Key UN principles governing the Ukraine war
UN Charter Article 2
The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles ….
Principle 3 on the peaceful resolution of disputes
All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
Principle 4 on territorial integrity
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
Article 51 of the Charter maintains the pre-existing right of self-defence:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security….
The example of Eritrea and Ethiopia
How these two key principles — peaceful dispute resolution and territorial integrity — interrelate in the context of an invasion of one state by another is clearly set out in the UN Security Council response to the Eritrean–Ethiopian war of May 1998.
According to a 2005 ruling by an international commission, Eritrea broke international law and triggered the war by invading Ethiopia. By 2000, Ethiopia held all of the disputed territory and had advanced into Eritrea. The war officially came to an end with the signing of the Algiers Agreement in 12 December 2000; however, the ensuing border conflict would continue on for nearly two decades.
Consider next this UN Security Council resolution and statement shortly after the onset of the war:
Decision of 26 June 1998 (3895th meeting): resolution 1177 (1998) At its 3895th meeting, held on 26 June 1998 in accordance with the understanding reached in its prior consultations, the Security Council included in its agenda without objection the item entitled “The situation between Eritrea and Ethiopia”.
At this meeting the draft resolution was put to a vote and adopted unanimously as resolution 1177 (1998). It reads in part:
The Security Council,
Expressing grave concern at the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, its political, humanitarian and security implications for the region, and its effect on the civilian populations there,
Affirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and Eritrea,
Affirming also the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes, and stressing that the use of armed force is not acceptable as a means of addressing territorial disputes or changing circumstances on the ground,…
Commending the efforts of the Organization of African Unity and of others, in cooperation with [that] organization, to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict,
- Condemns the use of force, and demands that both parties immediately cease hostilities and refrain from further use of force;
- Welcomes the commitment of the parties to a moratorium on the threat of and use of air strikes;
- Urges the parties to exhaust all means to achieve a peaceful settlement of the dispute….
Please read and reread the above-noted sections of the UN Security Council resolution 1177 (1998). This situation involved a flagrant breach, by Eritrea, of the UN principle of territorial integrity — namely, its military invasion of Ethiopia. In addition, Eritrea’s breach did not justify Ethiopia occupying Eritrean land by force.
The UN Security Council responded by denouncing the use of force as a means of attempting to resolve the dispute and called on all parties to focus on a peaceful resolution — that is, to negotiate a peaceful outcome.
maintain or restore international peace and security
This action is in accordance with the mandate of the UN Security Council to “maintain or restore international peace and security” as set out in Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
This is not to say that the only recourse the UN Security Council has is to urge the parties to negotiate an end to the war. As we saw in its response to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, where there is sufficient agreement among UNSC members (and no vetoes wielded), they can authorize measures — including the use of force — to restore international peace and security.
But that approach is not now available to the Security Council due to the Russian veto. Even if they could get around that obstacle, it would be an act of madness for the Council to authorize the collective use of force against a heavily nuclear-armed state like Russia.
RI President Peggy Mason comments:
From this perspective, it should be clear that the post-Cold War UN architecture — the first aim of which was to prevent military conflict among the great powers — is actually working. I hasten to add that this was the minimum aim of the UN Charter. Its drafters also hoped “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” by preventing conflict from arising and promoting peaceful conflict resolution, when prevention failed.
USA and NATO are ignoring the UN principle of the peaceful resolution of disputes
The point being made here is that the inability of the Security Council to agree on effective action to restore international peace and security in no way absolves UN members, beginning with Western veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council — the US, UK and France — of their responsibility to seek to resolve the conflict through peaceful means.
We remind again of this preambular paragraph of the Ethiopia–Eritrea resolution:
Affirming also the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes, and stressing that the use of armed force is not acceptable as a means of addressing territorial disputes or changing circumstances on the ground
And the call by the Security Council in the operative (and therefore binding) paragraph 1 of the resolution is for both parties to immediately cease hostilities and refrain from further use of force.
Of course, no two situations are the same and NATO has generally restrained Ukraine from extending its defence of its own country to offensive actions within Russia.
The USA and NATO coalition supporting Ukraine have every right to do so under Article 51 of the Charter, but in invoking the UN Charter, they are also bound to respect the UN principle of settling disputes by peaceful means, not by military force, in circumstances where UN-led collective military action is not possible and where collective defence efforts under Article 51 have also not led to the timely termination of the conflict.
