The United Nations just voted Russia off the Human Rights Council. Embattled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants much more from the international body, and who can blame him? Serious war crimes have been committed by the Moscow regime.
The U.S. and E.U. have decided to add more layers of increasingly harsh economic and financial sanctions against Russia and its leadership — official and unofficial — following the brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Previous sanctions have not worked. New sanctions will probably not work either, at least not in the near term. Short of combat, how can the international community further punish the regime in Moscow in ways that will have genuine impact? It can remove Russia from its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Why does Vladimir Putin enjoy a seat? There is only one answer: The late Soviet Union possessed a huge arsenal of atomic weapons. Although Russia contains a significant natural resource base, the nation is not a global leader in technology, innovation, finance, manufacture or any other commercial or financial enterprise. Russia is by most accounts a massively under-developed kleptocracy.
Reckless dictators like Putin, no matter how many nuclear missiles they possess, should be excluded from the globe’s most exclusive nation-state club. Permanent Security Council members that violate international law and norms of conduct by invading another member state without just cause should be expelled from what today is called “The Big Five” — the U.S., U.K., France, China and Russia.
Vladimir Putin is all about symbolism and ego. He demands attention, while hoping to command respect. His photo-shopped chauvinism and machismo serve as proof of his fears. Removing Russia from the U.N. Security Council will send a powerful symbolic message to a world tired of a steady diet of political-diplomatic deadlock within the U.N.’s headquarters in Manhattan. Putin has repetitively wielded veto power in Security Council meetings in his own self-interest — an absurd travesty that must cease.
This is a well-deserved punishment that will sting longer than current sanctions ever could. Russia’s ejection would be no easy task within the U.N.’s often-fractious General Assembly. But the effort would, in my estimation, be well worth the diplomatic heavy lift required. Even if the attempt failed, it would still be meaningful to a globe hungry for something resembling justice for the Ukrainian people.
The U.N. is supposed to stand for something good and noble. Removing Putin’s Russia from its permanent seat on the Security Council would go a long way toward making that mean something.
Robert Bruce Adolph, who served nearly two decades with the United Nations, is a retired senior Army Special Forces soldier, who holds graduate degrees in both National Security Studies and International Affairs. He is the author of his publisher’s number one best-selling book, “Surviving the United Nations: The Unexpected Challenge.”