Adherence to the UN Charter principles in their entirety and interconnection underwrite international peace and stability

The mission of the United Nations lies precisely in seeking consensus, rather than dividing the world into “democracies” and “autocracies.” Russia, along with its like-minded partners, is fully prepared to contribute to this mission.

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Delegations gather for a United Nations Security Council meeting on nuclear non-proliferation regarding the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Thursday, March 23, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. [JOHN MINCHILLO / AP]

Adherence to the UN Charter principles in their entirety and interconnection underwrite international peace and stability

 By Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister

The recently held general political discussion during the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly affirmed that the world is going through profound and tectonic changes.

We are witnessing the emergence of a new and fairer multipolar order that reflects the world’s cultural and civilisational diversity. The future world is taking shape in the midst of a battle. The global majority, representing 85 percent of the world’s population, advocates a more equitable distribution of global resources and respect of cultural diversity, as well as consistent democratisation of international affairs. On the other hand, a select group of Western nations led by the United States is endeavouring to hinder progress through neo-colonial methods and to maintain its waning dominance.

The disregard for the principle of equality and total inability to reach and honour agreements has become the hallmark of the collective West. Accustomed as they are to looking down at the rest of the world in a leader-follower relationship, the Americans and their Western satellite nations make commitments left and right. Some of them are made in writing and are legally binding, but they disregard them anyway. President Vladimir Putin has accurately called the West an “empire of lies.” Like many other nations, we know this first-hand from the time when even prior to the surrender of Nazi Germany, our WWII allies − Washington and London − were devising plans for a military operation codenamed Unthinkable against the USSR. In 1949, the United States was developing plans for nuclear strikes on the USSR. These plans were thwarted when Moscow developed its own retaliatory capabilities.

After the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union played a crucial role in the reunification of Germany and the establishment of a new European security framework, the Soviet and later Russian leadership were given concrete assurances that NATO would not expand to the East. The records of these talks can be found in our archives and the archives of the Western countries. However, the assurances by the Western leaders were a deception and they had no intention of honouring them. They were never concerned by the fact that bringing NATO closer to Russia’s borders was a gross violation of their formal commitments made at the top level in 1999-2010 through the OSCE not to strengthen their own security at the expense of other countries’ security and to avoid the military and political dominance in Europe of a country, a group of countries or organisations. Yet, NATO has persistently pursued precisely what it pledged not to do.

In late 2021−early 2022, they spurned our proposals to sign agreements with the United States and NATO on ensuring mutual security guarantees in Europe without altering Ukraine’s non-aligned status. The West continued its systematic efforts to militarise the Kiev regime, which was brought to power in the wake of a bloody coup and has been used as a bridgehead for making direct military threats to our country and obliterating its historical heritage on land that falls under Russia’s legitimate interests.

The series of recent joint exercises conducted by the United States and its European NATO allies, including scenarios involving the use of nuclear weapons on Russia, was unlike anything seen since the end of the Cold War. The stated objective of inflicting a “strategic defeat” on Russia has impaired the vision of the reckless politicians who are convinced of their own impunity and have lost their basic sense of self-preservation.

The attempts to expand the alliance’s sphere of influence across the entire Eastern Hemisphere under the deceptive slogan of “the indivisibility of Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific security” are a new and dangerous manifestation of NATO expansionism. To achieve this goal, Washington is creating and running military-political mini-alliances, such as AUKUS, the US-Japan-South Korea trio and the Tokyo-Seoul-Canberra-Wellington quartet. It is encouraging their participants to engage in practical cooperation with NATO, which is establishing its infrastructure in the Pacific theatre. The openly anti-Russia and anti-China focus of such efforts seeking to break up the inclusive and consensus-based regional architecture built around ASEAN creates risks of a new explosive geopolitical hotbed of tensions in addition to the already simmering Europe.

One can’t help but get the strong impression that the United States and its subservient “Western team” have decided to impart a global dimension to the Monroe Doctrine. These ambitions are as illusory as they are extremely dangerous, yet it doesn’t stop the masterminds of the new edition of Pax Americana from doing what they are doing.

It has reached the point where Western ruling elites, in violation of the UN Charter, are telling other countries who they should maintain relations with and how. In fact, they are taking these nations’ right to national interests and an independent foreign policy away from them. In NATO’s Vilnius Declaration, the growing partnership between Russia and China is viewed as a “threat to NATO.” Speaking before French ambassadors some time ago, President Macron expressed deep concern about the expansion of BRICS, calling it evidence of “complications in the international arena which pose the risk of weakening the West and, in particular, Europe… The international order, its principles, and various forms of organisation where the West continues to hold dominant positions are being revised.” These confessions are quite telling: if anyone anywhere is getting together and making friends without them, or without their permission, it is seen as a threat to their dominance. NATO’s advancement in the Asia-Pacific region is positive, whereas the expansion of BRICS is dangerous.

