Watch CBS News

U.N. vote could "put Russia on the spot" for its "shameful" vetoes of Security Council action on Ukraine

Ukrainians seek refuge in Zaporizhzhia
Ukrainians seek refuge in Zaporizhzhia amid Russian shelling 06:12

United Nations — As United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres prepared to meet Russia's president in Moscow to push for a ceasefire in Ukraine, there was new action back at U.N. headquarters on Tuesday to highlight Russia's isolation and to address, symbolically at least, the global body's inability to stop the war.

The General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus on Tuesday that will bring every use of a Security Council member nation's veto power up for scrutiny by the entire body. The draft resolution, informally called the "veto initiative," was crafted by Liechtenstein with dozens of cosponsors, including the U.S. and the U.K.

With it now adopted, any time one of the Security Council's five veto-wielding permanent members — China, France, Russia, U.S. and U.K. — use that power to block a resolution in the U.N.'s most powerful body it will require a meeting of the General Assembly, where all U.N. members will be able to voice their views on the veto.

For years Russia has used its veto power to stymie Security Council resolutions — which, unlike General Assembly resolutions, are enforceable under international law — against its military tactics in Ukraine and, before that, in Syria.

UN Syria
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia votes on a resolution during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria, in an April 14, 2018 file photo at United Nations headquarters in New York. Mary Altaffer/AP

"We are particularly concerned by Russia's shameful pattern of abusing its veto privilege over the past two decades," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, supporting the initiative.

The U.K. Mission lauded the resolution as a way to give "the entire U.N. membership a voice on the use of a veto."

Christian Wenaweser, Liechtenstein's ambassador to the U.N., said in a letter to the 193-nation Assembly that the resolution was "a meaningful step to empower the General Assembly and strengthen multilateralism."

Richard Gowan, U.N. director for the International Crisis Group think-tank, told CBS News the measure was a "good idea to signal that there are real reputational costs involved in using the veto."

"If the veto initiative succeeds, I suspect that the U.S. or its allies will table a resolution demanding relief for Mariupol that Russia will veto," he predicted before the vote on Tuesday, referring to the besieged city in southern Ukraine. "That will then trigger the new General Assembly mechanism and put Russia on the spot."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.