On October 12, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution rejecting the accession to Russia of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine.
The resolution is titled, “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine: Defending the Principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” It reads, in part:
[The UNGA] Declares that the unlawful actions of the Russian Federation with regard to the illegal so-called referendums held from 23 to 27 September 2022 in parts of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine that, in part, are or have been under the temporary military control of the Russian Federation, and the subsequent attempted illegal annexation of these regions, have no validity under international law and do not form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine…
143 IN FAVOR
10 NOT VOTING
Let’s call the votes in the last three categories: NO, ABSTENTION and NOT VOTING, or NAN for short. The tally then looks like this:
143 IN FAVOR
From this result it appears the resolution won overwhelming support, just as Western media reports. But voting in the UNGA is undemocratic in the extreme. For example, Tuvalu (population 12,000), Principality of Liechtenstein (population 38,128) and China (population 1,439,323,776) each get one vote in the UNGA. 1 That is why the vote tally looks very different when measured by world population:
54.56% of world population: NAN
45.44% of world population: IN FAVOR
If the vote were measured by population, then this resolution failed decisively. The Western press casually and routinely buries this obvious fact. But that’s the least of the deceptive reporting of the vote. When it comes to the October 12 resolution, and this year’s other UNGA resolutions condemning Russia, the press has also avoided reporting that these votes are consistently marked by the global divide of race, wealth, and position in the world economic order: the whitest, richest, most powerful and imperial countries support these resolutions, and the poorer, weaker countries of color, in general, tend not to.
As you might expect, just as with the UNGA resolutions condemning Russia on March 2 and April 7 of this year, the NAN vote includes the world’s most socialist-leaning and redistributive governments, as well as the leading anti-imperialist countries in the U.S. crosshairs, such as China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Eritrea, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and Viet Nam. 2
Statistics on the race/wealth divide in the March 2 and April 7 UNGA votes can be found in two articles, here and here. 3 But take just the racial split in the March 2 vote, since that result was very like the result for the October 12 vote. On March 2 the UNGA voted to condemn the Russian intervention of February 24. That condemnation won the support of only 41% of the world’s population. The racial split in the vote was plain. Although “white” countries account for roughly 14% of the world’s population they made up one-third of the vote IN FAVOR of the March 2 resolution, and only 3% of the recorded NAN vote.
Before comparing the March 2 and October 12 votes, note that whiteness is closely associated with the richest countries, as well as a central, or “core,” position in the world order, according to world-systems analysis. 4 In that analysis, the “core” states of the world-system are the countries of North America and Western Europe, plus Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan and Singapore, while all other countries belong to the “periphery” or “semi-periphery” of the world-system. 5)
With that in mind, compare the March 2 vote to the October 12 vote. The October 12 anti-Russia resolution won slightly more support than the March 2 resolution (45% on October 12 vs. 41% on March 2). 6 Yet the breakdown of the two votes by wealth, color and core/periphery status of the countries was virtually identical. 7 Which means that by population, the majority of countries of color, poorer countries, and countries of the global periphery have for eight months maintained their refusal to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
This is remarkable given the world-historic events in Ukraine. Eight months of the war have now passed, tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed, with many more severely injured and millions displaced. The Western press has been relentless in its uncritical support of the U.S./NATO effort in Ukraine, including near daily accounts of Russian atrocities while ignoring all reports that refute them, and ignoring as well many reports of Ukrainian atrocities and war crimes. The U.S. and the EU have placed severe sanctions on Russia, which, curiously, seem to be harming Western Europeans and the people of the Global South more than the ostensible target. 8
Most important, perhaps, for the nations of the UNGA, is that the October 12 resolution concerns the most significant events in Ukraine since February 24: the accession to Russia of Ukrainian territory. This is presumably a much more serious violation of the UN Charter than the assumed violation Russia committed with its February 24 intervention. And yet a majority of the world’s population still refuses to condemn the territorial acquisitions.
Just as notable is the opposite phenomenon: the unbroken unity of the wealthy, almost entirely white, nations of the imperial core. Every single one of these countries voted IN FAVOR of the October 12 resolution. In the face of world-shaking events stemming from the war, this privileged voting block has proved unbreakable in its animosity toward Russia.