The US-led collective West has unilaterally assumed the role of master of the fate of all humanity and, driven by a complex of exceptionalism, is increasingly disregarding the legacy of the founding fathers of the United Nations. They intend to replace the UN-centric architecture of global governance with a rules-based order. No one has ever seen these rules (or, rather  they were never shown to anyone), but by observing the duplicitous and hypocritical actions of Anglo-Saxon and other geopolitical engineers, one can gain a clear understanding of how this scam is being put into practice.

In words, the West never denies the importance of respecting the norms and principles of the UN Charter, but it always applies these principles selectively, picking the ones that serve its momentary, self-serving geopolitical interests.

However, all charter principles should be upheld not selectively but in their entirety, as a collective and interconnected set, for the sake of ensuring the fair regulation of international relations, namely, sovereign equality of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, respect for territorial integrity, equality and self-determination of peoples, and respect for fundamental freedoms for all, as well as the obligation to implement UN Security Council resolutions and to strengthen the UN as the coordinating centre.

It is quite telling that Washington, London, and their allies never mention, let alone engage, the foundational charter principle that the Organisation is based on − the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members.

This principle is meant to ensure that all countries have a dignified place in the world, regardless of their size, form of government, or political and socioeconomic structure. However, the West is trying to divide the world into democracies which can do as they please, and others, which must serve the interests of the golden billion. Western exceptionalism is epitomised by EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell publicly calling Europe a garden, and the rest of the world a jungle.  This is not sovereign equality, but pure colonialism.

The collective West consistently violates the fundamental principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. There are numerous examples ranging from Central America and Yugoslavia to Iraq and Libya. Currently, their focus is on expanding into the post-Soviet space.

It is widely known that since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the United States has openly sought to bring Ukraine to heel. As acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland proudly stated in late 2013, Washington spent $5 billion nurturing obedient politicians in Kiev. In 2004-2005, aiming to bring a pro-American candidate to power, the West gave the green light to the first coup in Kiev, forcing the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to make an unlawful decision to hold a third round of elections that was not provided for by the country’s fundamental law. An even more brazen act of interference in the country’s internal affairs occurred during the second wave of Maidan protest in 2013-2014. Back then, a bevy of Western envoys strongly encouraged participants in anti-government demonstrations to engage in violence.

In particular, Victoria Nuland discussed with the US Ambassador to Ukraine the members of the future government to be formed by the coup plotters. At the same time, she reminded the EU of its actual place in global politics telling it to mind its own business.  In February 2014, the individuals handpicked by the Americans became key figures in the violent takeover of power, which happened just one day after an agreement was reached by the legitimately elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, and opposition leaders with the mediation of Germany, Poland, and France. The UN Charter principle of non-interference in internal affairs was repeatedly trampled upon.

Immediately after the coup, its leaders said that their top priority was to curtail the rights of the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine. Residents of Crimea and Donbass, who refused to accept the outcomes of the unconstitutional seizure of power, were labelled terrorists, and a punitive operation was unleashed against them. In response, Crimea and Donbass held referendums in full compliance with the principle of equality and self-determination of peoples, as outlined in Article 1, Paragraph 2 of the UN Charter.

Western diplomats and politicians consistently avoid mentioning this crucial norm of international law when they talk about Ukraine, and seek to reduce the ongoing developments to respecting territorial integrity.

In this regard, it is essential to point out that the unanimously adopted in 1970 UN Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the UN Charter of the United Nations stipulates that the principle of respecting territorial integrity applies to “States conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples… and thus possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory.”

The fact that Ukrainian nationalists who seized power in Kiev in a coup did not represent the people of Crimea or Donbass does not require proving. The unwavering support provided by Western capitals to the actions of the criminal Kiev regime constitutes a violation of the principle of self-determination, which followed blatant interference in internal affairs.

The adoption of racist laws banning all things Russian, including education, media, and culture, and the destruction of books and monuments, the ban on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the seizure of its property during the post-coup administrations led by Petr Poroshenko and then Vladimir Zelensky constituted a blatant violation of Article 1, Paragraph 3 of the UN Charter regarding the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion. Not to mention the fact that these actions directly violated the Ukrainian Constitution which obligates the state to respect the rights of Russians and other ethnic minorities.

