Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Veto use in the Security Council

Not surprisingly Russia has threatened to veto any Security Council resolution on Georgia that didn't include a six point peace plan as proposed by French president Sarkozy. As a consequence, a recent draft was binned before it even got to the table.

In recent times news of Russia and/or China using or threatening its veto power in the United Nations Security Council has become more frequent. It seems as if both nations have only recently discovered their blocking capabilities, and are using them now with a vengeance.

For instance, a Zimbabwe resolution was vetoed by both countries; a Myanmar resolution was vetoed; China threatens to block a vote on a proposition to send Sudan's leader to The Hague; and Russia threatens to do the same with a Georgia proposal - as we mentioned above...

Only in their opposition to Iran have the five permanent SC members managed to occupy common ground - so far. It remains to be seen how long that will last in the face of growing international tensions surrounding the Georgia debacle...

Amidst all the consternation over the recent voting behaviour of Russia and China, one should remember that the US is an avid user of the veto too, especially with regard to the Middle East and Israel.

Russia has in fact used its veto rather sparingly so far, at least since the collapse of the Soviet empire. It is as yet too soon to say if a new trend is developing whereby Russia will translate its newly found self-confidence and national grandeur into obstructive behaviour in the SC.

China on the other hand seems to have definitely broken away from its former veto-reluctance. Even if it has only cast its veto 6 times so far, 4 of those have been issued in the last decade, and the last two vetoes have been submitted in 2007 and 2008, both in conjunction with Russia. The question whether China has turned to the veto to counterbalance US power is now open.

For those interested in the somewhat longer view of the situation, I recommend the following tables available at the Global Policy Forum website.

Changing Patterns in the Use of the Veto in the Security Council
as well as
Subjects of UN Security Council Vetoes

A general reading of the veto problem can be found on this Wikipedia page

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