Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first mobilisation since World War Two and backed a plan to annex swathes of Ukraine, warning the West he was not bluffing when he said he’d be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.
Regarding the nuclear dimension, Putin stated:
If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people – this is not a bluff.
Putin railed against the West’s “anti-Russian policy” and attempts to “blackmail us with nuclear weapons” as justification for his actions.
On the nuclear threat, UN Secretary-General Guterres, in his address to the UN Security Council debate on Ukraine on 21 September 2022, stated:
The idea of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, has become a subject of debate. This in itself is totally unacceptable.
I’m also deeply concerned by reports of plans to organise so-called referenda in areas of Ukraine that are not currently under government control.
Any annexation of a state’s territory by another state resulting from a threat or use of force is a violation of the UN charter and of international law.
He concluded his UNSC presentation with this plea:
I appeal to all Member States, and especially those here today, to redouble all efforts to prevent further escalation, and to do all they can to end the war and to ensure lasting peace.
A sensible assessment of the nuclear threat
It has, however, taken on a new, and more sinister, potential meaning in light of some analyses making a link (not made by Putin himself) between nuclear use and the aforementioned referenda, which allegedly would
formally draw [Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson] under Mother Russia’s nuclear security dome.
But does it make any sense that Putin would actually use nuclear weapons in response to further Ukrainian incursions into those areas?
The International Crisis Group, in a new statement, has this to say:
Russia has everything to lose and nothing to gain if it escalates to nuclear use. Nuclear strikes in response to Ukrainian counterattacks make no military sense. They would also incur radiation risks for Russian forces and Russia itself.
In addition, as they cogently point out, a Russian nuclear strike
would create the very conflict Russia and NATO members both have to date tried to avert.
The danger of nuclear escalation is real, but remains most acute in scenarios that involve NATO’s direct entry into the war, which the Kremlin would see as an existential threat. Absent such a threat, Moscow appears to be aware of the ways in which such steps would backfire on it catastrophically.
Avoiding escalation and preparing the ground for negotiations
Crisis Group has this advice for Western states backing Ukraine:
- Avoid rhetoric suggesting they seek regime change or state collapse, which feeds Putin’s narrative that Russians are caught in an existential war with the West;
- Make clear that Russian nuclear bluster, if turned into action, will create the very confrontation with NATO Russia fears most; and
- Hold firm to a policy of no direct involvement while continuing to arm Ukraine.
At the same time, on the negotiation front, Crisis Group argues:
Even now, Western states can lay some groundwork for a possible settlement by, for instance, sending quiet signals to Moscow that the sanctions that have most crippled Russia’s economy can and will be eased if there is a deal acceptable to Kyiv.
Accordingly, they urge Western countries to
Leave the door open for Moscow to accept a settlement that Ukraine can live with and remain attentive to any credible signal the parties are ready for serious talks.
Importantly, regarding the wider impact of the conflict, Crisis Group urges Western states to
Reassure the rest of the world, with deeds as well as words, that NATO capitals care as much about commodities price hikes as they do about the front lines in Ukraine and are prepared to put similar energy and resources into addressing them.
They conclude with a sober message:
With the war entering what could be its most significant and perilous phase yet, the balancing act is not poised to get easier, but remains the best available option.
The “balancing act” outlined by Crisis Group implies an appreciation for the role of diplomatic peacemaking that, thus far, is almost entirely absent from the Western response.
Mexican President calls for International Committee to promote dialogue between Biden, Putin and Zelensky
Mexico was elected to the UN Security Council for the 2021-2022 term in the same election in November 2020 that Canada lost to Ireland and Norway.
First presented to the Mexican people on 16 September by President Obrador, it was then formally introduced at the UN by Foreign Minister Ebrard on 22 September 2022, during his statement in the Security Council, and later the same day in the general debate of the 77th General Assembly.
In a follow-up piece for Just Security, Mexico’s UN Ambassador wrote:
Mexico’s proposal on the establishment of a High-Level Caucus for Dialogue and Peace in Ukraine is intended to boost the mediation efforts of Secretary-General Guterres and would therefore operate under his leadership, in partnership with other Heads of State and Government.
He went on to express the hope that the Prime Minister of India, H.E. Narendra Modi, and H. H. Pope Francis would support Guterres in this endeavour.
The stated objective of this Caucus would be
to serve as a diplomatic channel to engage with both the Russian Federation and Ukraine, with a view toward confidence-building measures, lowering tensions, and brokering a cease-fire that could lead to a truce, thus opening a path for dialogue towards the ultimate goal of achieving a sustainable peace agreement.
On the role of other states, FM Ebrard states:
We are convinced that it is the duty of all Members of the United Nations to exhaust all diplomatic efforts towards the peaceful settlement of disputes. Indifference is unacceptable.
In his conclusion, Ebrard acknowledges:
This initiative is now at the mercy of the political will of the parties.
We hope that it leads to a new chapter in this conflict, one governed by diplomacy and political dialogue, for the sake of the people of the world who continue to suffer from the scourge of war….
