Politics and Self-Defense; When U.N. Reform Meets U.S. Resolve

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 25, 2004 | Go to article overview

Politics and Self-Defense; When U.N. Reform Meets U.S. Resolve


Byline: Helle Dale, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Beware what you wish for, so the saying goes, you might just get it. A case in point is the widespread desire to reform the United Nations. Unless we are careful, the reform movement might blow up in our faces - and create more problems next time the United States wants to deploy its troops abroad.

It has been just about a year now since the United States found itself at loggerheads in the U.N. Security Council with the French, the Russians, the Germans and others who opposed the military action against Iraq. From a diplomatic standpoint, the negotiations were an absolute disaster. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin double-crossed Secretary of State Colin Powell royally, and, in the end, much bad publicity and ill feeling was generated.

The fact is that the United States and its allies could go ahead with the invasion of Iraq, based on Security Council Resolution 1441. The fact is also that we could have gone ahead without asking for U.N. permission at all.

Now, a lot of people don't like that possibility at all. As a consequence, the Russian government has now come up with a proposal to tie down the U.S. military and limit American options. In a speech two weeks ago at the 40th Munich Conference on Security Policy, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov, in a comment that was drowned out by the coverage of Russia's threat to leave the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, saw fit to make this startling proposal:

"We all understand that one of the core issues in modern international affairs is that of admissibility of a unilateral use of force, undertaken by a state or a group of states without relevant U.N. Security Council mandate, first of all, to fight international terrorism.

"I am convinced that the Russian-NATO partnership should foster such an environment in international relations, where the use of force among other things, for combating terrorism, would exclusively proceed within the realm of international law. It is wrong to fight terrorism with illegal techniques, and it is next to impossible." Illegal techniques? The Russians would know a thing or two about those.

Now, Mr. Ivanov was part of the sweeping house cleaning by Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday when he fired his entire government. But that is not likely to change the substance of Russian foreign policy toward the United Nations and the United States. …

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