The UN & War in Ukraine

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies highlight a few of the numerous speeches urging diplomatic resolution of the war at this year’s General Assembly.

Brazil’s President Lula da Silva, centre right,  greets Trinidad’s U.N. Ambassador Dennis Francis, president of the 78th General Assembly on Sept. 19. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies
Common Dreams

As it did last year, the 2023 United Nations General Assembly debated the role the United Nations and its members should play in the crisis in Ukraine. 

The United States and its allies still insist that the U.N. Charter requires countries to take Ukraine’s side in the conflict, “for as long as it takes” to restore Ukraine’s pre-2014 internationally recognized borders. 

They claim to be enforcing Article 2:4 of the U.N Charter that states

“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.” 

By their reasoning, Russia violated Article 2:4 by invading Ukraine, and that makes any compromise or negotiated settlement unconscionable, regardless of the consequences of prolonging the war.

Other countries have called for a peaceful diplomatic resolution of the conflict in Ukraine, based on the preceding article of the UN Charter, Article 2:3:

“All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” 

They also point to the dangers of escalation and nuclear war as an imperative for diplomacy to quickly end this war.

As the amir of Qatar told the Assembly,

“A long-term truce has become the most looked-for aspiration by people in Europe and all over the world. We call on all parties to comply with the U.N. Charter and international law and resort to a radical peaceful solution based on these principles.”

This year, the General Assembly has also been focused on other facets of a world in crisis: the failure to tackle the climate catastrophe; the lack of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals that countries agreed to in 2000; a neocolonial economic system that still divides the world into rich and poor; and the desperate need for structural reform of a U.N. Security Council that has failed in its basic responsibility to keep the peace and prevent war.

US-Western Abuse of Power

One speaker after another highlighted the persistent problems related to U.S. and Western abuses of power: the occupation of Palestine; cruel, illegal U.S. sanctions against Cuba and many other countries; Western exploitation of Africa that has evolved from slavery to debt servitude and neocolonialism; and a global financial system that exacerbates extreme inequalities of wealth and power across the world.

Donate to CN’s Fall Fund Drive

Brazil, by tradition, gives the first speech at the General Assembly, and President Lula da Silva spoke eloquently about the crises facing the U.N. and the world. On Ukraine, he said,

“The war in Ukraine exposes our collective inability to enforce the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter. We do not underestimate the difficulties in achieving peace. But no solution will be lasting if it is not based on dialogue. I have reiterated that work needs to be done to create space for negotiations…. The U.N. was born to be the home of understanding and dialogue. The international community must choose. On one hand, there is the expansion of conflicts, the furthering of inequalities and the erosion of the rule of law. On the other, the renewing of multilateral institutions dedicated to promoting peace.”

After a bumbling, incoherent speech by U.S. President Joe Biden, Latin America again took the stage in the person of President Gustavo Petro of Colombia:

Petro, third from left, on his way to address the General Assembly on Sept. 19. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

“While the minutes that define life or death on our planet are ticking on, rather than halting this march of time and talking about how to defend life for the future, thanks to deepening knowledge, expand it to the universe, we decided to waste time killing each other. We are not thinking about how to expand life to the stars, but rather how to end life on our own planet. We have devoted ourselves to war. We have been called to war. Latin America has been called upon to produce war machines, men, to go to the killing fields. 

They’re forgetting that our countries have been invaded several times by the very same people who are now talking about combatting invasions. They’re forgetting that they invaded Iraq, Syria and Libya for oil. They’re forgetting that the same reasons they use to defend [Ukraine’s President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy are the very reasons that should be used to defend Palestine. They forget that to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, we must end all wars.

But they’re helping to wage one war in particular, because world powers see this suiting themselves in their game of thrones, in their hunger games and they’re forgetting to bring an end to the other war because, for these powers, this did not suit them. What is the difference between Ukraine and Palestine, I ask? Is it not time to bring an end to both wars, and other wars too, and make the most of the short time we have to build paths to save life on the planet?

…I propose that the United Nations, as soon as possible, should hold two peace conferences, one on Ukraine, the other on Palestine, not because there are no other wars in the world — there are in my country — but because this would guide the way to making peace in all regions of the planet, because both of these, by themselves, could bring an end to hypocrisy as a political practice, because we could be sincere, a virtue without which we cannot be warriors for life itself.”

