How Great Powers Manipulate at the United Nations

In October 2023, Russia and China faced significant challenges in the United Nations (UN) due to their actions. Russia’s resolution on Gaza was rejected by the UN Security Council, and Moscow was expelled in April 2022 for its invasion of Ukraine.

China, however, was re-elected for another three-year term, unlike Russia. Despite evidence of a decline in Russian influence, both countries will persist. The UN’s ‘path dependence’ has contributed to its failures in reform attempts, as countries seeking status and prestige did not collaborate. The G4 initiative, consisting of Germany, Japan, India, and Brazil, shows little promise in the short term.

Russia and China understand that long-term strategies are more effective than short-term reform advocacy. China’s strategy at the UN has been to build alliances based on economic development and mute criticism of its human rights record. For example, imports from Africa rose to $282 billion in 2022, while Chinese exports reached $164 billion. China has also actively courted Russia, but its goal is to mute criticism and implement reforms that advance its own national agenda.

China’s long-term strategy in the UN system can be traced back to the creation of the UN Human Rights Council in 2006. China’s diplomatic efforts helped lower the membership bar, allowing states with questionable human rights records, such as Cuba, Vietnam, and Qatar, to win seats. Russia also manipulates the UN system to its advantage, taking the monthly presidency in March 2023.

Moscow uses its veto power in the UN Security Council to force other member states to move to the UN General Assembly to introduce non-binding resolutions on its war in Ukraine. Despite the passage of a resolution in February 2023, Russia used its partnership with China to dilute the vote, with many of China’s critical African voting bloc members abstaining.

China’s efforts to establish a new international order, including changes in the UN’s governance, necessitate a long-term strategy by Western-aligned countries to counter its diplomacy. The US has experienced financial influence due to fluctuations in foreign policy and a relaxed approach to meeting UN dues. The West must counter China’s pressure and lack of presence in Africa. The UN system’s integrity is at risk when not countered by actors like the US, the UK, and France.

The US has also engaged in self-serving abuses in its 2003 invasion of Iraq and recent veto of a resolution on humanitarian aid to Gaza. An effective counterstrategy should be multifaceted and resilient to changes in inter-regional political stability. The US, EU, and Asian allies must maintain international order and human rights integrity to counter China and Russian influence in the UN.

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