Thursday in discussing responsibility for the pandemic China, Russia and U.S. are clashing at the UN. Everybody agrees the virus is the source of disruption worldwide. It is causing interruptions in world trade. There are many virus related deaths. Allegations about responsibility for mishandling the virus are without resolution. There are charges and counter charges of politicization of the virus.
The exchange of remarks came at the Security Council’s ministerial meeting after the U.N. Secretary-General spoke. His remarks were decrying a lack of international cooperation. He sees cooperation as beneficial in tackling the still “out-of-control” coronavirus.
The exchanges reflect deep divisions among the three veto holding council members. The differences are escalating since the appearance of the virus. They also are crackling with energy and action the leader speeches at the virtual meeting were without energy.
The Chinese are stressing the importance of U.N. centered multilateralism. In the statement the Chinese are alluding to countries opting out. They are miffed the U.S. is making a COVID-19 vaccine. The Chinese assert it is a global public good which makes it available to people everywhere.
They went on to assert, “Unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction needs to be opposed in order to safeguard the authority and sanctity of international law.” This statement is a dig at U.S. and European Union sanctions on Russia, Syria.
Russia then piled on. It said the pandemic and its “common misfortune did not iron out interstate differences, but to the contrary deepened them… In a whole number of countries there is a temptation to look abroad for those who are responsible for their own internal problems… And we see attempts on the part of individual countries to use the current situation in order to move forward their narrow interests of the moment in order to settle the score with the undesirable governments or geopolitical competitors.”
The United States made its response saying, “Shame on each of you. I am astonished and disgusted by the content of today’s discussion… [some representatives are] squandering this opportunity for political purposes… President Trump has made it very clear: We will do whatever is right, even if it’s unpopular, because, let me tell you what, this is not a popularity contest… we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China…”
“The Chinese Communist Party’s decision to hide the origins of this virus, minimize its danger, and suppress scientific cooperation (that) transformed a local epidemic into a global pandemic… [these actions] prove that not all member states are equally committed to public health, transparency , and their international obligations.”
The U.S. ended its remarks saying, [one lesson from the pandemic is the need for] “unity, not division,” and calling for council members “to work together in transparency and in good faith.”
The discussion then continued to spiral down. The Chinese delivered a lengthy retort. And the Russians did too. Internationally things are becoming chippy. Maybe it is past time for that to happen. Truth has gone unspoken in favor of diplomacy for far too long. It is much easier to get along when we say what we mean. Maybe China, Russia and U.S. are clashing at the UN and it isn’t an all bad thing.