Statement by Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin at the UNSC Ministerial open debate on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Conflicts in Europe”
As prepared. Check against delivery.
Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished participants,
Last week I was in Munich. The annual Security Conference was, as usual, a lively event with discussions on issues of global consequence. But one issue was absolutely center stage — security in Europe. I have rarely, in my many previous encounters there, experienced the level of concern as this time. The age of ‘détente’ and ‘common purpose’ to make our continent a safer place appears, right now, to be in great danger.
How did we get to this position? It did not happen overnight. We have traveled, sometimes it has felt like we ‘sleep-walked’, down a long and difficult road to reach today’s state of affairs in Europe.
I do not believe conflicts in Europe have received the attention they deserve. Given the shockwaves that European conflicts can send around the globe with grave implications for the security and stability of the world, this needs to be redressed. As events over the past decade have demonstrated, ignoring conflicts in Europe and failing to learn from them is no longer an option. We need to put security in Europe back into the focus of the Security Council.
The Ukrainian presidency has introduced this open debate to address the fundamental challenge for Europe. Our world has become dangerously insecure and this trend is developing.
If we do not adequately respond, the rapidly evolving crisis in Europe may bring us to a position where it would be impossible to implement one of the most important commitments as UN Member States. That is to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
Strong institutions and shared standards and principles were supposed to serve as efficient safeguards for the international security order. Peaceful inter-State dialogue based on the ‘sovereign right of every state to choose its own destiny’ and ‘the respect of human rights’ are the core elements. Today, both of these pillars are being consistently undermined.
Transatlantic unity has made Europe a security role model and a crucial contributor to global efforts to ensure stability and security. Global security has always been underpinned by European security. Being the cradle of two world wars, Europe has evolved to become a champion of security across the globe. But now we find Europe is once again itself under threat.
In recent decades Europe has faced a number of conflicts. Those conflicts that remain unresolved have one common feature — active involvement of one state in particular. A strategy to instigate, participate, support and then derail instead of mediating has been used by this state to create a number of volatile hotspots across the continent. These can be activated whenever this state decides it is in its interest. If this state’s aggression goes unchecked, every protracted conflict will become a hot one, while the aggressor state will continue to create new threats and challenges in stable places.
The problem for the UN is that the architect of this strategy is sitting at this table as a permanent UNSC member. Bearing the solemn responsibility to maintain peace and security, this state — Russia — has resorted instead to violating documents that were drawn up as ‘foundation stones’ of peace: namely the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter.
Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008 became a litmus test for European security. It was a warning sign that was not heeded. The aggressor, being just slapped on the hand by the international community, took this as a green light. Had the lessons from the 1938 Munich agreement not been learned? Today it is obvious — not well enough. Appeasement of aggressors and lack of consequences merely encourage more aggression.
Since 2014 this state has vigorously activated this strategy in Ukraine. Ukraine endures direct military aggression; with Crimea and part of Donbas being illegally occupied.
Yesterday exactly three years have passed since Russia illegally annexed Crimea, violating as it did the Budapest Memorandum, to which they had signed up to assure Ukrainian security. At the same time Russia unveiled to the world its strategy of “hybrid warfare”, combining military action with concerted and well-funded propaganda across the globe.
More disastrous results for Ukraine, following that ‘unprecedented’ act of unilateral nuclear disarmament in 1994, could hardly have been envisaged. To date 10,000 have been killed and more than 22,000 wounded in Donbas, and Crimea has become a “grey zone” marred by injustice, terror and repression. The occupying authorities commit systematic violations of human rights and they seek to destroy the identity of Ukrainians and the indigenous people of the peninsula — the Crimean Tatars.
The European security system, which was considered as one of the most stable, is now in doubt. A peaceful, democratic and strong Europe is a significant contributor to global peace efforts. But now, the continent’s own security is damaged by frozen conflicts and acts of aggression.
Today, global and European order based on the rule of law has reached a tipping point. There are two options: an ever increasing destabilization or consolidation of the international community around strengthening institutions and the UN Charter ensuring full adherence to international law.
