President Volodymyr Zelensky has pleaded for military support on numerous occasions, but it seems like the United Nations doctrine of Responsibility to Protect is not being brought into practice here. While sanctions are being placed, nations are condemning Russia's actions and big firms such as Goldman Sachs have withdrawn from Russia the U.N is still not willing to intervene militarily. The question then arises as to why it was so easy for countries like the United States of America to get away with breaching Syrian sovereignty under R2P, but it seems too drastic of a step to take in the Ukrainian crisis.
'Responsibility to Protect'
The U.N developed its policy for the 'Responsibility to Protect' following the atrocities in Rwanda. The argument laid in the fact that a member state under international law, specifically R2P, or Article 51 of the UN Charter, may turn to military intervention to maintain or restore international peace. The R2P is also applicable when countries need to use armed action to protect their citizens. However, this policy has been used and abused by some of the Big Five permanent members of the U.N. These loopholes allow countries to get away with the unlawful bombing of another state under the notion to protect international peace.
The R2P Issue
The requirement to enact the R2P requires approval by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a safety net protecting the sovereignty of a nation. The issue however is that the United States in specific has applied R2P to avoid punishment from other member nations of the U.N when it bombed Syria even though in the UNSC Russia had vetoed the United States plan of action to step on to Syrian ground. In 2016 the death toll of Syrian Civilians according to the Human Rights Watch was at 470,000. There was no account of who from this large number was part of the targeted groups and who was just an ordinary civilian. Thus, the question comes down to why it is acceptable for certain nations (i.e., permanent five) to warrant foreign intervention under the R2P and not acceptable when others display the same sentiment.
Refugees And Racism
Refugees granted asylum after being perpetuated with violence should not be a streamlined process that grants selective privileges. This hypocrisy at the hands of permanent members leaves a huge gap in international law that can easily be misused. The response towards welcoming refugees, media coverage as well as how nations have contextualized the situation in Ukraine has been the opposite to the response given to conflict in the Middle East. WE let Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian refugee, drown because countries refused to open up their borders to Syrians, but we see the United Kingdom ease its restrictive policy for Ukrainians. This has brought to light the racist undertones of international law.
Many have defended the steps taken by the international community as being smart as one wrong move could lead to nuclear atrocities. The probability of nuclear proliferation is probably a determining factor over the decisions being made. Unlike the 1940s when the Western Allies held a monopoly over nuclear power, making it easier to condemn Russia, repercussions of large-scale nuclear proliferation now would have a far more detrimental effect. Similarly, in NATO refusing to impose a no-fly zone, unlike the pressure that was put on Russia before the cold war during the Berlin Blockade of 1948-9, ruling out the R2P perhaps the international community does end up ruling out progressing this war into nuclear weaponization. A pragmatic approach to the conflict is hard to find, the current condemnation and withdrawal of large firms from their clientele in Russia speak volumes. Russia has been preparing for its isolation and building up in reserves, but with drastic measures being taken from cancelling oil export to JP Morgan's withdrawal from Russia to Twitter and Facebook deleting posts by the Russian Embassy all show the global effort towards pressuring Russia into a ceasefire.
Limelight On International Laws
The Ukrainian Conflict has brought into light a multitude of problems with international law. Dealing with large nations like Russia is a hard judgment call to be made, however, it is equally important to remember when members of the United Nations such as the United States of America have gotten away with committing similar crimes to impose mass Westernization, who is to say that Russia could not get away with similar actions. This precedent is set by the permanent five and at some level, they seem to have dug their own grave in protecting international peace.
Moral condemnation can only get us so far, Russia has prepared for this. Perhaps avoiding the implication of the R2P is the correct course of action, but it should apply when the U.S.A infiltrates Afghanistan to establish democracy, invades Iran out of fear, conducts airstrikes that kill more civilians than threat in Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, or Yemen. Acceptance of refugees should come without looking at their race or ethnicity, us and them mentality will lead to nothing but alienation, where we normalize people of colour to suffer from conflict but not Europeans. There is a long way to go before international law becomes coherent in its action and the western powers start to take responsibility for their actions to attempt to restore international peace at a large scale.
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