Other leaders also upheld the value of sincerity and assailed the hypocrisy of Western diplomacy. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines cut to the chase:

Gonsalves addressing General Assembly on Sept. 24. (UN Photo/Laura Jarriel)

“Let us clear certain ideational cobwebs from our brains. It is, for example, wholly unhelpful to frame the central contradictions of our troubled times as revolving around a struggle between democracies and autocracies. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a strong liberal democracy, rejects this wrong-headed thesis. It is evident to all right-thinking persons, devoid of self-serving hypocrisy, that the struggle today between the dominant powers is centered upon the control, ownership, and distribution of the world’s resources.”

On the war in Ukraine, Gonsalves was equally blunt: 

“War and conflict rage senselessly across the globe; in at least one case, Ukraine, the principal adversaries — the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Russia — may unwittingly open the gates to a nuclear Armageddon… Russia, NATO and Ukraine should embrace peace, not war and conflict, even if peace has to rest upon a mutually agreed, settled condition of dissatisfaction.”

The Western position on Ukraine was also on full display. 

However, at least three NATO members (Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain) coupled their denunciations of Russian aggression with pleas for peace. Katalin Novak, the president of Hungary, said,

“We want peace, in our country, in Ukraine, in Europe, in the world. Peace and the security that comes with it. There is no alternative to peace. The killing, the terrible destruction, must stop as soon as possible. War is never the solution. We know that peace is only realistically attainable when at least one side sees the time for negotiations as having come. We cannot decide for Ukrainians about how much they are prepared to sacrifice, but we have a duty to represent our own nation’s desire for peace. And we must do all we can to avoid an escalation of the war.”

Even with wars, drought, debt and poverty afflicting their own continent, at least 17 African leaders took time during their General Assembly speeches to call for peace in Ukraine. Some voiced their support for the African Peace Initiative, while others contrasted the West’s commitments and expenditures for the war in Ukraine with its endemic neglect of Africa’s problems.

President Joao Lourenço of Angola clearly explained why, as Africa rises up to reject neocolonialism and build its own future, peace in Ukraine remains a vital interest for Africa and people everywhere:

“In Europe, the war between Russia and Ukraine deserves our full attention to the urgent need to put an immediate end to it, given the levels of human and material destruction there, the risk of an escalation into a major conflict on a global scale and the impact of its harmful effects on energy and food security. All the evidence tells us that it is unlikely that there will be winners and losers on the battlefield, which is why the parties involved should be encouraged to prioritize dialogue and diplomacy as soon as possible, to establish a ceasefire and to negotiate a lasting peace not only for the warring countries, but which will guarantee Europe’s security and contribute to world peace and security.”

Altogether, leaders from at least 50 countries spoke up for peace in Ukraine at the 2023 U.N. General Assembly. In his closing statement, Trinidad’s U.N. Ambassador Dennis Francis, the president of this year’s U.N. General Assembly, noted, 

“Of the topics raised during the High-Level Week, few were as frequent, consistent, or as charged as that of the Ukraine War. The international community is clear that political independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity must be respected, and violence must end.”

You can find all 50 statements at here on the CODEPINK website. 

Medea Benjamin is co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace. She is the co-author, with Nicolas J.S. Davies, of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict. Other books include, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran (2018); Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection (2016); Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control (2013); Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart (1989), and with Jodie Evans, Stop the Next War Now (2005).

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist and a researcher with CODEPINK. He is the co-author, with Medea Benjamin, of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, available from OR Books and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

Donate to CN’s
Fund Drive



19 comments for “The UN & War in Ukraine

  1. dirk stone
    October 1, 2023 at 18:04

    Bidens speech a bunch of hollow platitudes and distortions while the Colombian leaders speech cut like a knife to the chase, accept for the star treky nonsense.
    Very good article, thanks.

  2. Paul Citro
    October 1, 2023 at 10:13

    It is a wonderful idea that all nations should have dialogs and resolve their differences peacefully. But that assumes that all parties are moral and co-operative. However, some nations are dead set on domination, conquest, and exploitation, by any means. In that case the rest of the world needs to act together to restrain them. That is the true test of the worth of the United Nations.

  3. RWilson
    September 30, 2023 at 22:34

    I agree with President Gustavo Petro of Colombia on dealing sumultaneously with the conflicts in Ukraine and Palestine.

    In both cases US policy is controlled by Neocon Zionists, as was the case with the US invasion of Iraq. Consortium News founder Robert Parry wrote about the Neocons’ interest in a Ukraine conflict to strategically benefit Israel. Zelensky recently called for wars against Iran and Syria, which are far from Ukraine, but of strategic interest to Israel. And Zelensky has even said that a result of this war will be to make Ukraine a “big Israel”.

