Western nations fail to convince Asia, Africa in UN Ukraine debate

By Javier Otazu

United Nations, Jan 31 (EFE).- The growing tensions over Ukraine, a country which the United States and its European allies accuse Russia of preparing to invade, on Monday moved into the United Nations Security Council, where it remained clear that other nations in the Americas, Asia and Africa are avoiding coming down on the Western side of the debate.

This is the first Security Council meeting called specifically to discuss the Ukraine crisis, a meeting over which China has already expressed its disagreement saying, according to Ambassador Zhang Jun, that it should be “the hour of discrete diplomacy, not microphones,” but ultimately the debate was held after 10 of the 15 Council members voted to do so.

The session, however, served only to serve as a dialogue of the deaf in which Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia denied that Moscow has any plans to invade Ukraine or that it has deployed more than 100,000 Russian troops on its frontier with that country, asking rhetorically “Where has that figure come from?” and criticizing the Western countries for fomenting what he termed “Russophobia” in Ukraine.

The US envoy to the international body, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, expressed skepticism over the words of her Russian counterpart, saying that Moscow’s actions speak for themselves and that Russia’s threatening to act if its demands are not met is not responsible.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, invited by Norway to attend the debate, put the number of Russian troops massed along the border at 112,000 if one counts the ones on the Crimean Peninsula – which Russia claims to have annexed in 2014 – and he noted that “the current militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov is an authentic threat to (our) country.”

The countries in the Western bloc whose representatives spoke during the session, besides the US, included the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Ireland and Albania, and one after the other they repeated that Russia is threatening the security of Ukraine and all of Europe by pushing its argument for spheres of influence and blocs “more appropriate for the Cold War,” as the Albanian envoy said.

The Western nations have defended the right of Ukraine to establish for itself security alliances that it deems appropriate, and Kiev’s possible entry into NATO at some future point is a move that Russia has openly opposed.

The Russian ambassador described a type of Western plot that he claimed began in 2014, saying that the West supported the 2014 “coup” in Kiev that ousted the pro-Russian president there, leading to the ascension to power of “Nazi Russophobes” and now they’re brainwashing Ukrainians and saying that they must join the European Union and NATO. He equated those purported attempts with Ukraine’s abandonment of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the use of the Russian language, “the mother tongue of many citizens of Ukraine.”

He went on to say that the Western countries are fomenting a type of “collective hysteria” because while Moscow supported the lessening of tensions Russia is seeing “a rhetoric in which is seems that they are calling for war, they are expecting it to occur.”

And although he defended the right of Russia to deploy troops “on our territory,” he criticized what he called US “hypocrisy” given that Washington allegedly maintains 700 military bases around the world and has 165,000 US troops deployed abroad, 60,000 of them on European soil.

He also pushed for a solution to the Ukrainian conflict within the framework of the Minsk Agreement, which in 2014 put an end to the war in Donbass, the eastern Ukrainian territory that broke away from the country with Russian support, and he called a Security Council meeting for Feb. 17 to discuss the matter, while European countries expressed a preference for the “Normandy framework” (including Russia and Ukraine with Germany, France and other mediators) for such a discussion.

But while Russia was confronting the US and other European countries, it remained clear that the Security Council’s other member nations did not feel they were involved in the conflict and adopted an aloof stance. In particular, these nations included India, Brazil, Mexico, Kenya, Gabon, the United Arab Emirates and Ghana.

All of these nations insisted on calling for “peaceful means” and “constructive dialogue” to resolve the dispute but they abstained from directly criticizing Russia. Brazil even went so far as to say that “the concerns of Russia and Ukraine are equally legitimate.”

The envoy whose position was closest to that of Moscow was the Chinese ambassador, who said that “There are countries that are predicting a war, but Russia has said that it’s not going to launch a military operation and Ukraine doesn’t want one either. What is the basis for these countries to insist that there will be war?”

The Chinese ambassador, however, did not reveal what Beijing’s stance might be if the Russia-Ukraine crisis worsens or if the Kremlin does decide to invade the neighboring country.

EFE fjo/dmt/bp

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