Editorial: Lavrov in grotesque UN charade as war rages on

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Photo: Reuters


T HERE was an element of the wolf being invited to serenade the sheep, in Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov’s chairing of the UN’s most senior decision-making body. It presented a grotesque picture to the world of what – in theory at least – is supposed to be a showcase for international order and diplomacy. As Mr Lavrov spoke, Putin was continuing his vicious assault on Ukraine and journalists languished in prison for telling the truth.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated how the invasion is “causing massive suffering and devastation” at the meeting.

In the kind of surreal disconnection from lived experience at which Moscow now excels, Mr Lavrov hosted a debate promoting “effective multilateral-ism”. Only the most warped world view could accept his mandate as a “defender of the UN charter” as Putin’s assault on a sovereign neighbour tramples on every principle the institution is purported to stand for.

Washington’s UN ambassador took advantage of Mr Lavrov’s presence to appeal for the release of a former US marine and a US journalist.

“I am calling on you, right now, to release Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich immediately,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at the New York meeting.

Mr Lavrov sought to lay out Moscow’s vision for a multi-polar world; one in which the United States has less power and Russia has more.

There was something fundamentally unnerving in the fact that such a charade should be staged as thousands are being killed, and millions forced to flee for their lives in this totally unjust war. For has Russia not totally turned the rules-based international order – one that has held since the ending of World War II – on its head? To have the audacity to then lecture on any kind of “order” while presiding over the darkest and most destructive descent into carnage the European continent has seen in over half a century seemed beyond perverse.

“Our idea is to hold a comprehensive, forward-looking strategic discussion about the contours of a new world order that is coming to replace the unipolar one,” Russian ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya had said in a recent interview with Russian state media.

The contrast between what Russia says and what Russia does could hardly be more stark. Mr Lavrov repeatedly touts the lie that Russia had “no choice” but to invade Ukraine. “I am convinced that any sovereign, self-respecting state would do the same in our stead.” Now he has claimed the world has been brought to a “dangerous threshold”, as if Russia is blameless.

He accused the West of “abandoning diplomacy and demanding clarification of relations on the battlefield”. When Russia was chosen to head the UN Security Council – the presidency rotates on a monthly basis between 15 member states – Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba called the move a “bad joke”. The world “can’t be a safe place” with Russia as head of the UN Security Council, he added. But it was far from funny watching Moscow once again seizing the opportunity to justify its genocidal war in Ukraine.