The right of veto of the permanent members of the UN Security Council became the protagonist this Wednesday of the umpteenth session dedicated to the war in Ukraine, which this time the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, attended as a guest.
In fact, the meeting became a battlefield when the president of Ukraine and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov engaged in a public confrontation over the right to veto, a resource that Moscow has resorted to with very frequently in recent years to, according to Zelensky, block any type of solution to the Russian invasion.
In his first face-to-face intervention before the Security Council, Zelensky expressed his concern about the apparent immobility of the international community in the face of the war in Ukraine. “It is impossible to stop this war because all efforts face the veto of the aggressor or those who support the aggressor,” denounced the Ukrainian president. A few meters away, the permanent representative of Russia, Vasili Nebenzia, listened attentively to his words.
Aware that the Security Council has entered a dangerous dynamic, the president of Ukraine appeared at the meeting with two proposals clearly directed against Russia under his arm. First, temporarily expel a member who violates the UN founding charter; second, bring each resolution vetoed in the Council to the Assembly and give it the power to lift the veto.
After Zelensky, Sergei Lavrov took the floor and vigorously defended the right of veto as a “legitimate” and essential tool of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
“The use of the veto is an absolutely legitimate tool stipulated in the United Nations Charter with the aim of avoiding decisions that lead to the breakup of the UN,” said the Russian Foreign Minister. Lavrov took advantage of his time on the podium to attack Ukraine, accusing the Ukrainian government of enacting “racist” laws against Russians and of being under the influence of “neo-Nazis.”
The confrontation between Zelensky and Lavrov revealed the deep division that persists within the UN on the issue of the veto in the Security Council. Any attempt to reform this institution, especially with regard to the rights of permanent members, seems an arduous task, since it would require the approval of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly and the subsequent ratification of two thirds of the members of the UN, including the five permanent members.
Amid this verbal feud, the international community continues to seek solutions to the crisis in Ukraine while facing challenges inherent to the UN structure.