Russia to face US in rare UN Security Council debate

Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

Summary

Venue will also enable Moscow to state its own case publicly that NATO is threatening its security; US warns of risk for misinformation

Russia to Face U.S. in Rare U.N. Security Council Debate

BY WILLIAM MAULDIN | UPDATED JAN 31, 2022 05:30 AM EST

Venue will also enable Moscow to state its own case publicly that NATO is threatening its security; U.S. warns of risk for misinformation

The United Nations Security Council will use a meeting Monday to seek a diplomatic exit to the situation on the Ukrainian border and to request an explanation from Russia about its buildup of troops there, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said.

The U.S. called the meeting last week to discuss the standoff over Ukraine, seeking to apply international pressure on Russia to negotiate its concerns about European security among diplomats rather than on the battlefield.

“The Security Council is unified," U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on ABC News’s “This Week." “Our voices are unified in calling for the Russians to explain themselves."

A senior Russian diplomat on Friday dismissed the meeting as a shameful public-relations stunt and urged the council not to support it.

“I can’t recall another occasion when a SC member proposed to discuss its own baseless allegations and assumptions as a threat to intl order from someone else," wrote Dmitry Polyanski, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the U.N., Friday on Twitter. The Russian mission’s press office declined to make Mr. Polyanski available for an interview.

The U.N. meeting will be a rare opportunity for Washington and its allies to discuss the actions of another permanent Security Council member—Russia—on the world stage. After weeks of negotiation behind closed doors, the debate on Monday is set to occur in an open meeting and in front of television cameras.

Yet the venue also will enable Moscow to state its own case publicly that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is threatening its security.

In addition to Russia, China and other countries often oppose U.S. priorities at the U.N. A former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said Thursday that a challenge on the Security Council is accurately calculating the extent of support for the U.S. position among other members, especially on this kind of sensitive issue.

Washington is seeking to build a coalition with European countries to impose financial sanctions, export controls and even a halt to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is nearing completion of a bill that would target major Russian banks, hit Russians’ savings and pensions and limit the market for Russia’s sovereign debt, among other elements, chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) said Sunday.

“I believe giving the president the total arsenal of tools, sanctions, the expedited delivery of lethal weapons, the dealing with the misinformation that Russia is generating, the cyberattacks—all of that is envisioned in our legislation," Mr. Menendez said on CNN. “And [it] is a comprehensive and powerful approach that says to Putin, ‘You have a choice: diplomacy or conflict.’"

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are continuing to monitor Russian troop movements and signals from the Kremlin on whether President Putin plans to invade Ukraine.

The U.S. is awaiting a formal response from Moscow to its proposals on European security, delivered in writing last week, that were intended to address the Kremlin’s concerns about what it sees as a threat from NATO. U.S. officials said the proposals included inspections of U.S. ballistic missile-defense sites in Poland and Romania and mutual constraints on military maneuvers and operations, U.S. officials said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are likely to speak in some format this coming week on the matter, officials said.

“We’ve heard some signs that the Russians are interested in engaging on that proposal," Undersecretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said Sunday on CBS News about the U.S. proffer.

One risk for Washington heading into the U.N. meeting is what U.S. officials have described as Moscow’s penchant for spreading misinformation. Moscow’s views have some appeal to some governments around the world and can even sow political division among U.S. allies.

“We’re going to go in the room prepared to listen to them, but we’re not going to be distracted by their propaganda," Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said. “And we’re going to be prepared to respond to any disinformation that they attempt to spread during this meeting."

Russia has deployed troops near Ukraine’s border, moved troops and air-defense missiles into Belarus as part of a planned military exercise in February and shifted tanks and other heavy equipment westward from bases in the Far East. Western defense officials say Moscow has made what appear to be final preparations for an invasion of Ukraine by sending medical units to the front, moving to a level of readiness not reached in past buildups.

Russia has denied intending to invade its neighbor and insists it has the right to move troops in its own territory and safeguard its own security. Russia has warned of “retaliatory measures," if Western nations don’t address its demands for regional security, including assurances that NATO will deny entry to Ukraine. The U.S. and other NATO members have rejected Moscow’s core security demands.

No one expects the Security Council to adopt a resolution tying Russia’s hands over Ukraine: Moscow holds one of five permanent seats and can veto any resolution. Bringing a sensitive matter involving a member of the council has potential drawbacks, if nothing can be accomplished, according to a U.N. official involved in the process. Some in New York want to give Russia, the U.S., Ukraine and NATO time to resolve their differences directly, another official said.

On Tuesday, Russia will begin presiding over the Security Council for a month, a perch that gives it some ability to set the agenda but won’t necessarily prevent other members from bringing up a variety of issues. Ukraine will likely come up during Russia’s presidency since the Security Council holds an annual meeting on Ukraine in February.

Some former U.S. officials say Washington could also bring up the Ukraine issue in the full U.N. General Assembly, where more than 200 nations are members, but resolutions aren’t binding.

 

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