This speech, by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, is a “watershed” moment between the world after Helsinki in 1975 and the world post-2014. Therefore, we believe it should be noted on our blog:
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
New York, NY
March 15, 2014
The United States deeply appreciates the support from our colleagues around this table and from the many states who have called for a peaceful end to the crisis in Ukraine.
This is, however, a sad and remarkable moment.
This is the seventh time that the UN Security Council has convened to discuss the urgent crisis in Ukraine. The Security Council is meeting on Ukraine because it is the job of this body to stand up for peace and to defend those in danger.
We have heard a lot each time the Security Council has met about the echoes and relevance of history. We have heard, for example, about the pleas of the brave democrats of Hungary in 1956 and about the dark chill that dashed the dreams of Czechs in 1968.
We still have the time and the collective power to ensure that the past doesn’t become prologue. But history has lessons for those of us who are willing to listen. Unfortunately, not everyone was willing to listen today.
Under the UN Charter, the Russian Federation has the power to veto a Security Council resolution, but it does not have the power to veto the truth. As we know, the word “truth”, or “pravda” has a prominent place in the story of modern Russia. From the days of Lenin and Trotsky until the fall of the Berlin Wall, Pravda was the name of the house newspaper of the Soviet Communist regime. But throughout that period, one could search in vain to find pravda in Pravda. And today, one again searches in vain, to find truth in the Russian position on Crimea, on Ukraine, or on the proposed Security Council resolution considered and vetoed a few moments ago.
The truth is that this resolution should not have been controversial. It was grounded in principles that provide the foundation for international stability and law: Article 2 of the UN Charter; the prohibition on the use of force to acquire territory; and respect for the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of member states. These are principles that Russia agrees with and defends vigorously all around the world – except, it seems, in circumstances that involve Russia.
The resolution broke no new legal or normative ground. It simply called on all parties to do what they had previously pledged, through internationally binding agreements, to do. It recalled specifically the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which Russia and other signatories reaffirmed their commitments themselves to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and to refrain from aggressive military action toward that country.