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The world of the Security Council in many respects is a world of extremes: situations, time frames, power disparities. Within this high-pressure and high risk forum there reasonable expectations that all responses to disasters – natural and human made – are ‘timely’ and ‘expedient’. However, they also need to be proportional and appropriate.
We know a few things about China’s voting record: it tends to register objection through abstention rather than the veto; it also doesn’t like to veto alone; nor does it like to be seen to be the objector in the Council. China is also a contributor to peacekeeping; it has been willing to vote in favour of peace operations when the host government has consented. It has not always voted with Russia. But, at the times when they have voted in tandem it has been either strategically neutral for one party.
The question I therefore want to ask, rather than answer, in this piece is whether this offers an opportunity. Instead of seeing China and Russia as a package, seeing them as individual entities, with their own strategic interests and can be appealed to separately may hold a valuable key to learning how to ensure the Security Council can be effective even in a situation of a changing global power division. In this sense China and Russia vote together when it is in both their interests and/or when they can coordinate without any interests for the other being affected. In this sense it isn’t that they have a unified approach and are ‘friends’ but rather they can gain benefits from each other and render mutual assistance.
As a result, knowing (or at least having a reasonable expectation) that a small targeted well defined and delimited proposition, that has been formulated with some meaningful engagement from all Council members, stands a greater chance of being accepted, and that Russia and China may be erroneously represented as being an enduring duo who cooperate when it is possible, may then provide some useful policy ideas. But, also cause us a momentary reflection on the politics of the P3 in their role as drafters.
Cover Image: White House (Pete Souza) / Maison Blanche (Pete Souza)-The Official White House Photostream. Wikipedia, public domain.
What is your opinion of the dynamics of relations between the permanent members of the UN Security Council? Are P2 and P3 coherent blocs and how do you see the relations among them? Share your comments and opinions in the comment section below.