Note that Mexico prefaced its mediation proposals with a reminder of its February 25 statement in the Security Council, that inter alia emphasized:
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “flagrant violation” of Article 2 of the UN Charter and clearly constituted “aggression”; and
- Since the founding of the United Nations, Mexico “has defended and will continue to defend”, at the UN and in all other forums, the prohibition on the threat or use of force in international relations.
Ukraine slams Mexico proposal but others urge a second look
In a depressing sign of the times, Connor Echols, a reporter for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, writing about the coverage of Ukraine in the opening week of the UN General Assembly, states:
Despite repeated pronouncements about the need to end the war, few leaders proposed a way to actually make that happen. And those who did propose paths toward peace were largely laughed out of the room.
Shortly after the plan was announced, a top Ukrainian official slammed it as pro-Russian and accused the Mexican leader of trying to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a chance to “renew reserves before the next offensive.”
Other world leaders have so far avoided weighing in publicly on the proposal.
But Echols then goes on to argue why Mexico’s proposal to end the war in Ukraine deserves more serious engagement than it has gotten so far, looking in particular at the potentially complementary contributions that each of the proposed key mediators — UN Secretary-General Guterres, Pope Francis, and Indian President Modi — bring to the table.
For the full analysis, see Diplomacy Watch: Is AMLO’s peace plan really that ridiculous? (Connor Echols, responsiblestatecraft.org, 23 September 2022).
CANADIAN POLICY ON ISRAEL/PALESTINE — RHETORIC AND REALITY
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) has a new blog post entitled New Research Reveals Canadian UN Diplomats Uncomfortable With Our Consistent Anti-Palestinian Voting Record (22 September 2022).
It features superb work by the NGO Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East using Access to Information legislation to obtain internal Global Affairs documents for the period leading up to Canada’s voting at the UN General Assembly in 2019.
The emails and the full CJPME report show that Canada’s representatives to the UN in New York argued in favour of Canada taking an entirely “merit-based” approach to each resolution on Palestine and Israel.
They pointed out that defending Israel consistently was in contradiction to Canada’s officially “balanced” policy.
Tom Woodley, President of CJPME, adds:
We’ve been arguing for years that Canada’s votes against Palestinian rights are inconsistent with Canada’s own official policies. The released documents show that Canadian officials actually agree with this analysis.
Despite Canada’s “official” policy — based on the principle of two states for two peoples — Canada’s “real” policy is to defend Israel in almost every possible way. For example, CTIP research in 2018
In conclusion, CTIP writes:
Canada’s pattern of pro-Israel voting at the UN, while continuing to use the rhetoric of “balance” is yet another example of the Canadian government’s two faced approach to Israel/Palestine for the last several decades.
We reiterate our call for the Government of Canada to act in accordance with Canada’s stated policy on Israel–Palestine — and our international law obligations — including in relation to our votes at the UN General Assembly.
Support the CJPME call to the NDP to ACT on their 13 policy demands on Israel–Palestine
An earlier CTIP post reported that on 27 August 2022:
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has sent an email including a strong statement of NDP demands, denouncing the Trudeau government for “failing to call out Israel for breaching international law and for violating the human rights of the Palestinian people”.
In his email, Singh listed 13 practical and principled steps that the NDP urges Canada to take:
- respond to reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Israeli human rights NGOs and the United Nations and accept their recommendations to states
- refer the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to the International Criminal Court
- increase pressure on the Israeli government to stop its plan to annex Palestinian territory in violation of international law
- condemn the construction of illegal settlements, demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, and evictions from East Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah
- call on Israel to end forcible displacement of villagers in Masafer Yatta
- increase funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which supports Palestinian refugees
- condemn Israel’s undemocratic nation-state law
- condemn the Israeli government’s attacks on civil society in Israel and Palestine, including the recent designation of six Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist”
- condemn the ongoing blockade of Gaza and increase Canadian humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza
- condemn military detention of Palestinian children, and reaffirm support for the Convention on the Rights of the Child
- vote for Palestinian human rights at the United Nations
- end all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine
- suspend the bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel until Palestinian rights are upheld
Now CJPME is calling on all concerned Canadians to encourage NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to follow through on his principled demands. You can do so by clicking on the link below:
UPCOMING EVENTS: OUTER SPACE WEBINAR
On Thursday, 29 September at 11 am ET (17:00 CET), a webinar entitled For outer space to remain our common good will be held.
Co-hosted by Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union,
This webinar will focus on the role of parliaments and parliamentarians in protecting space for peace and our common heritage. It will draw upon information, recommendations, and examples of effective policy from the Outer Space section of the joint publication Assuring our Common Future: A guide to parliamentary action in support of disarmament for security and sustainable development.
Among the speakers will be former Canadian Ambassador Paul Meyer, who is a Fellow at the Outer Space Institute, as well as an Adjunct Professor of International Studies and Fellow in International Security at Simon Fraser University.
For the full programme and the link to register for Session B (timed for the Americas), click here.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Palestinian refugee camp)
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