Calling for de-escalation of tensions along the borders between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, the United Nations political affairs chief told the Security Council today that any military intervention by one country in another would be against international law and the Charter of the United Nations, as Moscow denied any intention of launching a war on that neighbouring State.
“The Secretary-General has made clear that there can be no alternative to diplomacy and dialogue,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, during a public meeting of the 15-member organ on the recent military build-up along the border with Ukraine.
Citing the reported deployment of over 100,000 troops and heavy weaponry by the Russian Federation along the border areas, as well as unspecified numbers of Russian troops and weaponry being sent to Belarus for joint military drills, she noted that members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are also reportedly planning additional deployments in the alliance’s Eastern European States, with 8,500 troops on high alert.
Urging all actors to refrain from provocative rhetoric and actions and maximize the chance for diplomacy to succeed, she stressed that achieving lasting, mutually acceptable arrangements is the best way to safeguard regional and international peace and security in the interest of all.
The international community must intensify its support for the efforts of the Normandy Four (France, Germany, Ukraine and the Russian Federation) and of the Trilateral Contact Group led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to ensure the implementation of the Minsk agreements, endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 2202 (2015). The United Nations is fully committed to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, she emphasized.
Today’s meeting was requested by the United States, whose representative argued that the Russian military build-up along Ukraine’s borders constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The Russian Federation’s delegate strongly opposed holding the meeting, saying that positioning troops within its territory is a domestic matter, not a threat to global stability.
The Council then put the matter to a vote, in which 10 Council members supported the holding of the meeting, defeating votes in opposition cast by the Russian Federation and China. Gabon, India and Kenya abstained.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the United States warned that the Russian Federation’s current actions threaten not only Ukraine but also Europe more broadly. “Our charge is not only to address conflicts after they occur, but to prevent them from happening in the first place,” she said. Moscow also plans to bring additional troops and weapons into Belarus in the coming weeks, close to the border with Ukraine. “This is an escalation and a pattern of aggression that we’ve seen from [the Russian Federation] again and again,” she said, citing past incursions into Crimea, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and other parts of Ukraine.
In a rebuttal, the Russian Federation’s delegate said troops have been deployed inside his country on various occasions before without the hysterics currently being witnessed. Rejecting accusations that Moscow intends to attack Ukraine, he said while Western countries claim to be trying to ease tensions, they are instead whipping up panic. Today’s meeting is especially ironic as the United States holds the world record for troop deployments outside its borders and its military adventures have killed hundreds of thousands around the globe.
Kenya’s representative said his delegation abstained on the procedural vote, as the impasse between NATO and the Russian Federation is “imminently solvable”, with the diplomatic steps under way already showing promise. Where there are disputes over territorial jurisdiction or security interests, “we strongly support patient diplomacy as the first, second and third option”, he affirmed. The United States, NATO and the Russian Federation have an opportunity to establish a diplomatic framework that will allow them to resolve their differences.
France’s delegate said the priority is to achieve a rapid de-escalation of the tense situation, as demonstrated in recent talks by the Normandy Four and in today’s Council meeting. If Moscow refuses to pursue the path of dialogue and respect for international law, the response will be robust and united, carrying severe costs. However, the European Union stands ready to engage if Moscow chooses dialogue and cooperation.
China’s representative said that the claim by the United States that this will lead to war is unfounded, given the Russian Federation’s declaration that it has no plans to launch military action. All parties should continue to resolve their differences through dialogue, he said, adding that several Council members agreed that the situation called for “quiet diplomacy, not microphone diplomacy”.
Ukraine’s delegate said his country is not going to launch a military offensive neither in Donbas nor in Crimea nor anywhere else. Ukraine sees no alternative to peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict and restoration of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukraine has inherent sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements, including treaties of alliance, which cannot be questioned by the Russia Federation.
The representative of Belarus explained that the upcoming joint military exercises with the Russian Federation will be carried out to verify the responses of their forces, given the commitments of their alliance, to assess their preparedness to eradicate threats and respond to the humanitarian situation, including the ongoing migration crisis. Such planned actions are purely defensive and pose no threat to European countries, or his country’s neighbours.
Poland’s delegate, voicing growing alarm over the Russian Federation’s continuous large-scale military build-up on the border with Ukraine, declared: “We cannot keep quiet because what is happening in our neighbourhood constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security, reaching far beyond our region and continent.” As OSCE Chair, Poland is open to facilitating talks on European security, he added.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Albania, United Kingdom, India, Ghana, Ireland, Gabon, Brazil, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Norway and Lithuania (also for Estonia and Latvia).
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:10 p.m.