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‘World at a crossroads and a system of international relations for the future’

Sep 23,2019 - Last updated at Sep 23,2019

These days, the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly opens up. So does a new international “political season”.

The session begins at a highly symbolic historical moment. Next year we will celebrate two great and interconnected anniversaries — the 75th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic and Second World Wars, and the establishment of the UN.

The defeat of fascism in 1945 had fundamentally affected the further course of world history and created conditions for establishing a post-war world order. The UN Charter became its bearing frame and a key source of international law to this day. The UN-centric system still preserves its sustainability and has a great degree of resilience. It actually is kind of a safety net that ensures peaceful development of mankind amid largely natural divergence of interests and rivalries among leading powers. 

It is obvious today that efforts to establish a unipolar model have failed. New major players wielding a sustainable economic base seek to increase their influence on regional and global developments; they are fully entitled to claim a greater role in the decision-making process. 

“Liberalism”, that the West claims to defend, focuses on individuals and their rights and freedoms. This begs the question: How does this correlate with the policy of sanctions, economic strangulation and overt military threats against a number of independent countries such as Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea or Syria? Sanctions directly strike at ordinary people and their well-being and violate their social and economic rights. How does the bombing of sovereign nations, the deliberate policy of destroying their statehood leading to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and condemning millions of Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and representatives of other peoples to innumerable suffering add up to the imperative of protecting human rights? The reckless Arab Spring gamble destroyed the unique ethnic and religious mosaic in the Middle East and North Africa.

In Europe, the proponents of liberal concepts get along quite well with massive violations of the Russian-speaking population rights in a number of EU and EU-neighbouring countries. 

What is “liberal” about visa denials and other sanctions imposed by the West on residents of Russia’s Crimea? They are punished for their democratic vote in favour of reunification with their historical homeland. Does this not contradict the basic right of the people to free self-determination, let alone the right of the citizens to freedom of movement enshrined in international conventions?

The West’s unwillingness to accept today's realities, when after centuries of economic, political and military domination it is losing the prerogative of being the only one to shape the global agenda, gave rise to the concept of a “rules-based order”. These “rules” are being invented and selectively combined depending on the fleeting needs of the people behind it, and the West persistently introduces this language into everyday usage. 

The intentions of those who initiated this “rules-based order” concept affect the exceptional powers of the UN Security Council. A recent example: When the United States and its allies failed to convince the Security Council to approve politicised decisions that accused, without any proof, the Syrian government of using prohibited toxic substances, they started to promote the “rules” they needed through the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). By manipulating the existing procedures in flagrant violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, they managed (with the votes of a minority of the countries participating in this Convention) to license the OPCW Technical Secretariat to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons, which was a direct intrusion in the prerogatives of the UN Security Council. 

Separately, attention should be paid to the controversial concept of “countering violent extremism”, which lays the blame for the dissemination of radical ideologies and expansion of the social base of terrorism on political regimes that the West has proclaimed undemocratic, illiberal or authoritarian. This concept provides for direct outreach to civil society over the head of legitimate governments. Obviously, the true goal is to withdraw counterterrorism efforts from beneath the UN umbrella and to obtain a tool of interference in the internal affairs of states.

Revisionism clearly manifests itself in the area of strategic stability. The US torpedoing first the ABM Treaty and now the INF Treaty (a decision that enjoys unanimous NATO members’ support) have generated risks of dismantling the entire architecture of nuclear arms control agreements. 

There is one more example of introducing revisionist “rules”: The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, a multilateral agreement approved by the UN Security Council that is of key importance for the nuclear non-proliferation.

Yet, another example is Washington’s open refusal to implement unanimous UN Security Council resolutions on the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the economic field, the “rules” consist of protectionist barriers, sanctions, abuse of the status of the US dollar as the principle means of payment, ensuring competitive advantages by non-market methods, and extraterritorial use of US laws, even towards the United States’ closest allies.

As is evident from the experience of recent years, using unilateral tools to address global problems is doomed to failure. 

What is being proposed by Russia? First of all, it is necessary to keep abreast of the times and recognise the obvious: The emergence of a polycentric world architecture is an irreversible process, no matter how hard anyone tries to artificially hold it back (let alone send it in reverse). Most countries don’t want to be held hostage to someone else’s geopolitical calculations and are determined to conduct nationally oriented domestic and foreign policies. 

It is our common interest to ensure that multipolarity is not based on a stark balance of power like it was at the earlier stages of human history (for example, in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century), but rather bears a just, democratic and unifying nature, takes into account the approaches and concerns of all those taking part in the international relations without an exception, and ensures a stable and secure future.

While taking good care of the post-WW II system of international relations that relies on the United Nations, it is also necessary to cautiously though gradually adjust it to the realities of the current geopolitical landscape. This is completely relevant for the UN Security Council, where, judging by today’s standards, the West is unfairly overrepresented. We are confident that reforming the Security Council shall take into account interests of the Asian, the African and the Latin American nations whilst any such design must rest upon the principle of the broadest consensus among the UN member states. 

It is evident that without collective effort and without unbiased partnership under the central coordinating role of the UN it is impossible to curb confrontational tendencies, build up trust and cope with common threats and challenges. It is high time to come to terms on uniform interpretation of the principles and norms of international law rather than try to follow the old saying “might goes before right”. It is more difficult to broker deals than to put forward demands. But patiently negotiated trade-offs will be a much more reliable vehicle for predictable handling of international affairs. 

As of today, it is especially relevant to counter religious and ethnic intolerance. We urge all the nations to work together to prepare for the World Conference on Interfaith and Inter-Ethnic Dialogue that will be held in Russia in May 2022 under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the UN. 

Will the multipolar world continue to take shape through cooperation and harmonisation of interests or through confrontation and rivalry? This depends on all of us. Russia will continue to promote a positive and unifying agenda aimed at removing the old dividing lines and preventing the appearance of new ones. 

Yet, another outstanding statesman from our country, Andrey Gromyko (his 110th birth anniversary we mark this year) said wisely: “Better to have ten years of negotiations than one day of war.”

 

The column by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is an abridged version of the original article published in Russia in Global Affairs magazine on September 20

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