|ELECTIONS OF THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL:
U.S. VS. ASIA
NEW YORK. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev)
Late last week, five permanent members of the UN Security Council gathered
for a closed ministerial meeting to discuss Kofi Annan’s successor.
Being part of the complicated electoral procedure, it did not produce any
sensations. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a participant in the meeting,
said that the five ministers exchanged opinion on the “current
situation” and “compared their approaches.” He confirmed that the
Russian approach – to vote for a “candidate from Asia” – remains
Kofi Annan’s term expires on December 31. The place for his portrait
among former secretaries-general on the wall of the corridor at the
visitors’ entrance to the UN is already marked with a not very neat
piece of adhesive tape.
It became clear that there is a problem with the successor when the Baltic
nations suggested Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga for the post, and
a candidate from Afghanistan appeared later. Those who are well versed in
the mechanics of the UN procedures say that the candidacy of the Latvian
president is not serious, and not only because she is directly involved in
the formation of what is essentially a racist state (a file on Latvia,
where one fifth of the population have no voting rights, is currently in
the UN Human Rights Council). The main intrigue is that the real favorites
are already well known: these are the candidates who have the support of
the General Assembly, that is, representatives of all 192 UN members. The
new candidates, who are said to be thrown in by the United States, simply
do not stand a chance.
The procedure is that the Security Council recommends one candidate for
consideration of the General Assembly, and it approves or discards it.
What is happening within the Security Council is a much more complex
procedure – a game with multicolored cards. It will be particularly
interesting on September 28, when its permanent members will have red
cards, or the right to veto decisions. None of the five countries should
object to the candidate, and the Latvian president is guaranteed at least
one veto – from Russia.
So far, the leader is South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon. After the
last game he got only one incognito red card, whereas others have three or
even more. Kofi Annan’s deputy Shashi Tharoor is the runner-up, and the
third place belongs to Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, whose
destiny is unknown because of the coup. There are also candidates from
Jordan and Sri Lanka, but they are far behind.
When Kofi Annan was re-elected for the second term five years ago, the
Security Council and the UN in general agreed informally that his
successor would be from Asia. The principle of rotation is logical – the
UN should not be in the hands of Europeans or Africans alone. Finally,
there is one more long-standing tradition – a Secretary-General should
not represent any of the great powers, which already have enough
advantages in the UN and the world as a whole.
Sources from the Russian Foreign Ministry report that Russian diplomacy
agrees with the majority of UN member states on the Asian candidate. As
for the majority, for Moscow the Indian candidate is as good as the Korean
one; the Thai candidate is equally acceptable, as long as the rotation
principle is adhered to.
But this is the principle to which the Latvian president objected openly
in her recent speech in the UN. In other words, she disagreed in advance
with the majority of her “voters.”
It is important to understand that if the Security Council names a
candidate who suits its permanent and non-permanent members, but is not
approved by the General Assembly, he will not be elected, or will be
elected with a minimal advantage, which is even worse, because in that
case the UN will receive a Secretary-General of a lower legitimacy. This
will be an obvious crisis.
Moscow wants to prevent another crisis in the UN in the belief that all
other considerations are secondary. UN members are already criticizing the
procedure of electing the Secretary-General as undemocratic and as a sign
of dominance in the UN, and, hence, in the world of the five members with
the veto in the Security Council. For this reason India and Canada have
submitted a proposal to establish a separate committee on elections, and
deprive the Security Council of the right to play their colored cards.
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Security Council a
body of threats and pressure in his UN speech several days ago, he knew
who his audience was. Many of those countries which were formerly regarded
as third world, if not third-rate, have a growing influence on the
world’s economy and politics. All debates on the UN reform show that the
majority considers it logical to expand the Security Council and include
the new leaders, as well as delegates from Africa, Latin America, etc.,
and give them all the right of veto. Many would be even less pleased with
the current Security Council if it fails to select the obvious successor
– a candidate from Asia.
Many Russians view the appearance of the candidate from Latvia as an
insult. But there is one more version – this may be a belated attempt to
paralyze, if not destroy, the UN as a whole. There was a time when the
U.S. thought that the UN was an obstacle to wars in Yugoslavia and Iraq.
Experts in UN internal diplomacy are confident of the third version –
all three Asian candidates have got out of favor with the U.S., and it
wants to create a crisis in order to throw in one more candidate – Chan
Heng Chee, Singaporean Ambassador to the U.S., who is certainly from Asia,
but has lived in America for about ten years.
There is also a fourth version. What we are witnessing is not some cunning
U.S. intrigue but the failure of American diplomacy, because the U.S. is
in big trouble if it has set itself against Asia and the Muslim world, not
to mention the UN.
The U.S. could give up its illusions about selecting a convenient
successor after its experience with Kofi Annan, who was regarded an
“American candidate” as well. He became the favorite of the Security
Council right after its members failed to agree on several obvious