NEW YORK (AP) – The tide of international opinion appears to be shifting decisively against Russia as a number of non-aligned countries join the United States and its allies in condemning Moscow’s war in Ukraine and its threats to the principles of the international rules-based order.
Western officials have repeatedly said Russia has been isolated since invading Ukraine in February. Until recently, however, it was largely wishful thinking. But on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, a large part of the international community spoke out against the conflict in a rare show of unity in the often divided United Nations.
The tide already seemed to be turning against Putin even before Thursday’s UN speeches. Chinese and Indian leaders had been critical of the war at a high-level summit last week in Uzbekistan. And then the UN General Assembly ignored Russia’s objections and voted overwhelmingly to allow it President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy being the only manager who addresses the body from a distance, instead of requiring him to appear in person.
This shift toward Russia accelerated after President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of an additional 300,000 troops to Ukraine on Wednesday, signaling the unlikelihood of a quick end to the war. Putin also suggested that nuclear weapons may be an option. It followed an announcement of Russia’s intention to hold referendums on independence in several occupied Ukrainian regions with a view to possible annexation.
These announcements came at the same moment that General Assembly, considered the premier event in the global diplomatic calendar, took place in New York.
Numerous world leaders used theirs speaking on Tuesday and Wednesday to condemn Russia’s war. That trend continued on Thursday both in the House of Assembly and in the normally deeply divided UN Security Council, where virtually all of the 15 council members one by one served harsh criticism of Russia – one council member – to aggravate several already. serious global crises and endangers the foundations of the world body.
The apparent change of heart gives Ukraine and its Western allies hope that increasing isolation will put pressure on Putin to negotiate a peace. But few are unduly optimistic. Putin has staked his legacy on the Ukraine war, and few expect him to back down. And Russia is hardly isolated. Many of its allies depend on it for energy, food and military aid and are likely to stand by Putin regardless of what happens in Ukraine.
Still, it was striking to hear Russia’s nominal friends such as China and India, following up on last week’s remarks, speak of serious concerns they have about the conflict and its impact on global food and energy shortages, as well as threats to the concepts of sovereignty and territorial integrity that are enshrined in the UN Charter.
Brazil registered similar concerns. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa make up the so-called BRICS block of countries, which have often rejected or directly opposed Western initiatives and views on international relations.
Only one country, Belarus, a non-council member and Russia’s ally, invited to attend spoke in support of Russia but also called for a quick end to the fighting, which it called a “tragedy”.
“We hear a lot about the division between countries at the UN,” said Foreign Minister Antony Blinken. “But recently, it is striking the remarkable unity among member states when it comes to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Leaders from developing and developing countries, large and small, North and South, have spoken in the General Assembly about the consequences of the war and the need to end the.”
“Even a number of nations that maintain close ties to Moscow have publicly said they have serious questions and concerns about President Putin’s ongoing invasion,” Blinken said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was careful not to condemn the war, but said China’s firm position is that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected. The purpose of the principles of the UN Charter should be respected.”
Indian Foreign Minister S. Jayashankar said that “the trajectory of the Ukraine conflict is a matter of deep concern to the international community.” He called for accountability for atrocities and abuses committed in Ukraine. “If gross attacks committed in broad daylight are left unpunished, this council must reflect on the signals we send about impunity. There must be coherence if we are to ensure credibility,” he said.
And Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Alberto Franca said immediate efforts to end the war are critical. “The continuation of hostilities endangers the lives of innocent civilians and endangers food and energy security for millions of families in other regions, especially in developing countries,” he said. “The risk of escalation arising from the current dynamics of the conflict is simply too great and its consequences for the world order unpredictable.”
Foreign ministers and top officials from Albania, Britain, France, Ireland, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico and Norway delivered similar rebukes.
“Russia’s actions are a clear violation of the United Nations Charter,” said Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka. “We all tried to prevent this conflict. We couldn’t, but we must not fail to hold Russia accountable.”
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the invasion a “flagrant breach of international law” and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said: “If we fail to hold Russia accountable, we send a message to major countries that they can prey on their neighbors with impunity.”
Unsurprisingly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was unapologetic and defensive at the same time, specifically targeting Zelenskyy. Citing a phrase often attributed to President Franklin Roosevelt, Lavrov called Zelenskyy “a bastard” but said Western leaders considered him “our bastard.”
He reiterated a long list of Russia’s complaints about Ukraine and accused Western countries of using Ukraine for anti-Russian activities and policies.
“Everything I have said today simply confirms that the decision to carry out the special military operation was inevitable,” Lavrov said, following Russian practice of not calling the invasion a war.
Russia has refused to be isolated, and the State Department used social media to publicize a series of apparently cordial meetings Lavrov has held with fellow foreign ministers at the United Nations in recent days.
Still, Blinken and his colleagues from other NATO nations seized on what they believe is growing opposition to and impatience with Putin.
And several speakers, including Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, pointed out that Lavrov skipped the meeting, except for his speaking time.
“I notice that Russian diplomats are fleeing almost as quickly as Russian soldiers,” Kuleba said, referring to Lavrov’s hasty exit along with recent Russian troop withdrawals in Ukraine.