‘Are You Ready to Close the U.N.?’


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“Are you ready to close the U.N.?” Volodymyr Zelensky, asked members of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday. “Do you think that the time of international law is gone? If your answer is no, then you need to act immediately.”

But surely, if ever there was a time to recognize the value of multilateral organizations – the EU, NATO, the United Nations – it’s now that the United States finds itself confronting a direct challenge by Russia to the post-WWII settlement of Europe.

No doubt the scale of sanctions and military aid in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine have exceeded most expectations. How effective they’ll be and how enduring is another question. But would they have been possible without the loose framework of treaties, bodies, and organizations that have come to inhabit the roughly 70 years of peace in the developed West?

I’m not entirely sure.

I return again and again to the now-famous scene of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Ret. Lt. General Michael Flynn gathered around a banquet table in 2015 – not as part of a conspiracy, but to celebrate the 10th anniversary of RT, and as a loose coalition of left and right-leaning interests questioning the American-led system constructed after the Second World War.

In my mind, as someone who spent a couple of decades in the field of Russian and Modern European studies, it has been, historically, a pretty good run. And not just for Americans, or the peoples of Western Europe.

I was loath, like pretty much all of my former colleagues, to accept Brexit – not because I failed to appreciate the downsides to EU membership, but because I understood the split as a dramatic weakening of Europe as a counterweight to Russian aggression, and as a bulwark of European stability.

I am glad that (on the former account at least) the last months have proven me wrong.