Two weeks before the U.N. condemnation, the 15-member Security Council considered a more substantive, binding measure forcing Moscow to abandon its war in Ukraine. Russia, one of the council’s five permanent members, issued a veto that effectively killed the resolution.
The two votes encapsulated the United Nations’ power as a global forum and the hard limits on its ability to truly influence 21st-century conflicts, especially those involving the world’s most powerful militaries. Indeed, analysts say the idea that the United Nations is capable of halting major wars — one of the foundational concepts behind its founding just months after the end of World War II — isn’t applicable today.
“It was unrealistic to think the U.N. would have the clout and the leverage to actually make something happen in terms of something big: a war, World War III, or what we’re seeing now with Ukraine and Russia,” said Jim Townsend, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “There is always the potential that the U.N. could help, but usually when the big guys are out bumping into each other, the U.N. isn’t going to do anything except clean up the battlefield afterward.”
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