U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made a veiled dig at Russia and China when he told the UN Security Council that the actions of some big powers are sending a wrong message to other countries.
In a virtual session on May 7 attended by the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers, Blinken stressed the need to uphold international commitments, focus on human rights, and respect the principle of equality of all nations.
Blinken said that when UN member states -- particularly permanent council members -- violate these rules and block attempts to hold accountable those who violate international law, it sends the message that others can break those rules with impunity.
He didn’t name any countries, but his remarks appeared aimed especially at China and Russia, which along with the United States and its allies France and Britain are permanent, veto-wielding powers of the 15-member council.
The foreign ministers of Russia and China, Sergei Lavrov and Wang Yi, both stressed the importance of maintaining the United Nations as the center of multilateralism, which the U.S. top diplomat did not.
The session came amid spiraling tensions between Washington and Moscow over issues including Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Syria, alleged meddling in elections in the United States and other democracies, cyberattacks allegedly from Russian hackers, and the poisoning and jailing of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.
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Washington and Beijing are also at odds over influence in the Indo-Pacific region and human rights in Hong Kong and the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where the treatment of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups has drawn condemnation from the international community.
Blinken said countries don't respect a founding UN principle of sovereign equality -- according to which every sovereign state possesses the same legal rights as any other sovereign state in international law -- when they “purport to redraw the borders of another” country, threaten force to resolve territorial disputes, claim entitlement to a sphere of influence, or target other countries with disinformation, meddle in elections, and go after journalists or dissidents.
Blinken also said that governments that insist what they do within their own borders is their own business don’t have “a blank check to enslave, torture, disappear, ethnically cleanse their people, or violate their human rights in any other way.”
Addressing the Security Council session, Lavrov accused Western nations of developing their own rules and trying to impose them across the world.
“Not all of our partners are guided by the imperative of working honestly to establish genuine multilateral cooperation.”
Wang of China called for “equity and justice, not bullying or hegemony,” and stressed that international law must apply to all “and there should be no room for exceptionalism or double standards.”