. Charter, under the General Assembly “Uniting for Peace” resolution and its “Definition of Aggression.”
We All Know What Needs To Be Done. Where Is Our Global Resolve and Leadership to End This War of Illegal Aggression?
The General Assembly of the U.N. needs to call another emergency session to vote on a new resolution to immediately demand a ceasefire in the Ukraine war, an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’s territory and the pursuit of a diplomatic solution.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres put it this way: “The fundamental promise of the United Nations Charter is to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. The U.N. was created to deliver peace, not war which brings death, human suffering, and unimaginable destruction at a time when we cannot afford to add an unprovoked war to the major global challenges we face.”
Guterres went on to suggest that the world is staring into a nuclear abyss. Millions of innocent refugees, mostly women and children, are fleeing across borders. The most fundamental tenets of international law are being trampled. The U.N. General Assembly must rise to its enormous historical responsibility of coming together for peace and security. Make no mistake. Solutions are essential and urgent. The U.N. General Assembly must make the difficult decisions that will enable us to move forward without an escalating arms race in Ukraine.
Bob Hazard has a strong belief that if you put committed, intelligent people together in a room and lock the door, some creative solution will emerge that is potentially different and better to benefit the entire community.