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Advisor to ex-President Donald Trump, Steve Cortes blasted US support for Zelensky. Wikipedia
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International support for Russian isolation dwindles

While Western politicians are still cultivating the notion of Russia's foreign policy "isolation" after the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, a glance at the map shows that not even a quarter of the countries of the world have been following along obediently.

Published: August 19, 2022, 12:09 pm

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    Faced with reality, Western diplomats often have to admit this fact to themselves, for example at a reception at the Russian UN mission in New York in June. Dozens of UN ambassadors from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia accepted the Russian invitation – not a trace of isolation. “We thank you all for your support and your principled attitude against the so-called anti-Russian crusade,” said the Russian UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, thanking the numerous guests.

    Concerned that the war was drawing too much attention after almost six months with no prospect of an end, Western diplomats are now frankly admitting that they have limited ability to press Russia beyond official meetings. “The longer the war drags on, the more difficult it becomes to find meaningful ways to sanction Russia,” said Richard Gowan, UN director at the independent International Crisis Group.

    In some cases, Western countries are also hesitant to take certain measures, aware of the lack of support from the rest of the world. From the point of view of diplomats and observers, the increasing number of abstentions signals a growing unwillingness to publicly oppose Moscow.

    According to diplomats, in June the EU was still considering appointing a UN expert to investigate human rights violations in Russia. But the idea was quickly shelved amid fears that nearly half of the 47-member UN Human Rights Council in Geneva would oppose it.

    Olaf Wientzek, head of the Geneva office of Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation, admitted: “Countries are asking themselves: ‘Is it really that wise to be among those who oppose Russia?'”

    For its part, the Russian mission to the United Nations in Geneva said that Western states “know only too well that it is impossible to isolate Russia because it is a world power.”

    The diplomatic isolation did not extend, for example, to a secret ballot in Geneva to choose the best “national dress” at a reception in June. Ironically, a Russian diplomat won. A video showed her being awarded a box of chocolates. The Ukrainian delegation stormed out of the room disgruntled.

    Russia not only has veto power but general support

    As a veto power in the 15-strong UN Security Council, Russia can protect itself from substantial measures such as sanctions. But Moscow has also found other ways to limit support for Western diplomatic moves in other areas. For example, ahead of an April vote by the 193-member UN General Assembly to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, Moscow warned that a yes or an abstention would be considered “unfriendly,” with consequences for relations with those countries.

    Within a week of the February 24 invasion, nearly three-fourths of the General Assembly voted to censure Russia and demand the withdrawal of her troops. But: “Support will wane because the March resolutions are at a peak and there is no appetite for further action until red lines are crossed,” predicted a senior Asian diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous.

    Ukraine has requested Russia’s expulsion from the United Nations. However, this unprecedented move requires a recommendation from the Security Council – which Russia can block – and a subsequent vote by the General Assembly.

    Another possibility would be to withdraw the credentials of the representatives of Russian President Putin. However, all of these measures would require majorities at least in the United Nations General Assembly. More than half a year after the start of the war in the Ukraine and in view of the all-round failure of Russia’s “isolation” this is no longer feasible.

    US views on Zelensky are shifting

    In the public debate in the US, a departure in American politics from the official pro-Ukraine course has been subtly orchestrated for months. High-ranking politicians, experts and former diplomats such as former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger have criticized the current course of the White House.

    Former adviser to ex-President Donald Trump, Steve Cortes,  in a guest article for Newsweek magazine criticized Washington’s foreign policy fixation on current Ukrainian President Zelensky and the one-sided support for Ukraine in the country’s Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

    Zelensky, he comments, is increasingly showing his true colors, namely that of a “corrupt autocrat” who is also playing his own game against China, thereby stabbing US interests in the back. The former is shown by the fact that all opposition media in Ukraine were shut down even before the Russian intervention began, and almost all opposition parties are now banned.

    According to Cortes, the American press is increasingly breaking its silence on corruption, which is also an important issue in Ukraine with regard to American financial and military aid.

    The former presidential adviser sees the financial and military aid to Ukraine as particularly questionable. “So American taxpayers are borrowing tens of billions of dollars that their country doesn’t have to bestow a fortune on the unaccountable leader of a corrupt country to escalate a war in which America has no vital national interest,” Cortes said.

    He said the fight “between Putin and Zelenski” does not affect any essential national interest of the US. Worse still, “Biden’s interference hurts America and worsens the plight of the Ukrainian people, who have become the pawn in a battle by the Black Sea oligarchs.”

    America should now insist on dialogue, negotiation and de-escalation. If the warring factions refuse, then it is time for an American approach of realism and restraint, because “this is simply not our fight, and Zelensky is certainly not our fighter,” Cortes concluded.

    In the US, Cortes is known as a TV presenter and political commentator who has worked for CNBC and CNN, among others. In 2016 he was involved in Donald Trump’s election campaign as an advisor and manager. After Trump took office, he returned to journalism and the world of finance, but has remained an “informal advisor” on economic and foreign policy issues, among other things.

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