Yesterday found UN Secretary-General António Guterres in Kiev, where he went after his visit to Moscow to hear the other side of the story.
Putin celebrated that momentous event with a two-rocket salute. Those projectiles were fired at the city centre, killing a few civilians and missing Guterres by what in missile terms was a whisker.
If that was a message of contempt for that august organisation, then for once I share the Moscow monster’s sentiments. I despise international organisations like the UN as much as I respect defence alliances like Nato.
The latter were created by nations wishing to pool their concrete geopolitical needs for mutual benefit. The former were created as an embodiment of abstract bien pensant ideas, such as that perennial socialist dream of a single world government.
However, all international organisations, whatever their stated missions, were created for the implicit purpose of providing more sinecures for a motley crew of international bureaucrats.
They live high on the hog in places like Geneva and New York, where they drive the local cops crazy by not paying their parking tickets. Other than that, they just talk and pass meaningless resolutions, mostly against Israel and the US, the country hosting their headquarters.
I was a boy when I first began to follow the UN, specifically its 1961 fiasco in the Congo. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld tried to intervene in the ongoing massacre, only to die in a plane crash that the CIA believed was engineered by the KGB. Even in my adolescence I wondered why the KGB had to bother.
Since then, every attempt by the UN to mitigate similar massacres all over the world has only succeeded in making them worse. Kashmir, Cambodia, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Burma, now the Ukraine – take your pick.
To single out one typical event, in 1995 the Serbs murdered more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, the UN-declared safe zone. As the genocidal massacre went on, UN troops were looking on in sheer impotence.
At least, the UN’s precursor, the League of Nations, had the guts to expel the Soviet Union for its aggression against Finland in 1939. The gesture was purely symbolic, but symbols do matter sometimes.
Guterres’s UN can’t even do that, and it wouldn’t have expelled Russia even if those two missiles had been more accurately aimed. After all, Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. As such, she can veto any resolution Putin doesn’t like.
The UN has so far failed in its attempts to facilitate evacuation of civilians from the ruins of Mariupol and other places Russia has de-Nazified and demilitarised into the ground. It’s all just talk, which, as we know, is cheap. Cheaper even than human lives in the areas Putin fancies.
The EU is another international organisation beneath contempt. It was perceived by its founders as a first step towards creating a single European state, a prelude to going global. The EU too is useless at best, pernicious at worst.
All this talk about a single defence policy and even a single European army is staggering in its schizophrenic divorce from reality. And the reality is that, while they spend billions providing aid for the Ukraine, the same EU members are paying tens of billions into Putin’s coffers.
They impose sanctions, only to watch some of their members flout them with blithe disregard. Large gas companies in Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary have announced their intention to open accounts with Gazprombank in compliance with Putin’s order that they pay for his gas in roubles.
That would involve greasing Putin’s war machine with billions in real currencies that will then be converted to the wallpaper that the rouble has become. In other words, four EU members, including its de facto leader, Germany, are circumventing international sanctions designed to curb Putin’s savagery.
Russia’s ability to survive as an expansionist power, if at all, is wholly contingent on her hydrocarbon revenues. The higher the price of a barrel or cubic metre, the more aggressive will Russia be – and vice versa.
Hydrocarbon prices in the 1990s were a fraction of what they are now, which made Russia relatively docile. ‘Relatively’ is the operative word here for Russia still managed to start a murderous war in Chechnya and probe for weak spots elsewhere.
But war against Europe and the West in general was still beyond Russia’s means. Her aggressively messianic spirit was as willing as now or ever, but her economic flesh was weak.
Like his successor Putin, Yeltsyn dreamt about dominating Europe. In that spirit (and also vodka), he once addressed Bill Clinton with this plea: “All I’m asking is that you give Europe to Russia… You can take all other countries, defend their security. I’ll take Europe and provide for its security… Bill, I mean it. Europe has never felt as close to Russia as now.”
That sounded like drunken muttering but, as the Russians say, what a sober man has in his mind, a drunk one has on his tongue. Yet Yeltsyn was in no position to act on his dreams – cheap oil held him back.
Yet now the EU is actively doing all it can to help Putin make those dreams come true. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t thank God that we in Britain are shot of that vile contrivance.
Yet whatever I think of international organisations, congratulations to António Guterres personally on his narrow escape. We wouldn’t want him to suffer the same fate that Dag Hammarskjöld suffered – and at the same hands.