    As for following the UN Charter’s rules, the US is like the kid who hits another kid while the teacher is not looking, and then when the other kid hits back indignantly complains, “Hey, he hit me!” The brazen deception here is so obvious it’s only made possible by monopoly control of the US corporate media.

  4. Ellen Mass
    September 30, 2023 at 14:25

    We’ll need to continue to count of international world opinion and choose common denominators. Most peace groups are keen on first and foremost having the warring parties lay down their guns, which will mean death to the citizens and all Russian speakers who live east of the ‘front line’ which is now “Donbas’ and run by elected People’s Republic elected leaders and with Russian dominance and rule as was signed in a number of referendums just after Maidan and during the “invasion” and recently a referendum to become a part of Russia, a country that can support, and allow the Eastern sections life, jobs, education, decent health and medical care, and respect for being who they are. ITr is absurd and hubris to tell the warring parties what to do right now, despite the horrific death toll. Negotiations will say when to put down arms, but we cannot allow millions of civilians to continue to be persecuted or slaughtered as they would be if the line was not there. A number of powerful countries have tried, but UKR with US advice has said an uniquivocol “no”. Both sides must (we can only encourage and protest) come to negotiating table as soon as possible, but not to the detriment of one. Even the most thoughtful peace groups heavily fluctuate and continue with hubris demands which would give advantage to one or the other. Our groups have even stopped explaining “provocation” actions over the years which NATO’s Staltenberg admitted recently to the EU Parliament that it was so; and that the “provocation” is the source of the invasion, which many countries and millions of people also believe.

  5. Francis Ingledew
    September 30, 2023 at 07:08

    Thank you for giving us access to what we can’t find elsewhere: the voices of the non-telegenic nations. When I hear the words of the leaders of Colombia and St. Vincent, I hear other human beings who, as human beings, have no less to say, can make far more sense, than those who lead the big powers, who would like to think that the fact that they do so means they are the best and the brightest.

  6. Jim Glover
    September 30, 2023 at 03:40

    A great call for Peace when Biden and Zelensky say Peace and security is bad for the world.

  7. Monsoon
    September 29, 2023 at 16:55

    Lula is on record supporting the war against Russia via Ukraine. This was reported again today on TeleSur English.

    Of course only dialogue can end war.

    But the dialogue must be civil, voluntary and born from patience, rules and regulations.

    What Lula is tring to accomplish is unclear.

    But it does not create the optics for peace.

    Words are easy.

    Mediation is arduous.

  8. Lois Gagnon
    September 29, 2023 at 16:47

    The problem is the US does not want peace under any circumstances. And Russia doesn’t trust any agreement the US signs on to. I wonder why? The UN has disgraced itself during the whole Ukraine imbroglio. It has not been an impartial arbiter for peace. It has given the US everything it wanted which is to make Russia the sole aggressor, letting the world’s most violent war mongering nation declare itself blameless. You can’t get to a sustainable peace without recognizing the security interests of all involved. We can’t afford to get rolled on this. The US and NATO bear much of the responsibility for instigating this war. They must be made to take responsibility for their actions.

    • Sudesh Prasad
      September 30, 2023 at 15:41

      Well said.

  9. Poor Richard
    September 29, 2023 at 16:43

    It occurs to me that some might object to my other comments that the Democrats are unified behind these policies.

    Please name for me the highest ranking Democrat elected official expressing opposition?

    Vice-President .. No
    Senators .. No
    Representatives .. No
    Governors .. No

    There was a small group of ‘Progressive’ Representatives that for one day signed a letter expressing the mildest of opposition. The Big Guy barked at them like Commander, and they quickly disavowed their own thoughts and retreated to their wine and cheese parties and haven’t emerged since. How many congressional Democrats are currently saying that a CR that includes Ukraine War Money does not get their vote?

    Cabinet Members are not elected, but they are united behind these policies still. In modern America, it seems almost absurd to imagine a cabinet member criticizing even the President’s choice in tennis shoes. Hard to imagine such a thing.

    When my thoughts get down to ‘other state-wide elected officials’ (like AG) or state Senators or State Reps, I have to say “I don’t know”. I’d guess that somewhere out there is an ambitious Ivy Leaguer who as a State Senator, decides to build a popular career, ala Obama, by opposing a war. Are there any who oppose their own President and their own party? Perhaps.

    BTW, “environmental activist” and “Presidential candidate” are not elected positions.

