September 20, 2023

President Zelenskyy before U.N. General Assembly: Russian veto pushes the UN into a dead end

Distinguished Prime Minister Rama! 

I am grateful to the Albanian Presidency for arranging this meeting. 

Mr. Secretary-General!

Ladies and gentlemen!

Five hundred seventy-four days of pain, losses, and struggle have already passed since the start of the full-scale aggression launched by the state, which, for some reason, is still present here among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Russia has killed at least tens of thousands of our people and turned millions into refugees by destroying their homes.

Most of the world recognizes the truth about this war. It is a criminal and unprovoked aggression by Russia against our nation, aimed at seizing Ukraine’s territory and resources. But it is not just that. With its aggression, the terrorist state is willing to undermine all the dams of international norms meant to protect the world from wars.

And I am grateful to all those who have recognized the Russian aggression as a violation of the UN Charter.

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Ukraine exercises its inherent right of self-defense. Helping Ukraine with weapons in this exercise, imposing sanctions and exerting comprehensive pressure on the aggressor, as well as voting for relevant resolutions, mean helping to defend the UN Charter. 

The resolutions of the General Assembly have clearly recognized the fact that the only source of this war is Russia. But, this has changed nothing for Russia in the United Nations. However, these are the situations that have changed everything for the UN. We should acknowledge that the Organization finds itself in a deadlock on the issue of aggression. Humankind no longer pins its hopes on the UN when it comes to the defense of the sovereign borders of nations. World leaders are seeking new platforms and alliances that could reduce the disastrous scope of problems. Those problems that are met here, within these walls, with rhetoric, rather than real solutions, with aspirations to compromise with killers, rather than to protect lives. Life should be defended uncompromisingly to ensure successful protection.

But I would not be here today if Ukraine had no proposals precisely regarding solutions.

Yesterday, in my address to the UN General Assembly, I said that the Ukrainian Peace Formula had become the basis to update the existing security architecture in the world, in particular – to restore the real power of the UN Charter and the rules-based international order. 

Now I would like to present the details – concrete possible actions based on the Peace Formula, notably its point 5 “Implementation of the UN Charter and restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the world order”.

All in the world see what makes the UN incapable unfortunately. This seat in the Security Council, which Russia occupied illegally, through backstage manipulations following the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been taken by liars whose job is to whitewash the aggression and genocide being carried out by Russia. And all the UN actions – either by the Security Council or the General Assembly – that could have stopped this aggression, are shattered by the privilege granted by this seat to the aggressor. Veto power in the hands of the aggressor is what has pushed the UN into a dead end.

Today, no matter what nation you might be… A nation with hundreds of millions of people or a small nation… A nation that bravely defends its independence or a country whose long history of independence can help others… A state in need of help or a nation that can provide genuine support… A state that relies on its army, or a state for which the UN Charter, not its army, is the first and last line of defense… Regardless of who you are, the current UN system still makes you less influential than the veto power possessed by a few and misused by one – Russia – to the detriment of all other UN members.

These days, the word “inequality” has often been heard in the UN General Assembly. Inequality is mentioned by different nations – both larger and smaller ones. It is precisely inequality that renders the UN ineffective now.

I regret that so far the UN Security Council is just the most visible platform in the world. I believe that the UN is capable of more. I am confident that the UN Charter can actually work for global peace and security. However, for this to happen, the years-long discussions of projects for UN reform must be translated into a viable process of UN reform. 

And it should not be only about representation here, in the Security Council. The use of veto power – that is what requires reform, and this can be a key reform. This can be what restores the power of the UN Charter.

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Ladies and gentlemen!

Five hundred seventy-four days of the full-fledged Russian aggression are five hundred seventy-four reasons for changes in this Chamber. And the number of votes in favor of these changes actually amounts to billions. The absolute majority of people in the world aspire to live in a world free of aggression. In contrast to all of us, there are only a few obsessed individuals in Moscow. Veto should not serve as a weapon for those who are obsessed with hatred and war.

What we observe in the United Nations is an increasing support for the idea that in cases of mass atrocities veto power should be voluntarily suspended. But we also observe that Russia will not give up this stolen privilege voluntarily. 

So, the UN General Assembly should be given a real power to overcome the veto.

This will be the first necessary step.

If it is impossible to stop the war because all efforts are vetoed by the aggressor or those who condone the aggressor, it is necessary to bring this issue to the attention of the General Assembly. In the event of two-thirds of the votes reflecting the will of nations from Asia, Africa, Europe, both Americas, and the Pacific region – a global qualified majority – the veto should be effectively overcome, and such resolution of the General Assembly must be legally binding for all Member States. 