Kiev had a responsibility to honour the international commitments it had taken on as part of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements dated February 12, 2015, which had been approved by UN Security Council Special Resolution 2202. This responsibility was imposed on Kiev in strict accordance with Article 36 of the Charter which supports “any procedures for the settlement of the dispute which have already been adopted by the parties.” In this context, those parties included Kiev, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. However, last year, all the signatories to the Minsk Agreements with the exception of President Putin (namely, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, and Petr Poroshenko) publicly and even enthusiastically admitted that they had no intention of honouring this document when they initially signed it. Their primary objective was to buy time to bolster Ukraine’s military capabilities and to arm it against Russia. Over the years, the EU and NATO openly supported every effort to undermine the Minsk Agreements, pushing the Kiev government towards a military solution to the “Donbass problem.” These actions violated Article 25 of the Charter, which obligates all UN members to “accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.”

As a reminder, the leaders of Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine signed a declaration which came as part of the Minsk Agreements. In this declaration, Berlin and Paris committed to many things, including helping restore the banking system in Donbass. In fact, they did not lift a finger to act on their commitments. All they did was watch Poroshenko impose a trade, economic, and transport blockade on Donbass contrary to their pledges. In the same declaration, Berlin and Paris also pledged to facilitate the strengthening of trilateral cooperation within the Russia-Ukraine-EU format in order to address Russia’s trade-related concerns and to promote the “creation of a shared humanitarian and economic space extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific.” This declaration had also been approved by the Security Council and was supposed to be acted upon in accordance with Article 25 of the UN Charter. Unfortunately, the commitment made by the leaders of Germany and France turned out to be another empty promise and a breach of the principles outlined in the Charter.

Legendary Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko rightfully pointed out on multiple occasions, “Ten years of talks are better than one day of war.” Staying true to this legacy, we engaged in lengthy talks pushing for the conclusion of European security agreements, approved the Russia-NATO Founding Act in 1997, and adopted at the top level the OSCE declarations on indivisible security. Starting from 2015, we insisted on the unconditional implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which were the outcome of these talks. All of these efforts were fully aligned with the UN Charter’s stipulation to “establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.” Nonetheless, our Western counterparts disregarded even this fundamental principle when they signed these agreements, knowing in advance that they would not honour them.

Presently, we hear nothing but slogans in the rhetoric of our opponents such as “invasion, aggression, and annexation.” Not a word is said about the deep-seated roots of the problem or the fact that they had been nurturing an openly Nazi regime for a long time, a regime that unabashedly rewrites the outcomes of the Second World War and the history of its own people. The West avoids any meaningful dialogue based on facts and respect for UN Charter requirements. It lacks arguments for a candid dialogue.

There is a strong perception that Western representatives shy away from engaging in professional discussions that could expose their demagoguery. While they vocally support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, former colonial powers conveniently ignore UN resolutions calling on Paris to return “French” Mayotte to the Union of the Comoros and London to withdraw from the Chagos Archipelago and to engage in negotiations with Buenos Aires regarding the Falkland Islands. These “proponents” of Ukraine’s territorial integrity now pretend to forget what the Minsk Agreements were about, which were designed to reunite Donbass with Ukraine while ensuring the protection of fundamental human rights, particularly the right to their native language. The West, which foiled the implementation of these agreements, bears direct responsibility for the breakup of Ukraine and instigating the civil conflict there.

I would like to highlight Article 2 of Chapter VIII of the Charter as another UN Charter principle that could have prevented the security crisis in Europe and facilitated confidence-building measures based on a balance of interests, were it respected. This article underscores the importance of developing the practice of peacefully resolving disputes with the assistance of regional organisations.

In line with this principle, Russia, alongside its allies, consistently advocated for establishing contacts between the CSTO and NATO to support the practical implementation of OSCE summit decisions regarding indivisible security in Europe. However, numerous appeals coming from the top CSTO authorities to NATO were ignored. Had NATO not rejected CSTO’s offers of cooperation, it might have played a role in averting many of the negative developments that led to the ongoing crisis in Europe, as Russia was consistently ignored or misled over the course of many decades.

The Western-centric liberal order relies heavily on double standards. When the principle of self-determination conflicts with Western geopolitical interests, as was the case when the people of Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, and the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions expressed their desire to be one with Russia, the West not only conveniently forgets about it but also vehemently condemns people’s choices and imposes sanctions. However, when self-determination aligns with Western interests, it is upheld as an absolute rule. A notable example is the recognition of Kosovo’s separation from Serbia, which took place in the absence of a referendum.