The Russia–Ukraine War Report Card, June 28, 2023
According to the Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force June 28th, 2023 update:
No significant territorial changes.
What about the Wagner Group rebellion?
Here is the Belfer Centre Report Card summary:
In the aftermath of a mutiny that saw Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner troops march largely unimpeded toward Moscow on Saturday, the fate of the mercenary group and its leader remain uncertain, and the impact the rebellion may have on the Ukrainian war remains uncertain.
For more detail, the best synopsis of the event and its implications that we have seen is by Simon Saradzhyan, in the Belfer Center’s Russia Matters weekly coverage, entitled Mutiny in Russia: What Happened, What’s Next and What To Be Thankful For (29 June 2023). We offer two quotations to encourage the reading of the full, quite succinct, analysis.
On the question “Has the rebellion weakened Putin, signaling the beginning of his end, or has it actually made him stronger?” Saradzhyan, after canvassing expert reactions, concludes:
while I view Putin as having been weakened by the rebellion, I cannot know whether this time it’s really the “beginning of the end,” as described this week in commentaries for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy and other major Western outlets.
I do know, however, that one of the first predictions of the beginning of the end for Putin was made back in 2002.
On the question “Should the world be thankful?”, Saradzhyan writes:
we should be thankful that this struggle for power within the Russian ruling elite did not acquire a nuclear dimension, which would have had global repercussions. We might not be so lucky, however, if there is a next time.
Canada, NATO and Ukrainian membership
One of the hot issues at the upcoming NATO Summit, to be held in Vilnius, Lithuania on 11-12 July 2023 is whether there will be an agreement on fast-tracking Ukrainian membership in NATO. As reported by the Guardian.com,
Ukraine’s defence minister has raised the stakes before the next Nato [sic] summit, saying he expects a guarantee that his country will be invited to join the military alliance at the conclusion of the war with Russia, describing membership as non-negotiable.
Ukrainian President Zelensky echoed his Defence Minister, saying on 27 June 2023:
We understand that we cannot be a member of Nato during the war, but we need to be sure that after the war we will be. That is the signal we want to get — that after the war, Ukraine will be a member of Nato.
Canada’s Defence Minister, Anita Anand, has stated that Canada supports Ukraine joining NATO
when the conditions are right.
However, as Paul Waldie of the Globe and Mail points out:
Defence Minister Anita Anand …. stopped short … of joining her British counterpart in backing calls to fast-track the country’s entry.
Even the UK Secretary of Defence, Ben Wallace, was reported as being “realistic” about the improbability of the Vilnius Summit endorsing the fast-track when countries including the United States, Germany and others were reluctant to support early admission.
Canada, the UK and NATO’s 2% spending target
Another topic for discussion at the Vilnius Summit will be the progress that NATO members have made in reaching the 2% of GDP NATO defence spending target.
In a CBC story entitled U.K. defence secretary urges Canada to hit NATO military spending target, Murray Brewster writes:
Britain’s defence secretary delivered a polite but pointed reminder Thursday of NATO’s expectations of its member states — including Canada — when it comes to defence spending.
However, the Canadian Press has an entirely different take on his comments, writing that Wallace:
came to Canada’s defence over its failure to meet the NATO commitment of spending two per cent of its GDP on defence, saying it’s important that countries are spending more.
The CP story went on to say that Wallace pointed out meaningful growth in defence takes time:
You can’t buy a warship in a year, you can’t recruit and train another brigade in a year, it takes time.
CP reports that he finished these comments as follows:
Of course I will say to my friends in Canada, and in France, and in Germany, and in Denmark, and in all those other countries that are not at two per cent, ‘You should try and get there.’
We have written before about the arbitrary nature of the 2% goal and note here that the US currently spends 3.5% of GDP, or $877 billion per year, more than the next 10 countries combined.
The NATO 2% defence spending target locks members into higher and higher levels of military spending regardless of the actual security environment. And it forces its adversaries to respond in kind. This is the antithesis of sustainable security building.
For a different approach, see the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs publication Rethinking Unconstrained Military Spending (April 2020).
CHINA AND CLIMATE CHANGE AND MORE
Given the almost relentlessly negative view of China in the Canadian media, we offer this 29 June 2023 headline in the Japan Times: China on track to blow past Xi’s clean power goal five years early.
The article begins:
China is on track to almost double its wind and solar capacity by 2025 and blow past the country’s clean power target five years early, according to Global Energy Monitor.