Russian aggression against Ukraine targets European and transatlantic unity as basic elements of the global security order. Reversing the breakup of the Soviet Union a quarter of a century ago has long ago become an obsession for the Kremlin.
Russia exploits weaknesses. And it is institutional weakness in particular that it exploits, by abusing its right of veto at the UN Security Council and the consensus rule in the OSCE. And an effective mechanism to make the wrongdoer responsible for its violations has not yet been consolidated.
In times of systemic crisis and geopolitical uncertainty we require strong institutions protecting international law. Only strong institutions, and first of all, the UN Security Council can provide international security.
To see the Russian Federation as an effective mediator or an impartial peacekeeper is a dangerous myth. Whenever Russia was not a principal party, as with the conflicts in the Western Balkans, tangible progress has been made even though it was not an easy process. Wherever, on the other hand, Russia engages — millions of people continue to suffer for decades without any glimpse of hope. Just consider conflicts in the Caucasus, or Transnistria. Witness also humanitarian crisis around Aleppo and aggression in Ukraine.
We need urgently to reform the Security Council in order to remove the veto power abuses. The Security Council should be capable of efficiently addressing ‘bloody conflicts’ regardless of the possible presence of a party to the conflict at this table as the SC permanent member.
It is no longer acceptable that paragraph 3 of Article 27 of the Charter, namely that “a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting”, continues to be blatantly ignored. It is imperative that clear proceedings are introduced for the proper implementation of this Article.
Europe has a central role to play in the global quest for sustainable peace. But as Europeans we must put our own house in order first. We hope that sustainable peace in Europe will start with Ukraine. But other conflicts cannot be forgotten.
We do believe that the existing situation in Europe is not a deadlock and that protracted and active conflicts in Europe can be effectively resolved while potential tensions can be prevented.
The United Nations should not shy away from taking a more proactive approach in conflict management and resolution. However, the Organization is only as strong as its members want it to be. Therefore, in order to take the necessary actions the UN needs the support and political will of its members. When that exists, the UN can do the job. In the Western Balkans, you may recall examples of preventive deployment in 1990s that helped avert spillover of violence. In the Baltics, good offices and fact-finding missions of the Secretary-General facilitated the orderly withdrawal of the Russian troops from the region and helped to avoid polarization of various controversial issues.
Ukraine therefore believes that the Secretary-General should act proactively in situations related to conflict prevention and management. We agree with the Secretary-General that the Council needs “to make greater use of the options laid out in Chapter VI of the UN Charter”. This is, in our opinion, the way out of deadlocks we have in negotiation processes around Europe. We are encouraged by the Secretary-General’s expressed readiness “to support the members through the use of his good offices and through his personal engagement”.
The Secretary-General should also not shy away from bringing to the attention of the Security Council dangerous developments as it is envisaged by Article 99 of the UN charter. Neither of these tools was used in 2008 or in 2014 by the previous Secretary General.
We believe that the Secretary-General should take more initiative in providing options for conflict resolution including possible political and security presences and methods of cooperation with regional organizations. As the first step in this direction, the Secretary-General could elaborate options for political and security presence of the UN in Ukraine and ways of cooperation with the OSCE to ensure full implementation of Security Council resolution 2202 (2015).
Europe, like no other region, has powerful regional and sub-regional organizations and they must be used. However all participants must work together. OSCE, EU, and NATO have proven their capacity to deal with conflict-management and post-conflict situations in Europe. Experience of joint working gained during conflict management in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere in the world now needs to be applied to other areas of Europe.
We also believe it is worth reflecting on existing experience of conflict resolution in other regions. For example, the establishment of a ‘Security Council Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Europe’, similar to the one that deals with conflicts in Africa, could increase the focus of the Council on the European Conflicts. It could also provide an assessment of the implementation of the resolutions and make recommendations as to how to improve cooperation between the UN, OSCE, EU and other regional organizations.
I would be very grateful to the UN members for their input and suggestions on these issues during today’s discussion.
It is the right time to do this work. It is also the right time to open a fresh chapter in European history — once again characterized by peace and progress.
Colleagues — let’s begin this work now. I thank you.