After two years of discussions dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s General Assembly has a new center stage: the war in Ukraine.
The peace pleas from leaders around the world are both selfless magnification of the plight of beleaguered Ukrainians and self-interested. As several presentations have shown, the effects of the Russian invasion can be felt even thousands of miles away.
Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said on Wednesday: “It is not only dismaying for us to see such vandalism in European towns and cities in 2022. We feel this situation directly in our lives in Africa. War.” “Every bullet, every bomb, every shell that hits a Ukrainian target, hits our pockets and the African economy.”
There are few speeches without direct reference to conflict, but even without direct reference to war, war resonates. Kassim-Jomart Tokayev, the president of Kazakhstan, never let the words “Ukraine” or “Russia” slip out of his mouth, but he made several seemingly pointed allusions.
He began his speech with a bleak picture of a world engulfed in “a new and increasingly painful period of geopolitical confrontation” that has led to “the prospect of the use of nuclear weapons, not even a last resort.”
Just hours later, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was not at the UN General Assembly, announced that he would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to defend his country’s territory.
Russia is a key ally of Kazakhstan, and the war in Ukraine has put the former Soviet state in an awkward position. Tokayev performed a similar dance during Pope Francis’ visit last week, refusing to speak directly about Ukraine while generally condemning a sick state of affairs.
On Tuesday, Tokayev laid out “three basic principles: the sovereign equality of states, the territorial integrity of states and the peaceful coexistence of states.”
“The three principles are interdependent. To respect one is to respect the other two. To destroy one is to destroy the other two,” he said.
The theme of territorial sovereignty resonated in other speeches, as countries facing violations invoked their own trauma or viewed Ukraine’s fate as fear.
“Nor can we remain silent in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is due to our vivid memory of the horrors of war and aggression,” Shefik Zaferovic, head of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said on Wednesday. “The UN system cannot prevent it during this period. Or to stop the war in our country between 1992 and 1995. Unfortunately, this happened again in Ukraine.
Russia has long been accused of trying to destabilize the Balkans – including Bosnia and Herzegovina. The day after Putin met with Bosnian Serb separatist leaders in Moscow, it was Zaferovic’s turn to take the podium.
Russian peacekeepers have been stationed in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria since a separatist war ended in 1992. Sandu, President of Moldova, was caught between describing how the war in Ukraine – “our neighbors and friends” – affected her country, calling for a “complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops” from Transnistria.
Poland, the Ukrainian ally that receives the most refugees, was mentioned 34 times by President Andrzej Duda in his speech on Tuesday.
“We cannot forget those who are suffering,” Duda said. “Let us remember that six months of Russian aggression in Ukraine brought Europe’s biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II.”
But Duda also highlighted how Ukraine has captured the world’s attention when many other major crises outside Europe have not.
“Are we just as steadfast in the tragedies in Syria, Libya, Yemen? Did we not get back to work while the two great tragedies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the war in the Horn of Africa, and condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine, did we put the same emphasis on fighting Trying to destroy the Sahel and threaten many other countries in Africa?” he said.
On the first day alone, Ukraine was mentioned more than 150 times in speeches by leaders, including the UN Secretary-General. António Guterres touted the Ukrainian-Russian deal on food shipments with Turkey’s help at the opening of the UN General Assembly as an example of successful multilateral diplomacy. The war ran through his presentation as he turned to more pessimistic earnings.
“The fighting has claimed thousands of lives. Millions have been displaced. Billions of people have been affected around the world,” he said.
In his only video address to the assembly, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky himself received a special mandate to call for the seven countries that voted against the allowance: “Seven. Seven people who are afraid of the video address. Seven people who responded to the principle with the red button. Only seven.”
The seven men have not spoken yet. But even if these countries somehow prevail, Slovakian President Zuzana Chaptova says it is the responsibility of other countries to defend Ukraine.
“The democratic world and all of us must speak up for Ukraine. The voices that will not be silenced, the voices that will continue to testify for Russia’s crimes in Ukraine,” she said on Tuesday. “A voice that will remember, a voice that will act – so no one can commit such atrocities again.”
Follow Mallika Sen at https://twitter.com/mallikavsen. For more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly