Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s address at the UN Security Council open debate on “Maintaining International Peace and Security: reflect on history, reaffirm the strong commitment to the purpose and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,” New York, February 23, 2015
Thank you, Mr Chairman,
I’d like to begin by expressing gratitude to the Foreign Minister of China, Mr Wang Yi, for organising this open debate. Its agenda is very significant: ahead of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, it allows us to critically assess international relations and discuss ways to overcome accumulated systemic problems.
The UN Charter, which was the result of the great victory over Nazism, has been and is the cornerstone of the system of international relations. The goals, principles and rules sealed in the charter are a vital source of international law, the basis of the code of conduct on the international stage and the foundation of the ever growing agglomeration of international treaties and agreements. Of course, the UN is not an ideal organisation. But as Dag Hammarskjöld said, “The United Nations was not created in order to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell.”
For the first time, the UN Charter formulated principles for creating an operating mechanism for governing the world by coordinating the positions of the leading nations. In other words, it formulated the key elements of a polycentric world order. For the first four decades since its establishment, the UN operated under conditions of harsh bipolar confrontation. However, the end of the Cold War lifted the objective obstacles to the UN Security Council becoming an effective format for synthesizing the collective will of the international community.
Unfortunately, the path towards this goal turned out to be much more difficult and serpentine than we imagined 25 years ago. We have seen numerous violations of the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, including the independence and sovereign equality of nations, non-interference in their internal affairs and peaceful settlement of disputes. I am referring to the bombing of Serbia, the occupation of Iraq under a patently false pretext the consequences of which remain a heavy burden on the Iraqi people, as well as gross manipulation of the UN Security Council mandate that resulted in destruction and chaos in Libya.
All of these are the consequences of attempts to claim domination in global affairs and control everyone everywhere, and the unilateral use of military force in the pursuit of selfish interests. These actions contradict the underlying UN principles and the objective trend for the decentralisation of the global economic and political power.
In the pursuit of the illusory goal of global domination, they are using a wide range of unsavoury methods, such as heavy pressure on sovereign states and attempts to force political, economic and ideological solutions and standards on them. For those who “misbehave” they have a technology for inspiring internal unrest and promoting regime change. An example of this is the open encouragement of an unconstitutional state coup in Ukraine last year.
Consistent attempts are being made to turn the Security Council into an office to rubberstamp the decisions of the “leader,” and when these attempts fail, they try to remove the UN Security Council from developing a policy on its key competence: the maintenance of international peace and security. At the same time, they completely disregard the latest examples of the unilateral use of military force, which pushed the Middle East and North Africa into instability and chaos, largely creating a breeding ground for the growth of extremism.
Under the UN Charter, only the Security Council has the power to take enforcement measures against states. Unilateral restrictions and attempts at the exterritorial use of national legislation are elements of an obsolete bloc mentality that can only generate confrontation in international affairs and complicate the joint search for solutions to arising problems.
The international climate is seriously worsened by information wars through the use of global media, the internet and social media. I am convinced that freedom of speech and expression must not be used to justify manipulation with information, brainwashing and subversive activities against other states’ institutions and policies, or to foment religious strife.
Now is the time to answer one question: Do we really want the UN Security Council to be an effective and influential instrument for maintaining international peace and security, or are we willing to allow it to become a platform for propagandised confrontation and exclude the Security Council from the search for vital international solutions. If the latter is true, it will inevitably have a negative impact on other international and regional formats, further reducing the opportunities for finding solutions to current issues.
We believe that we must immediately take resolute action to rid ourselves of double standards in global politics, to restore the UN Security Council’s role as the leading agency for coordinating collective approaches based on respect for cultural and civilisational diversity in the world, and for democratising international relations.
Everyone must accept the fact that people have the right to independently choose their future without foreign interference in their internal affairs. In this connection, I suggest that we consider reaffirming and strengthening the relevant provisions of the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the UN Charter. The focus should be on the unacceptability of supporting the unconstitutional change of government. We must agree to use the UN Charter for joint risk management within increasingly complex international relations. In the early 1990s, the UN Secretariat prepared a handbook on the peaceful settlement of disputes between states. Maybe we need to update this handbook so that it incorporates the experience we have accumulated since its adoption.
Positive results are only assured when the Security Council members work together to find solutions that can help them coordinate their positions. It is on this basis that we addressed the key issues of chemical disarmament in Syria and laid out measures to resist foreign terrorists. The other day the UN Security Council adopted, at Russia’s initiative, Resolution 2199 designed to prevent terrorist groups from benefiting from trade in oil. Another recent example is the deployment of new peacekeeping missions in Mali and the Central African Republic. We now plan to directly address another painful issue in Africa, the terrorist threat coming from Boko Haram. We hope the special high-level group created by the UN Secretary-General will provide recommendations on increasing the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping efforts.
In general, it would do us good to review global challenges and threats which can only be resisted collectively. One of the key priorities on this list is the threat of terrorism and extremism, which has grown to an unprecedented scale, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, and which has been spreading into Southern Africa, Asia and Europe. Unilateral actions have no future, as we have seen. This problem must be addressed within the framework of the UN. We are against decentralising counterterrorism efforts and forcing the international community to accept action plans that are developed in a non-participatory format.
I hope that we will use this open debate to seriously discuss the future of the United Nations as a vital mechanism for regulating international relations.