The UN rule you may not know

The UN rule you may not know

Protest outside UN headquarters during the General Assembly emergency session on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

REUTERS/Mike Segar

Maybe you’ve heard that debate is underway at the United Nations about how to respond to Russia’s invasion … and you’re wondering what’s the point ... because you’re remembering that Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, can veto just about anything it doesn’t like. Like any move to condemn Russia for invading Ukraine, for example. But this is the importance of UN General Assembly Resolution 377(V). Dating from 1950, this so-called Uniting for Peace Resolution offers a way past the veto. It stipulates that, in the case of an act of war, the General Assembly shall “consider the matter immediately with a view to making recommendations to members for collective measures.” In other words, the GA can vote to essentially override Russia’s veto. And since the GA voted in 2014 that the Russian seizure of Crimea violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the body will probably take a similar view of Russia’s all-out war on the rest of Ukraine. The GA could order a UN investigation, call for more sanctions on Russia, or even move to kick Russia out of some UN bodies. Whether any of this will amount to more than powerful symbolism or add anything meaningful to the ongoing international response to Russia’s invasion is another matter.

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