War is a Continuation of Politics

The above paraphrasing of Clausewitz’s most famous dictum would imply that those who would understand war would do well to have some understanding of politics. This thought leads us to what occurred in the UN Security Council on Wednesday the 23rd. What the Russian Ambassador called a “special military operation” the Ukrainian Ambassador rightly called a declaration of war. Now I am not a big fan of the UN (for lots of reasons) but I do believe that if we are going to maintain such an organization, then we should use it. Thus, following the maxim that ‘legality is better than bestiality’ it is worth noting the recommendation made by the Ukrainian Ambassador: expel Russia from the UN.

This is a tricky issue and needs a legal scholar to explain it fully to an old soldier like me, but if I followed the Ukrainian argument correctly, it seems to make sense. The argument is that Russia took the Soviet Union’s seat because it was empty and they assumed the USSR’s mandate. But Russia is NOT the USSR and the former soviet republics had to apply for membership; why not Russia? Arguably, it made sense to placate a Russia that was suffering and teetering on the edge of anarchy. The plan was to bring Russia into some kind of closer alignment with the West and so rather than castigate it, the West coddled it.

It would appear that the coddling needs to end. Mr Putin has no intention of EVER aligning himself with any Western power so perhaps the Ukrainian proposal has merit. The UN is a body ruled by law and if the legal case can be made that Russia usurped the USSR’s seat illegally, then cast them to the outer darkness. Close all the embassies, send all the UN officials back to Moscow. Let them deal with their puppet states and with China — and no one else. Mr Putin is reputed to have a ‘war chest’ of some half a billion USD, but that will not last indefinitely.

We say that we are nations who live by the rule of law; either we are or we are not.

6 thoughts on “War is a Continuation of Politics

  1. Yet another interesting facet of the UN. I wonder if the Ukrainian Ambassador’s idea gained, or will gain, any meaningful traction. The present situation has existed for 30 some years now. Precedence perhaps?

    While I do believe that the organization should be used, despite it’s flaws, I also recognize that the application of the rule of law in international diplomacy is seldom a black or white issue. Diplomats would likely argue that allowing Russia to retain a seat in the UN allows for access to their leadership and enables diplomacy, and theoretically influence, within the body. They would likely argue that isolating Russia would be counter-productive to both.

    On the other hand, should expulsion be successful, it would remove the international platform the UN offers for the Russian’s to justify their actions.

    Equally, if expulsion was successful, might it become an argument to deal with other “bad actors,” regardless of how they gained their seat?

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    1. Thanks Chuck, and BZ on a thought provoking site!

      I’m not so sure that this would be easy to achieve. The UN is a diplomatic organization that comprises nations for which the rule of law is a fluid, and not necessarily governing concept. Assuming that the Security Council was successful in recommending charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes of aggression against Russia, it would then be up to the International Criminal Court to investigate and rule on the legal issues. My sense is that both of these hurdles would need to be surpassed before any action to expel Russia would be considered. Might Russia’s and China’s veto power in the Security Council be an issue in surmounting the first hurdle?

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  2. Mike. I suspect that we are talking past each other. I am not suggesting war crimes but merely expulsion. Russia did not apply for membership and may legally have usurped the seat. held by the USSR. Ken Watkin might be more knowledgeable. It is the UN version of jailing Capone (or Trump) for tax evasion when more serious crimes were not provable.

    Glad you like the site.

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  3. Understood, and agreed Chuck. More simply put, I believe that the expulsion of a member nation would be too complex an internal issue for the UN to accomplish. Full disclosure – I am no expert on the UN and it’s processes and I have no idea if it has been tried in the past. I certainly would be interested in Ken’s view of the rule of law within diplomacy.

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  4. https://theconversation.com/ukraine-invasion-should-russia-lose-its-seat-on-the-un-security-council-177870

    An interesting article addressing the question at hand. My reading of a few related items indicate that the UN has ample processes in place to deal with the issue should they wish to, even without addressing the question of how Russia assumed its seat. Whether or not they will pursue their options appears to be mostly a question of will. 30 plus years of precedence and, ironically, Russia’s current role as President of the UN Security Council likely will complicate any consideration of this.

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