Why doesn’t the UN expel Russia like the League of Nations did in 1939?

Kick Russia out of the UN, now! Photo by the UN-aligned design team.

After the Soviet Union invaded Finland, the League of Nations kicked the country from its council. Why doesn’t the UN do that too? Well, for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because it is bound to the moral low ground.

Via a video address to the UN security Council on April 5, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the Council to expel Russia “so it cannot block decisions about its own war”, which he emphasised was responsible for “the most terrible war crimes”. Some days ago, on June 28, he went further and called for a complete expulsion, adding that an international tribunal should investigate “the actions of Russian occupiers on Ukrainian soil” so that the Kremlin could be “brought to justice”.

Interestingly enough, the League of Nations, which was the precursor to the United Nations, had expelled Russia on December 14, 1939, after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Finland a fortnight earlier on November 30. The current organisation, however, seems unconcerned. Of course, it is concerned; the problem is that, for all sorts of reasons, it is bound to the moral low ground. It barely managed to expel the rogue member from the Human Rights Council on April 7. What has changed since those pre-WWII days?

Not much, really, despite the fact that the League was a very different animal which consisted of 42 Member States at its inception (January 1920) and only 24 at its demise (April 1946). Russia’s expulsion then involved the League of Nations breaking its own rules, as the vote had not received the overall majority required. The League was an organisation in crisis when it expelled Russia, but willing to do the right thing. The UN is in crisis now, but frozen when it comes to its mandate in being a force for peace.

It seems unlikely that the UN will ever find its moral compass and expel Russia no matter how many war crimes keep piling up. China can invade Taiwan, the US can roll back all its human rights legislation… The UN will sit back and watch. Really? Surely we deserve better.

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The Gordian

Dismantling the war machine

Welcome to the September issue of The Gordian.

In this issue we are focussing on war. I was going to add “and the futility of it”, but ‘futility’ is far from the right word. No, war is not futile. It too is a nail, and allowed to be, it may well be the last nail in our collective coffin.

This issue offers the usual mix of politics, interviews and culture by UN-aligneders across the world, including Ruby Goldenberg, Carla Pietrobattista, Katharina Wüstnienhaus, Victoria Davila, Partho Chatterjee and Nick Hautamaki, Usha Roopnarain and Omar Alansari-Kreger

The editors are Adrian Liberto and Ariana Yekrangi.

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