Putin’s war, Biden’s woes and woeful UN
Vladimir Putin’s invasion and attack of neighbouring Ukraine in February seems to have ruptured Russia’s economic, financial and diplomatic relations with North America, Europe, Japan and Australia.
Europe and the US claim the attack is a justifiable cause for severing ties with a resurging Russia, rising from the ashes of the Soviet Union.
Moscow has had a difficult relationship with the West and has been a subject of much propaganda. For instance, liberals in America claim President Donald J. Trump was a Putin candidate and that the Kremlin oversaw an elaborate scheme to defeat their candidate, Secretary Hillary Clinton.
Although Putin’s unjustifiable war should be condemned by all, it’s being used by President Joe Biden to wage an indirect war with a nuclear-armed Russia ostensibly with the goal of decimating and weakening its military capabilities.
Ignoring worsening inflation, record-high gas prices, declining financial markets, growing supply-chain challenges, and reported shortage of baby formulae among others, Biden rushed through Congress a record $40 billion military aid package to Ukraine, bringing total funding for just two months to $53 billion.
There are both direct and indirect costs to massive military expenditures by Washington and Europe to “defeat Putin”. Arming Ukrainian forces and volunteer groups to take on Putin’s army may seem a laudable proposition, but it runs the risk of escalating the crisis, drawing in new combatants and nations.
Achieved little consensus
Also, flooding Eastern Europe with weapons, fighters and mercenaries has implications to Europe’s long-term security. Yet, defeating Putin has become a singular desire of western powers to the point of ignoring and even excusing the involvement of ultra-right neo-Nazi group, the Azov regiment. Although the identity and character of this group has been discussed and acknowledged in many sources, including by the influential New York Times, Azov’s right-wing extremist and anti-Semitic ideology does not seem to bother Biden and his allies.
In 2015, world leaders unanimously approved the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but achieved little consensus around new and increased funding to adequately implement these broad aspirations. Poor countries that welcomed the 17 goals soon learned that they were largely unfunded and would remain aspirational rather than practical.
Furthermore, they would have to compete for resources with developed nations which claimed that they, too, needed to implement those goals.
As a result, many developing countries remain ill-equipped to take on this daunting task. Furthermore, individual commitments made by rich nations have not materialised due to several reasons, including their military campaigns in Syria, Libya and other lands, which destroyed livelihoods and infrastructure, collapsed economies, and triggered a large refugee crisis.
Western powers have used these crises to divert development finance and foreign aid away from poor countries. This explains why President Biden and European leaders are all too eager to fund wars than help poor and least developed countries tackle poverty, hunger, and disease and climate change fallout, include rising sea level and disappearing rivers—all of which have been worsened by debilitating neoliberal policies and globalisation forces perpetrated by developed nations.
António Guterres’ time as the Secretary-General of the United Nations is punctuated by a series of crises, which have cumulatively eroded global attention from the SGDs. Failed efforts to “democratise” North Africa and the Middle East diverted bilateral and multilateral resources from sustainable development in order to deal with raging conflicts and handle refugees on continental Europe.
And then the outbreak of the global pandemic confronted world leaders, including Mr Guterres, with the most challenging public health crisis, impacts of which continue to reverberate around the world.
The effectiveness of multilateralism continues to wane largely due to simmering tensions between and among world powers, including in the UN Security Council. Geopolitics and the pursuit of regional and global military, political and economic hegemony is a major impediment to the reform of the UN. It also undermines its ability achieve its mission.
Reliance on trade-distorting sanctions and other barriers to trade and the curtailing of capital and technology flow along with disruptions in production and distribution operations will further worsen economies already severely weakened by the pandemic.
This notwithstanding, failure to achieve tangible SDGs-specific success by 2030 will contribute to cynicism that the outfit the UN’s Mr Guterres leads is no longer fit for the purpose. Several UN reports already show that Members States are largely on track to missing the targets.