The Rosett Report

Russia, Georgia, the UN -- and Where is Kofi Annan When He's Really Needed?

As Russian troops loot, shoot and roll short-range missiles into Georgia, surely UN tradition calls for the Secretary-General to protest this invasion of sovereign territory tooth and nail? That, of course, is what Kofi Annan did when America led a coalition to invade Iraq — after Iraq’s tyranny had defied 17 UN resolutions, flagrantly violated UN sanctions, kicked out UN weapons inspectors, corrupted the UN’s own Security Council and racked up a history of gassing its own people, filling mass graves, consorting with terrorists, and started two wars by invading two neighboring states.

In Iraq’s case, the UN had such over-riding concern for territorial integrity that in the UN calculus, all Saddam Hussein’s violations, abuses, corruption and atrocities paled next to the priorities summed up by Annan’s denunciation of the invasion as “illegal.”

One could argue (and I have) that in making this pronouncement, Kofi Annan was wrong, hypocritical, and way out of line. But if the UN cherishes such benchmarks of illegality, then surely Russia’s invasion of Georgia should right now be inspiring strident cries of “illegal” from the global fraternity at Turtle Bay?

Uh… well, let’s see. Last Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon did reiterate his “support for a solution based on the full respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia” — but he did it while urging acceptance of an EU-brokered peace plan that goes disturbingly light on that same territorial integrity. On Thursday, according to the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon voiced “deep concern at the humanitarian impact of the Georgian conflict.” On Saturday, Ban conferred with advisers and diplomats.

This Monday, finally getting to the heart of the matter, Ban’s Secretariat swung into action, doing what the UN really knows how to do — ask for money: “UN seeking nearly $59 million to aid Georgian conflict victims.”

Meanwhile, over at the Security Council, progress on the defense of Georgia’s territorial integrity was neatly summed up by a recent Wall Street Journal headline: “UN Security Council Fails to Meet Over the Weekend.”

Not that the Security Council hasn’t been trying. Prior to the failure to meet, there were a series of emergency meetings. Along with some lively but inconclusive dickering between the American and Russian ambassadors, these grand pow-wows featured the usual calls for all parties to exercise “utmost restraint” — never mind that Russian troops have been storming and digging into Georgian territory, not vice versa. Rotating members of the Council, such as Burkina Faso and Libya, allowed as how they would support whatever resolution might be reached by “consensus.”

Consensus, of course, means that Russia, with its veto-wielding seat as one of the permanent five members of the Council — the others being China, France, the U.K. and the U.S. — must give its assent before the Security Council approve any resolution whatsoever. No surprise, then, that Monday’s news on the UN Security Council web site makes no mention of Georgia, though it does include such items as the donation by the UN Development Program of 500 bicycles “to help women pedal for peace in Uganda.” 

Where is that UN spirit that not so long ago was willing to raise absolute hell over the prospect of one country invading another? Where are the multilateral heirs of Kofi “illegal” Annan, now that there’s really something to raise hell about?