Here too, the US and its allies had an enormous advantage at the creation of the UN in 1945, and retain it to a large extent due to the inertia of the institution itself. As a result, the inclusion of Moscow and Beijing in the most important mechanism restrains their hypothetical revolutionary behavior, but does not provide them with the same degree of influence on world governance as the West.
In other words, the UNSC is becoming a very sophisticated form of deterrence which is carried out by granting two adversary countries a special status. This status narrows their scope for independent behavior and separates them from the rest of the international community. For the latter, the status is a privilege that the self-appointed ‘world elite’ has arrogated to itself and which it refuses to share. Thus, in its modern form, the UNSC is a way to maintain the monopoly of the US and Western Europe in international politics.
The world is indeed changing, and not only as a result of the dynamics of power relations between the Great Powers. While Russia’s military assertiveness and China’s economic weight remain the main battering rams against the international system led by the West, their actions are not determinants of the irreversibility of change. Otherwise, the revisionism of Moscow and Beijing would repeat the fate of revolutionary France in the early 19th century, or of Germany and Japan, which rebelled in the second quarter of the previous century against the injustice of the world order of that time. But we already see that this is not a likely prospect, precisely because the majority of developing countries are in fact on the side of the Russian-Chinese front.
Even if some of them formally condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine during the UN General Assembly vote, their policies show that they are aware of their changing position in the international system. This conclusion is also supported by the fact that India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Vietnam have generally opted for a position of benevolent neutrality.
That said, we do not know whether the Russian leadership itself was convinced that it would be impossible to isolate Moscow. However, Russia’s military assertiveness on the Ukraine issue has helped everyone see that the status quo favored by the West is already a thing of the past.
The fundamental transformation of the global balance of power has three main sources. Firstly, economic globalization, which emerged under the shadow of Western domination, has provided many medium and large countries with new resources to meet their development challenges. Secondly, the objective reduction of the material capabilities of the West, which is no longer able to offer the rest of the world attractive sources of prosperity that are worth giving up their own interests for. Thirdly, there is a rising self-confidence of a host of relatively new actors in international politics derived from the first two factors.
As a result of this emancipation, the West is no longer able to enforce the mechanisms of world politics that would enable it to continue to extract maximum resources on beneficial grounds. This state of affairs has been clearly demonstrated in recent years, when most of the initiatives that benefit the US and Western Europe, for example, in the area of climate change, were not secured by clear benefits for others, but by the use of instruments of direct coercion. The failure of the attempts to isolate Russia, even though the West relied on formal international law in condemning its actions, clearly demonstrated the refusal of other countries to follow the Western course. Most of the world does so not out of sympathy for Russia, but for their own selfish reasons.
This new world is not and cannot be embodied in the UNSC, the main institution of international security. This is simply because it was created for another world, from which all its procedures and practices are adapted, from the location of its headquarters in New York, to the specifics of appointments to high and middle bureaucratic positions. Therefore, any effort to preserve this institution would a priori prove futile and would only prolong the agony of the old international order, with all its attendant risks.
It would therefore be worthwhile to take the issue of the future of the UN and especially the composition of its main body – the Security Council – much more seriously now. The issue of UNSC reform has been raised by some of the world’s major countries on the grounds that at the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, it is strange to proceed from the legitimacy that emerged from World War II, during which most modern states simply did not exist. There may now be more than historical reasons to revisit the topic, including very real reasons regarding the changing balance of power. And it is not only the West that will have to come to terms with this, but also Russia and China, whose unique position in the UN system is also a product of the domination of the old imperialist powers of Western Europe and North America.
Perhaps we are not yet ready for such a decisive step as abolishing the UN and creating (if necessary) a new principal international institution. But it is certainly time to expand the permanent membership of the Security Council to include India, Brazil, Indonesia, and one or two major African countries known for having an independent stance. This would not solve the problem of the UN’s irrelevance in these changing historical circumstances, but it would buy time for a more thoughtful and fruitful discussion. It is reasonable that the initiative should belong to Russia and China, as they are the most interested parties.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
paradox. All rights reserved.