The second step. The UN Security Council must be fully accountable to the nations of the world. I welcome the proposals of various leaders to expand the representation of nations in the Security Council. The composition of the permanent members of the Security Council should reflect the current realities and justice.

Ukraine considers it unjust when billions of people do not have their permanent representation in the Security Council. The African Union must be here permanently. Asia deserves broader permanent representation – it cannot be considered normal when nations like Japan, India or the Islamic world remain outside the permanent membership of the Security Council. One should take into account the changes that have taken place in Europe, notably that Germany has become one of the key global guarantors of peace and security. This is a matter of fact. Therefore, it is also a matter of fact that Germany deserves a place among the permanent members of the Security Council. Latin America must be represented here – permanently. And the Pacific states.

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However, we should not confine our attention to those in the top seats only. There is a need to expand the participation and access to the activities of the UN Security Council and its subsidiary bodies for all members of the UN General Assembly who are not recognized as aggressors. 

At the same time, the Security Council’s membership of any state should be suspended for a period of time when such a state resorts to aggression against another nation in violation of the UN Charter.

The third step. There is a need for a system to prevent aggression through early response to actions violating territorial integrity and sovereignty of states. It’s time to do this. Nations of the world should agree on such a mechanism for responding to aggression to protect others, that everyone would want for their own security. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown what can such a mechanism be. Among other things, powerful sanctions against the aggressor. Not only at the stage when Bucha has already happened, but also at the stage of the build-up of an invasion army. Anyone who wants to start a war should see before their fatal mistake what exactly they will lose when they start a war. The issue of applying such preventive sanctions should be automatically submitted for consideration of the UN Security Council when any Member of the UN General Assembly reports a threat of aggression.

Ukrainian soldiers are currently doing at the expense of their blood what the UN Security Council should do by its voting – they are stopping aggression and upholding the principles of the UN Charter.

And now, I would like to focus on territorial integrity. This is an element of both the UN Charter and our Peace Formula that is inextricably linked to the issue of clearing the territory from the occupiers. Occupation is an inexhaustible source of dynamite under the international rules-based order. So, I will provide examples of concrete steps to be taken for the security architecture to be strong. Using Ukraine as an example. Concrete things. Concrete as we, Ukrainians, are.

First: full withdrawal of all Russian troops and military formations, including the Russian Black Sea Fleet or its leaky remnants, as well as the withdrawal of all mercenaries and paramilitary formations of Russia from the entire sovereign territory of Ukraine within our internationally recognized borders as of 1991.

Second: full restoration of Ukraine’s effective control over the entire state border and exclusive economic zone, including in the Black and Azov Seas, as well as in the Kerch Strait. 

In fact, only the implementation of these two points will result in an honest, reliable, and complete cessation of hostilities.

Ladies and gentlemen!

As a rule, reforms of such international institutions were made following major tragedies, major wars. We should not wait for this aggression to be over. Action is needed now. Our aspiration for peace should drive the reform.

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When I was preparing the Ukrainian Peace Formula, I underpinned its points exclusively by the principles of the UN Charter and resolutions adopted by the General Assembly. This is precisely what enables the global nature of the Ukrainian Peace Formula. Nations that engage with the Formula realize that they are working for the rules-based international order – for the protection of territorial integrity and sovereignty of states, protection of human rights, prevention of aggression and genocidal policy. Naturally, the epicenter of such efforts should be in this very Chamber – the UN Security Council Chamber, and even to a greater extent, in the General Assembly Hall. If reform of UN institutions is necessary for this, then we should not be afraid of such reform. We are ready to work together with those UN members, who have joined the Peace Formula, on relevant draft resolutions and amendments to the UN Charter. 

And I would like to make it clear for everyone in the world, what exactly Ukraine is proposing while addressing the nations of the world and calling on them to join the implementation of the Peace Formula. 

Each country can demonstrate its leadership within the framework of one or more or all points of the Peace Formula. On the basis of the points of the Peace Formula we form groups, where national security advisors to heads of state and diplomatic representatives work. These groups are tasked to elaborate a list of decisions and legislative proposals, requiring implementation to fulfill the relevant point of the Peace Formula. We are ready to hold the inaugural Summit of the Leaders, subsequently, ten conferences at the level of advisors, diplomatic representatives, heads of parliaments in accordance with the ten points of the Peace Formula. Later, these drafts prepared by advisors will be submitted for consideration by heads of state at the respective final Summit. 

Thereby, all nations of the world that respect peace can actually participate in the restoration of peace.

Cooperation is always the key word for Ukraine in international relations. This word is also key for peace. So, let peace prevail! May our institutions and our cooperation be stronger.

I thank you for the opportunity to deliver this address. Thank you for the invitation and your attention!

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