Compare this to Canada’s lagging record on climate change, canvassed in our blog post of 16 June 2023.
New Zealand’s nuanced approach to China relations
Like Canada, New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence network, but decidedly unlike Canada, New Zealand has allowed its treaty relationship with the US under ANZUS to lapse as a result of its robust anti-nuclear policy.
Guardian reporter Tess McClure writes:
While New Zealand has maintained warmer relations with Beijing than many of its western allies, it has also faced often-tense exchanges over human rights issues and concerns about the militarisation of the Indo-Pacific.
For more information on the nuanced approach to China relations pursued by New Zealand, in marked contrast to Canada’s increasingly confrontational stance in lockstep with the United States, see Xi Jinping praises ‘great importance’ of China-New Zealand relations (guardian.com, 27 June 2023).
UPDATE ON FOREIGN INTERFERENCE AND PUBLIC INQUIRY
The Canadian Press reported on 26 June 2023 that David Johnston had filed his final — and confidential — report on foreign interference to the Prime Minister on Monday:
ending his contentious term as special rapporteur.
For a commentary on this development, see Exit, Stage whatever: Mr. Johnston leaves a secret note behind (wesleywark.substack.com, 28 June 2023), where Wark provides a useful
timeline of developments around the independent special rapporteur on foreign interference.
He also regrets the confidential nature of this last report, writing:
To make such a secret exit is, well, sad. It contradicts the spirit of Mr. Johnston’s first report.
On the same day, Catherine Tunney reported for CBC news that one of the review bodies probing foreign interference, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA), was calling on the government to release more documents to it.
In a letter to Trudeau made public Monday, NSIRA chair Marie Deschamps wrote:
In order to ensure the integrity of our review and not limit or influence our evidence base, NSIRA must have access to all documents contained in any class of documents provided, rather than a subset of these documents….
Therefore, NSIRA respectfully requests that all cabinet confidence documents related to our review be released to us, and that all documents provided during the course of this review be without redaction for cabinet confidence.
The CBC article goes on to note the conflicting interests here:
The confidentiality of cabinet proceedings is a longstanding constitutional convention and a cornerstone of the Westminster style of government. It’s meant to allow cabinet ministers to have robust discussions in secret.
Yes, the government needs to robustly defend this important constitutional convention. But this would be an exceedingly narrow exception on matters of significant import and should be granted.
Two Intelligence Chiefs talk to CBC Radio’s The House
For a noteworthy example of openness, listen to Catherine Cullen’s interview with National Security and Intelligence Advisor (NSIA) Jody Thomas and Communications Security Establishment (CSE) Chief Caroline Xavier on CBC radio’s The House, which aired on the morning of Saturday, 24 June 2023.
Maybe it is a turning point moment. A recognition of the need by senior officials from the national security and intelligence community to reach out and explain their work and challenges to Canadians….
I thought it was a good conversation, not softball, not bland talking points.
A RACE AGAINST TIME TO HALT SUDAN’S COLLAPSE
The headline of the latest report by the International Crisis Group on the crisis in Sudan reads, A Race against Time to Halt Sudan’s Collapse (22 June 2023), and the under banner adds:
Ferocious fighting in the capital and elsewhere is tipping one of Africa’s largest countries ever closer to falling apart. There are no easy ways to halt the carnage. All with influence should do everything possible to stop Sudan’s slide into even greater disaster.
As if the war centred in Khartoum between rival generals, one heading the Sudanese army and the other a paramilitary unit, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), was not enough, the RSF has been accused of waging a separate war in Darfur, where the Janjaweed militias, from which the RSF was formed, were accused of genocide almost 20 years ago.
For more on the Darfur nightmare, see Calls for sanctions against Sudan amid genocide warnings in Darfur (guardian.com,- 30 June 2023).
Near the end of its report, Crisis Group states:
With neither showing any sign of compromise, there are no easy solutions. Indeed, any prescription today risks having an element of the quixotic. Still, given just how catastrophic war in Sudan would be, African, Arab and Western powers have no choice but to commit much more diplomatic capital than they have to date, particularly to averting a regional melee.
It is very hard not to conclude that the lack of international attention to this devastating conflict, in which civilians are bearing the brunt, and over 1.3 million persons have been displaced, is one more negative impact of the Ukraine war and yet another reason, among so many, for ramped up international diplomacy there as well.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (The Wagner Group)
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