The ongoing deterioration of the situation in this Serbian region is a matter of deep concern. NATO supplying weapons to Kosovo and helping them create an army of their own constitutes a flagrant violation of the fundamental UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The world is witnessing a repeat of the sad situation with the Minsk Agreements concerning Ukraine, which envisaged a special status for the Donbass republics and which Kiev openly undermined with Western support. Currently, the EU appears unwilling and unable to compel its Kosovo underlings to honour the 2013 Belgrade-Pristina agreements on the establishment of the Community of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo, which should have special rights regarding their language and traditions. In both cases, the EU acted as a guarantor of the agreements, and it appears that they will share the same fate. The outcome is exactly what you would expect with such a sponsor.

Pursuing its geopolitical ambitions, Brussels imposes its mediation services on Azerbaijan and Armenia, thus destabilising, alongside Washington, the South Caucasus. Now that the leaders of Yerevan and Baku have resolved the matter of mutual recognition of sovereignty, it is time to promote peaceful life and build trust. The Russian peacekeeping contingent is prepared to contribute in every possible way.

In their efforts to prevent the democratisation of relations between countries, the United States and its allies are increasingly privatising the secretariats of international organisations. They push through decisions to establish subordinate mechanisms with non-consensual mandates in circumvention of the established procedures, all while claiming the right to place the blame with the parties which, for whatever reason, are not liked by Washington.

It is worth emphasising that the UN Charter requirements also apply to the UN Secretariat. According to Article 100 of the Charter, the Secretariat must act impartially, without receiving instructions from any government and, of course, it must respect the principle of sovereign equality of member states. In this regard, there are serious questions about the statements made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 29, such as “autocratic leadership is not a guarantor of stability; it is a catalyst of chaos and conflict,” and that “strong democratic societies are places that are capable of self-correction − and self-improvement.  They can enable change − even radical change − without bloodshed and violence.” One cannot help but think about the “changes” brought about by the aggressive moves of “strong democracies” in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and many other countries.

Furthermore, the Secretary-General stated that “[democracies] are centres for broad-based cooperation, rooted in the principles of equality, participation and solidarity.” Notably, this was said at the Summit for Democracy convened by President Biden outside the UN, the participants of which were selected by the US administration based on loyalty, not so much loyalty to Washington as to the ruling Democratic Party. The attempts to use such forums to discuss global issues directly violate Article 1, Paragraph 4 of the UN Charter, which emphasises the need to ensure the role of the Organisation as “a centre for harmonising the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”

At the same Summit for Democracy, the Secretary-General declared: “Democracy flows from the United Nations Charter.  Its opening invocation of “We the Peoples” reflects the fundamental source of legitimate authority:  the consent of the governed.” It’s interesting to juxtapose this thesis with the track record of the Kiev regime that initiated a war against a significant portion of its own people − millions of people who did not agree to be governed by neo-Nazis and Russophobes who unlawfully grabbed power in the country and buried the UN Security Council-approved Minsk Agreements, thus undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

When discussing the UN Charter principles, we must also consider the relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly. The “Western collective” has aggressively promoted the issue of “abusing the veto power” for a long time and has successfully pressured UN member states into discussing in the General Assembly issues related to each and every veto, which the West increasingly seeks to provoke. This is not a problem for us because Russia’s approaches to all agenda items are transparent, and we have nothing to hide. We can lay out our position one more time, if need be. Additionally, the veto is an entirely legitimate tool enshrined in the Charter to prevent decisions that could lead to the Organisation’s division.

However, since the procedure for discussing vetos in the General Assembly has been approved, why not also consider the Security Council resolutions that were adopted without veto many years ago, but have still not been implemented? Why not have the General Assembly explore the reasons for this state of affairs, such as hearing from those who have thwarted the implementation of Security Council resolutions on Palestine, the entire range of issues in the Middle East and North Africa, the Iran nuclear deal, as well as Resolution 2202 that endorsed the Minsk Agreements for Ukraine?

Sanctions regimes need to be addressed as well. It has become customary for the Security Council, following lengthy negotiations in strict accordance with the Charter, to approve sanctions on a particular country. After that, the United States and its allies often impose additional unilateral restrictions on the same country, which were not approved by the Security Council and were not part of the agreed-upon package included in the resolution. This practice extends to the decision made by Berlin, Washington, Paris, and London through their national legislative measures to renew sanctions on Iran, which were set to expire in October and are subject to legal termination in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Put differently, the term of the Security Council resolution has expired, but Western nations couldn’t care less since they follow their own rules.