  10. Poor Richard
    September 29, 2023 at 16:04

    Article 1, paragraph 2 [The Purposes of the United Nations are:]

    “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for
    the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and
    to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.”

    The regions of Ukraine/Russia that have joined Russia have done so under the right of self-determination. They held votes in each region where large majorities agree according to the results.

    Joe Biden, and the Democrats, firmly reject the entire concept of self-determination, and contend that hundreds of thousands of people must die to ‘maintain the territory of Ukraine.’ In Joe Biden’s mind, and it is the united position of the Democratic Party, that the President of the United States has the right to determine the boundaries of nations on another continent, and that the entire concept of self-determination is thrown out into the trash if it interferes. It is Joe Biden that tells people who rules them.

    If the Americans were contending that those weren’t honest votes, and were insisting on new votes that could somehow be fairer than a typical American election, then that would be one thing. But that is not what Joe Biden and the Democrats say on a regular basis. They reject the entire concept of self-determination, and say that the people of these regions get zero say in whether or not they are a part of Ukraine.

  11. Poor Richard
    September 29, 2023 at 15:48

    UN Charter, Article 25

    “The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter.”

    The UN Security Council voted on and passed, with a ‘yes’ vote from each of the veto-wielding powers, the JCPOA, otherwise known as the “Iran Nuke Deal”. The US President cancelled this ‘deal’ with the stroke of his pen. The European powers did a little dance, where they pretended to still support the deal, but they also supported all the US Sanctions and Economic Warfare against Iran. Joe Biden, as President, has failed since his swearing in, to restart this deal, which he could do with the stroke of a pen, which only needs to cancel Trump’s Presidential Decree.

    The US is in violation of the UN Charter, and as such , the Constitution of the United States, which has a ‘Supremacy Clause’ that says that all treaties signed and ratified by the Senate (such as the UN Charter) carry the same weight as the Constitution.

    So, when the Americans do actually say that they are ‘willing to negotiate’, would you believe them? They don’t follow their own Rules.

  12. jamie
    September 29, 2023 at 15:24

    The point is if we still bug down on the idea that Russia violated the UN charter, then the UN is a useless bureaucratic institution. Even worse because when US does the same the UN response is quite different.
    Russia might have violated the UN charter because there is no international law that prevent powerful nations to militarize other countries in order to pursue their ideology and threatening the survival of other nations (in my opinion no nations should militarize other nations for their own gains, even less building military bases).
    There is no international laws in the UN that even prevent rich countries to sanctions poor countries despite tens of thousand victims (most often among the vulnerable ones), there is no international law in the UN that prevents propaganda, the omission of truth by mainstream media, etc… then you ask why and the answer is, UN is a tool in the hand of the powerful ones, sure not a tool for the powerless and poor, not a tool for peace and sustainable development but to keep the status quo.
    UN has the western DNA, in which they speak about good to legitimize evil, because evil rules this world.
    UN members which talk about peace in Ukraine could form a delegation, to negotiate between the two countries, could they not? break the ranks? there are many solutions if UN members think outside of the box, because in the box they can’t breathe, they can’t think, they can’t see, they can’t hear the screams and the voices of who really suffer asking for help because of the loud noise the powerful make accusing one another.
    If we still consider UN as a valuable international organization, then I think we are doomed, unless UN show us results toward peace dialogue and negotiation.

  13. Poor Richard
    September 29, 2023 at 15:13

    Who are the Russians supposed to negotiate with? They’ve tried three times (at least) so far, and the result is that they’ve both been lied to and laughed at for their efforts.

    The two Minsk Accords were earlier attempts. IIRC, Minsk I was more of a straight cease-fire. By Minsk II, the Russians were wanting a more permanent agreement. Thus they negotiated a system where the people of Donbass would have some self-autonomy and self-determination (a key UN value). Since nobody trusted the right-wingers in Kiev to keep their word for three seconds, the leaders of German and France came into the discussions and pledged to be ‘guarantors’ of the deal.

    Both Presidents of this modern Ukraine have openly rejected what their state agreed to. Merkle of Germany, and Hollande of France have both admitted, bragged in fact, that they were lying to the Russians faces and that the whole purpose of the Minsk II agreements was to stall for time to send more deadly weapons to Ukraine and thus help Ukraine kill more Russians in the war that both Germany and France desired to occur.

    The third time Russia tried to negotiate was in late 2021-early 2022 when they put forward proposals for a security arrangement between Russia and NATO. The US openly laughed in the Russians’ face for even proposing such an outrageous thing.