But UNGA resolutions are not the only measure of this global divide on Russia/Ukraine. If support for the West’s sanctions regime against Russia is any indication, the split is perhaps more dramatic. As Gfoeller and Rundell wrote in Newsweek (9/15/22), “While the United States and its closest allies in Europe and Asia have imposed tough economic sanctions on Moscow, 87% of the world’s population has declined to follow us.” And note that countries agreeing to the sanctions on Russia are nearly all countries of the imperial core.
Racialized imperial relations are different than personal racism. Russia is a white country, though it is not among the rich nations and belongs to the periphery of the world-system. Japan and Singapore are rich, core countries, even though they are countries of color. Yet Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, has aligned politically with the Global South. This is especially true now, with regard to Syria, Iran, China and the Left governments of Latin America, such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. This earns Russia a special racialized status in the Western press and the global order. 9 On the other hand, Japan and Singapore have long been given a national status comparable to one that existed for some individuals in apartheid South Africa, that of “honorary whites.” Neither fact belies the racism of the global system. On the contrary, it becomes more obvious. People of the Global South seem to recognize this when they watch Russia confront the global hegemon in Europe.
And so, just as with previous UNGA votes condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the Western press, with maximum duplicity, continues to treat the October 12th vote as a resounding world condemnation of Russia, when in fact it is proof of the world majority’s refusal to condemn Russian actions in Ukraine.
Ukraine is now the tragic battlefield of the Global North, but the vote on this UNGA resolution and world rejection of sanctions against Russia reveal a deeper, global conflict drenched in the blood of centuries of imperialism and white supremacy.
- ↩ For world population figures in this article, see world population; population by country; population of India.)
- ↩ Abstention on such resolutions should not be read as silence. For example, the NAN vote includes the abstention of China, which recently expressed support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine: “On Russia’s core interests and major issues of concern, China expresses its understanding and full support for Russia. On the Ukraine issue, for example, the United States and NATO are expanding directly on Russia’s doorstep, threatening Russia’s national security and the lives of Russian citizens. Given the circumstances, Russia has taken necessary measures. China understands, and we are coordinating on various aspects. I believe Russia was cornered. In this case, to protect the core interests of the country, Russia gave a resolute response.” (Li Zhanshu, chairman of China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee, September 8, 2022)
- ↩ “The UN Condemnation of Russia is Endorsed by Countries Run by the Richest, Oldest, Whitest People on Earth But Only 41% of the World’s Population” (March 28, 2022), here, here, or here; “Global Divide: 76% of Humanity (& Nearly All Poorer Nations of Color) Did Not Vote To Kick Russia Off the UN Human Rights Council” (April 25, 2022), here, here, or here.
- ↩ World-systems theory puts the global wealth split into relief, dividing the nations of the world into the “core” and “periphery” of the global system. In world-systems theory the surplus value of labor flows disproportionately from the periphery to the core: “The countries of the world can be divided into two major world regions: the ‘core’ and the ‘periphery.’ The core includes major world powers and the countries that contain much of the wealth of the planet. The periphery has those countries that are not reaping the benefits of global wealth and globalization.” (Colin Stief, ThoughtCo.com, 1/21/20)
- ↩ According to Salvatore Babones (2005), the core countries are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.
- ↩ The slight difference between the March 2 and October 12 votes is accounted for by a reshuffling of the votes of five countries which voted IN FAVOR in March and NAN in October, and seven countries that voted NAN in March and IN FAVOR in October. The first group includes Djibouti, Honduras, Lesotho, Sao Tome and Principe, and Thailand. The second group includes Angola, Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Madagascar, Morocco, and Senegal.
- ↩ See fn. 3.
- ↩ The United Nations reported on statements at October 12 session considering the resolution: “India joined several other speakers in expressing deep worry that the people of the global South were feeling pain from a food, fuel and fertilizer shortage, and sky-high price increases, as a result of the war.”
- ↩ Occasionally the animus is stated boldly. Here is Former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on NBC’s Meet the Press in 2017: “…the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, almost genetically, [are] driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever…”