The G7 foreign ministers’ get-together took place in Toronto on April 22-23 ahead of the group’s two-day summit in June, at which time Charlevoix, Quebec will host the leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and Japan. No decisions were made on the Iran nuclear deal, Syria, or North Korea. As usual, the US decides what’s right or wrong while others countries sing the chorus. The final communiqué is a very voluminous document filled with turgid words and phrases that have little practical meaning. Actually, the event produced few, if any, results worth talking about. This casts some doubt on the prospects for the top-level event this summer.
Russia was in the crosshairs and the language was tough. “The Russophobic connotations there are obvious," as Russian FM Sergey Lavrov noted. So what? Wasn’t it tough before? Has this “toughness” changed anything about Moscow’s behavior? “If you want to be treated as a great power, then work with us,” they say. If joining the G7 means sacrificing one’s independence to become one of “us,” then who needs such membership?
The decision to create a working group to address Russia's "detrimental behavior" had been expected. The G7 members have already raised a hue and cry about it. Another “working group” to fuel the hysteria does not change much. The ministers agreed to keep the sanctions in force and to introduce new ones if Russia refuses to cave. This decision had been expected. It’s the US that calls the shots with the others obediently following its marching orders.
Ukraine was invited to attend for the first time. If the aim was to irritate Russia, the shot missed its target. Inviting the poorest country in Europe, known for its inefficiency and corruption, does no reflect well on them. A discussion of Kiev’s refusal to comply with the Minsk II accords was not even on the agenda, which demonstrates how little the G7 can actually do. But in any event, Ukraine’s participation does not make the group any more relevant, given the absence of Russia, China, India, Brazil, and other nations with sizable international clout. And since the G20 meetings do include those representatives, what is the purpose of the G7 meetings where they discuss issues that cannot be resolved without the states that are left out in the cold?
The G7 Toronto event supported the recent US, British, and French air strikes against Syria. This issue falls more within the purview of the United Nations. If only the West could make its dream come true of depriving Russia of its veto power or else find some way to sidestep it and turn that organization into another US-controlled G7! Whether that will remain a mere dream or not, the efforts to reach that goal are unrelenting.
Now the Cold War is back, while the divided UN Security Council (UNSC) is impotent, as UN Secretary-General António Guterres told Sweden’s SVT channel in an interview. He believes the time is ripe for the UN to be reformed.
Moscow supports the idea of introducing changes. It’s always a good idea to adapt to face a new reality. But the reforms in question must be agreed on by the UNSC permanent members. The game needs to a fair one, with everybody playing by the rules and making no attempts to get around them. But disrupting the established order is exactly what the West is trying to do.
A proposal has been made to refer the issue of the chemical weapons (CW) used in Syria to the UN General Assembly (UNGA). There is no veto procedure within the UNGA, so Russia would be unable to prevent the adoption of any resolutions.
The way this would be done would be to use the “uniting for peace” route set up in 1950 (Resolution 377A) during the Korean crisis, which grants the UNGA special authority to make a decision in the event of a deadlock by the five permanent Security Council members. This route would enable nine members out of the 15 on the UNSC to get around a Russian veto and instead refer the matter to the 193 nations that make up the General Assembly. A resolution would pass if a two-thirds majority agreed on an attribution mechanism.
And it’s true that the power of the UNSC has been diluted recently. For instance, the West believes that the recent air strikes against Syria were “legitimate” despite their lack of approval by the UNSC. Such actions undermine the UN’s authority. That organization may not be perfect, but it has done a lot to make the world a better place since it was founded in 1945.
The temptation to bypass a Russian veto is huge. If that proposal gets a green light, it will change a lot of things. It could trigger a chain reaction, with major international security issues being decided by the UNSC. But is there any guarantee the assembly would always vote the way Washington wanted it to? For instance, it is hard to imagine a vote in favor of military escapades such as America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. It would certainly not approve of the present US hostility toward the Iran deal. How will the United States protect Israel without its veto power? Russia might also resort to this route, greatly complicating life for Washington and its allies.
Suppose a UNGA vote supports the West’s condemnations of Russia’s activities in Syria. What will change? As German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted during the G7 meeting “We know that the Syrian conflict, for example, can’t be solved without Russia. But it must then come up with constructive offers in return.” So, the only way to tackle the problem is by coordinating efforts with Moscow, not by excluding it from the peace process to go it alone.
Anti-Russia frenzy makes a poor guide. A small, one-time win might ultimately turn into a big defeat. The desire to hurt Russia could boomerang, and then the US and its allies might find that they’ve shot themselves in the foot.