The aggressive and self-serving approach adopted by the Western minority has sparked a major crisis in international relations, and the risks of a global conflict are running high. However, there is a way out of the current situation. First, everyone must recognise their responsibility for the future from a historical perspective rather than short-term political considerations related to national elections. Almost 80 years ago, when signing the UN Charter, world leaders agreed to respect the equality of all states, thereby acknowledging the necessity of an equal, polycentric order as a guarantee of sustainability and security for global development.

It is critical to endeavor to turn the spirit of multipolarity enshrined in the UN Charter into reality. An increasing number of countries from the global majority seek to strengthen their sovereignty and uphold their national interests, traditions, culture, and way of life. They are not willing to live under anyone’s dictate and want to be friends and trade with each other and the rest of the world on equal terms to everyone’s benefit within the framework of the objectively emerging multipolar architecture. This was the prevailing sentiment during the recent summits of BRICS and the G20, as well as the East Asian Summit.

Swiftly reforming global governance mechanisms is the number one objective. The United States and its allies should stop artificially holding back the redistribution of voting quotas at the IMF and the World Bank and recognise the actual economic and financial weight of Global South countries. The immediate unblocking of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body should be prioritised as well.

The expansion of the Security Council is very much sought after, but it should be achieved solely by addressing the underrepresentation of Asian, African, and Latin American countries. Importantly, the new members of the Security Council, both permanent and non-permanent, should enjoy high standing in their respective regions and global organisations such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of 77, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

It is time to take a close look at more equitable methods of forming the UN Secretariat. The criteria that have been in place for many years do not accurately reflect the real clout of the countries in global affairs and artificially ensure the excessive dominance of NATO and EU countries. These imbalances are further exacerbated by the system of permanent contracts that tether their holders to the positions of host countries of international organisations, most of which are located in the capitals that follow Western policies.

All efforts towards reforming the UN should be aimed at affirming the supremacy of international law and reviving the organisation as the central coordinating body of global politics for holding discussions on how to address issues collectively based on a fair balance of interests.

At the same time, the full potential of new types of alliances reflecting the interests of the Global South should be harnessed. This primarily includes BRICS, which has seen its authority significantly increase following the Johannesburg Summit and has gained truly global importance. At the regional level, we are witnessing a renaissance of organisations such as the African Union, CELAC, LAS, GCC and others. In Eurasia, the harmonisation of integration processes within the SCO, ASEAN, the CSTO, the EAEU, and the CIS, as well as China’s Belt and Road project is picking up pace. This is organically leading to the formation of a Greater Eurasian partnership open to all associations and countries on our shared continent.

The increasingly aggressive attempts by the West to maintain dominance in global politics, economics, and finance are at odds with these positive trends. Avoiding the fragmentation of the world into isolated trade blocs and macroregions is in our common interest. However, if the United States and its allies are not willing to negotiate a fair and equitable shape to globalisation processes, other countries will need to make up their minds and think about steps that will not subject their prospects for socioeconomic and technological development, as well as their security, to the neocolonial instincts of former colonial powers.

Speaking at the Valdai Forum on October 5, President Putin made a clear case for strengthening international law based on the UN Charter and put forward six principles for establishing genuine multipolarity: openness and interconnectedness of the world without barriers to communication; respect for diversity as the foundation of shared development; maximum representation at global governance institutions, universal security balancing everyone’s interests, fair access to the benefits of economic development, and equality for all, as well as saying no to the dictates of the rich or powerful.

President Putin stated it clearly: “Essentially, we face the task of building a new world.” This does not mean starting from scratch and erasing everything created by our predecessors. The foundation for building a new world is in place, and it is strong. It is the UN Charter. Most importantly, we must do our best to prevent its destruction through the selective manipulation of its principles, and to ensure their full and interconnected implementation by all countries.

If global community members muster the determination to get back to basics and put their UN Charter commitments into practice, humanity will have a chance to overcome the destructive legacy of the unipolar era.

The extent to which everyone is willing to take ownership of their individual and collective responsibility for the future of the world will be on display during preparations for next year’s Summit of the Future spearheaded by the UN Secretary-General.

As Antonio Guterres said during a news conference on the eve of the 78th session of the General Assembly, “If we want a future of peace and prosperity based on equity and solidarity, leaders have a special responsibility to achieve compromise in designing our common future for our common good.” These are golden words. The mission of the United Nations lies precisely in seeking consensus, rather than dividing the world into “democracies” and “autocracies.” Russia, along with its like-minded partners, is fully prepared to contribute to this mission.

Sergey Lavrov

Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov is a Russian diplomat and politician who has served as the Foreign Minister of Russia since 2004.

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