Great power invasions and voting at the UN General Assembly
Audley Rodriques

We have seen the voting records on United Nations General Assembly resolution ES-11/1 which deplored in the strongest terms the aggression by Russia against Ukraine, demanded a full withdrawal of Russian forces and a reversal of Russia's decision to recognise the Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

They were 141 in favour, five against and 35 abstentions. Twelve of the UN's 193 member states did not participate in the vote. The five which opposed the resolution were: Russia, Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria.

Just a few brief comments on the vote. Eritrea's vote was related to what it called the “illicit and immoral sanctions” imposed on it by the US since last year because of its involvement in the internal conflict taking place in Ethiopia, its neighbour. Eritrea, now an ally of Ethiopia, has been sanctioned; Ethiopia has not been. The latter was amongst the 12 absent from the vote on resolution ES-11/1. BTW (yeah, it is an aside), I wonder why so little attention is being paid to the conflict in Ethiopia. Are there Jamaicans there in need of repatriation?

Of the 35 abstentions, 17 or almost a half were from Africa and two-thirds or eight of 12 absentees were from Africa. Maybe the Africans are onto something.

Perhaps, the most notable absentee was Venezuela, which has had its voting rights suspended owing to its failure to pay membership dues to the UN and for which it had not been granted a special waiver. It is generally believed that Venezuela, which is said to be an ally of Russia and which is currently being sanctioned by the US, would have voted against the resolution, if it had a vote. It might have been a good thing that it didn't have a vote.

The former Central Asian Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan either abstained or “strategically” stayed away from the vote. They are used to hearing the growl of the mighty bear.

Jamaica and all of Caricom, united for peace, aware of their interests, voted on principle by supporting the resolution. It has been a while since we have seen such unity in Caricom on anything.

Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador abstained; all other Latin American countries supported the resolution.

Of the abstaining Latins, El Salvador is, to my mind, the most interesting. A traditional ally of the US, its conservative president, Nayib Bukele, much to the displeasure of the US, has reportedly been seeking to attract investment from Russian oligarchs. There have been criticisms from certain quarters about El Salvador's “silence” on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And the young Mr Bukele has warned the US to stay out of El Salvador's internal affairs after certain US senators called for a State Department investigation of the adoption by El Salvador of Bitcoin as legal tender. “We are not your colony, your backyard or your front yard. Stay out of our internal affairs. Don't try to control something you can't control,” Mr Bukele reportedly said.

And a wee bit of history. In November 1983, the UNGA adopted resolution 38/7 on The Situation in Grenada. The resolution deeply deplored the armed intervention in Grenada which it said constituted a flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Grenada. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 108 in favour, nine against, 27 abstentions and 13 absent (“visit the restroom”)

Among the nine who voted against the resolution were the US, El Salvador, Jamaica and five other Caribbean countries which participated in the invasion of Grenada. Among those voting in favour were Australia, Ireland, France, eight NATO member states – Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain. Among those abstaining were Britain, Japan, West Germany and Canada. Caricom was divided.

In January 1980, the UNGA voted 104 to 18 (18 abstentions, 12 absent) to condemn the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Grenada and Cuba were the only two Latin American and Caribbean countries among the 18 which voted against the resolution. Jamaica voted in favour. Did Grenada bait up itself? There were, of course, larger geopolitical forces at play. The intelligent, principled, self-interested Michael Manley (Jamaica) voted the “right” way.

In international relations, realists try to understand and explain the structure and operation of the international system, and the (mis) behaviour of states, in terms of interests (power, money, security, influence and “attractiveness”) and not so much by moral considerations or the special characteristics of leaders, including their mental health, gender, age, “ego”, “deprivation during childhood”, Oedipus complex, or “toxic masculinity”. To understand and explain is not to condone. One can understand, yet criticise.

Ambassador Emeritus Audley Rodriques is former top Jamaican envoy to Kuwait and Venezuela.

Audley Rodriques

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