A new rule was adopted by the United Nations on Tuesday that requires an automatic review of a veto by any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. While the move is a significant backlash against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it may not be enough to stop future actions that buck the wider international community.
The Security Council adopted a rare check on the use of permanent member's veto power in a resolution put forward by the UN representative from Lichtenstein and co-sponsored by 83 member nations, including the United States.
A veto holder can explain their veto decision within ten days of it being cast and a debate must be held on the situation in question, according to the resolution.
The veto is no longer the last word on issues of peace and security, according to the representative of Lichtenstein to the UN in a tweet after the rule's adoption.
Only the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China wield this power in the UN.
Christian Wenaweser, UN ambassador for Liechtenstein, said the new rule was not directed specifically at Russia or any specific country, but instead described it as a way to increase the role of non-veto-wielding members of the UN. Even if that was the resolution's intent, it is hard to ignore the role played by Russia in inspiring its inception by attacking Ukraine on February 24 and its subsequent veto of a Security Council resolution condemning the war.
Russia inherited its veto power from the Soviet Union, which was initially granted at the UN's inception in 1945. Moscow has cast more vetoes than any other member of the council since its formation.
Russia has been responsible for a number of controversial vetoes to provide cover for its foreign policy even before the war in Ukraine.
In 2009, Moscow killed a resolution that allowed UN monitors to deploy to Georgia after invading the country less than a year earlier. Six years later, it did it again when it annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Russia and China have vetoed 11 resolutions on Syria's civil war since 2011, including several proposals to open humanitarian corridors to citizens caught in the crossfire.
The decision to institute a review of Russia's veto power was made after outrage from Ukraine and the U.S. over the ongoing war.
On April 5, Ukraine s embattled President Volodomyr Zelensky accused Russia of using its veto to cause death, while US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield decried a shameful pattern of Moscow abusing its veto power.
This new resolution is unlikely to do much in the way of curbing Russia's use of vetoes in the Security Council.
It is a non-binding resolution that does not have the power to force a state to explain why it vetoed a resolution. It does nothing more than limit the veto power of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
The reform did not secure the backing of every veto power holder despite its passage. France and the UK backed the measure with the U.S., even though they did not initially co-sponsor the rule change.
China did not vote in favor of the resolution. Since the start of the war, China has backed Russia diplomatically against the West, but it has refrained from openly endorsing the war against Ukraine itself.