    So, the question is, who can the Russians trust to negotiate with? Who could the Russians count to keep an arrangement? The people who said they had no intention of moving east after the unification of Germany?

    When a nation sets forward on a policy of ‘we lie, we cheat, we steal’, then they might find that they have problems finding anyone to negotiate with them when they are losing and need a cease-fire. There is a reason why countries used to keep around some old diplomats who had trust and credibility, for just such occasions. The US blacklisted all such people long ago.

    So, would you trust Vicky Nuland if she sat across the table from you? Would you trust Blinkie? Could you trust Joe Biden? (Progressives have certainly learned that you cannot, after electing Joe with their votes and getting completely shafted in return.) Can you trust Wall Street (who really runs the show)? Who could the US use to negotiate who could be trusted? And even if you cleared that hurdle, the US is now so highly partisan that one political party is sure to be against any agreement and will certainly break any deal when they win an election. Thus any ‘deal’ is going to have a very short half-life.

    So, how does America negotiate, from the mess that they’ve created for themselves?

    • Lois Gagnon
      October 1, 2023 at 16:43

      Excellent comment!

  14. mgr
    September 29, 2023 at 14:22

    All true and all impossible so long as there is no way to guarantee the peace.

    The war ensued primarily because the neo-fascist Kiev regime never had any intention of implementing the Minsk Accords. Add to that that the two Western powers, Germany and France, the guarantors of the accords, completely reneged on their legal responsibility to see them implemented. I hope that Merkel and Hollande both realize that the death and destruction of upwards of 500,000 people, plus millions more displaced and lives destroyed are the result in large part of their own cowardice and duplicity. Not to mention that it is more than likely that the orders to ignore Minsk came from the US who continues to pretend that it has any high moral ground to stand on.

    In any case, just who is going to guarantee that any cease fire agreement will be upheld and not be used simply as an opportunity to rearm Ukraine and start this again? After all, the Kiev-Washington partnership (starting in 2014) has done this once already leading to our present horrific results (of course according to Lindsey Graham it was money well spent). They are not going to do this again? Seriously? Unless that is settled and insured, I don’t see how Russia has any option but to continue until Ukraine ceases to exist.

    My heart goes out to the Ukrainian people but its their own rabid, fascist-owned government, supported and encouraged by the US and NATO, that has led them to this miserable outcome.

    It is certainly heartening to witness how many countries now see through the crap that spews from the US, NATO and their respective feckless media. I applaud Ms. Benjamin and her relentless efforts for peace. And I hope that she does not now end up on the Ukrainian hit list like so many other honest critics of the war (like Scott Ritter).

  15. bobzz
    September 29, 2023 at 13:11

    I do not think people realize that peace now, as desirable and seductive as it sounds, just kicks the can down the road. Peace now will just create a lull for US/NATO to rebuild its forces to have another go at Russia/China. I am no warmonger, but am realistic enough to recognize Russia’s point of view, which put succinctly, is: US, you cannot be trusted. You started this equifeces, and its over when we say it is—when we get valid security.

  16. September 29, 2023 at 13:11

    The calls for a negotiated peace in Ukraine are in vain because Russia is fighting an existential war and has long recognized correctly that the U.S. is “agreement incapable.” The U.S. feels free to break agreements, such as the agreement not to expand NATO to the east, which includes Ukraine. This is a war that must be resolved on the battlefield with the unconditional surrender of the Ukraine armed forces. There will be no cease-fire, nor a Korea-like standstill. The Russians would have to have rocks in their heads to agree to any such resolution. Were there to be even a rump state of Ukraine, it would exist to provide NATO with a delayed opportunity to resume the war.

    I am a pacifist but also a realist and Reality says the Russians have no choice but to continue the war until Ukraine surrenders unconditionally.

    • michael888
      September 30, 2023 at 06:34

      Agree. The Minsk Accords and Boris Johnson’s interference with the “peace process” at the start of the war, were based on continuing another lucrative war, with profiteering and money laundering by the West being the priority, not Ukrainian and Russian deaths. The West will keep the wound open forever if possible, fighting to the “Last Ukrainian”.

      Any peace/truce would clearly be used for re-armament of the US Puppet Ukraine armies. Ukraine has about as much independence and sovereignty as the breakaway states of Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk, all seeking what’s best of a bad situation.
      Remember, Zelensky received over 70% of the Ukrainian vote running on a “Peace with Russia Campaign Platform”, which was clearly just another lie by the West, which always needs and demands another War.

Comments are closed.