Military Equipment Transfer in Support of Ukraine Must Not Hinder Aspiration for Peace, Disarmament Affairs Chief Tells Security Council
Voiceless Millions ‘Do Not Willingly Raise Their Sons, Daughters to Be Fodder for Cannons’ by World’s Major Powers, Says Peace Activist
The Security Council today heard urgent calls, from within and outside the United Nations, for de-escalation of the conflict in Ukraine as delegates weighed the multifarious risks posed by arms flows against the need to assist that country defend itself.
The 15-member organ first heard from Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, who issued a warning about the threats posed by the large-scale influx of weapons into a situation of armed conflict. Many Governments have announced military assistance to Ukraine, including heavy conventional armaments and munitions as well as progressively heavier, modern systems, while other States are transferring weapons, such as combat drones, to the Russian armed forces for use in Ukraine, she noted.
Calling upon Member States to participate in these transparency mechanisms, she stressed the importance of information exchange, appropriate accounting and safeguarding of arms and ammunition. In the meantime, homes, schools, roads, bridges, hospitals and health facilities in Ukraine are being attacked, she pointed out, underscoring that the transfer of military equipment in support of Ukraine must not derail the aspiration for peace.
Also briefing the Council today was Roger Waters, peace activist and co-founder of the music group Pink Floyd, who said the Council’s five permanent members must set aside their own goals, such as bigger profits for war industries. While condemning the illegal invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, he said it was “not unprovoked” and expressed concern about provocateurs and the arming of Ukraine by third parties. Calling for an urgent ceasefire, he said the voiceless majority does not willingly raise sons and daughters to serve as fodder for the cannons of the world’s major Powers.
People around the world are worried about the hegemonic march of some empire or other towards unipolar world domination, he said, noting that while civilians face daily violence as well as a lack of food and fuel in Ukraine, even in a rich city like New York, countless people find themselves in dire straits, having fallen overboard from the deck of the “neoliberal ship”.
When the floor opened for discussion, the representative of Albania said that Mr. Waters is lucky to be in a free country, whereas if he had been speaking in the Russian Federation, “he might already be in custody”. Describing the war in Ukraine as a war of choice, he said the international community chose not to look away as a Member State of the United Nations was viciously attacked by its neighbour. Highlighting Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, which allows States to assist countries exercising their right to self-defence, he urged the Russian Federation to reverse course.
The representative of Ukraine echoed those words, stressing that his country’s inherent right to self-defence is enshrined in the Charter. The military defeat of the Russian Federation is imminent if that country’s criminal regime does not implement the demands of the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice to withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s territory, he said, adding that President Vladimir Putin has chosen to treat his country as an “animal farm to produce more and more cannon fodder”. Reminding Mr. Waters — who “knows so little, but seems to know it so fluently” — that his band, Pink Floyd, was banned in the Soviet Union after it condemned that country’s invasion of Afghanistan, he pointed to the irony of Mr. Waters becoming yet another “brick in the wall” of Russian propaganda.
The representative of the United States, who also questioned Mr. Waters’ qualifications to speak to the Council as an expert briefer on arms control or European security issues, rejected the victim-blaming notion that Ukraine’s self-defence is the obstacle to ending this war. The Russian Federation should come clean about receiving Iranian drones as well as rockets and missiles from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, adding that Ukraine is using the weapons from his country and others to stop Moscow’s relentless attacks. While some countries have chosen to defend the Charter by taking up diplomatic efforts for Ukraine, others are supporting Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself, he said.
However, the Russian Federation’s delegate said the West is directly involved in the Ukraine conflict, not only by supplying arms and intelligence, but also by sending mercenaries and service personnel. The “never-ending conveyor belt” of new supplies to Ukraine over the last three months has resulted in increasing the share prices of certain Western defence companies, while Poland and the Czech Republic are profiting by becoming “military repair centres”, he said. Describing Ukraine as a private military company in a business scheme, he said that until Kyiv is “fully bankrupted”, the flow of Western weapons will not dry up.
“When we talk of war, we are talking of human lives,” Gabon’s delegate reminded the Council as she called on all parties to put an end to the war-mongering. The Council must set in motion the mechanisms provided for under Chapter VI of the Charter, she said, as she pointed out that renewing the grain export initiative proved that it is always possible to activate diplomatic channels. Else, she warned, “we can expect to count more dead”.
The representative of Ecuador highlighted the grave risks posed by the flow of armaments through “deviation, spread and escalation”. Measures to counter these risks are of the utmost importance for post-conflict recovery as well as regional security and stability, even for the prevention of conflicts on other continents, he noted.
Also speaking were representatives of Switzerland, China, Brazil, Japan, Ghana, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, France, Mozambique and Malta.
The Russian Federation took the floor a second time.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 11:54 a.m.
IZUMI NAKAMITSU, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, noting the approaching tragic anniversary of the military offensive in Ukraine by the Russian Federation, said that over the past months, a number of Governments have announced that they were providing military assistance to Ukraine for its defence needs. This assistance has included the transfer of heavy conventional armaments and munitions as well as progressively heavier, modern systems, such as main battle tanks. There have also been reports of States transferring weapons, such as combat drones, to the Russian armed forces for use in Ukraine. Cautioning about the risks involved in large-scale influx of weapons into a situation of armed conflict, she said that in accordance with international norms, any transfers of arms and ammunition should involve pre-transfer risk assessments and post-shipment controls. Also stressing the importance of information exchange between importing, transit and exporting States, appropriate accounting and safeguarding of arms and ammunition, as well as customs and border control measures, she highlighted the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and the Arms Trade Treaty and called upon Member States to participate in these transparency mechanisms.
Reiterating the responsibility of all parties to the armed conflict to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, she noted that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 18,657 civilian casualties. This total includes 7,110 killed and 11,547 injured, and the actual figures are likely considerably higher. Also highlighting the widespread impacts on critical civilian infrastructure and services, as well as the direct humanitarian consequences for civilians, she noted that homes, schools, roads, bridges, hospitals and health facilities have also been attacked. All feasible measures must be taken to avoid, and in any event to minimize, civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure, she stressed, highlighting the adoption in November 2022 of the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas.
Reiterating the United Nations call for peace, she said the past 12 months have seen immense loss and devastation. Citing the Secretary-General’s warning that the prospect for peace keeps diminishing, she expressed regret that the chance of a negotiated settlement of the conflict seems at present to be slim so long as the current military logic continues to prevail. Stressing that the transfer of military equipment in support of Ukraine must not derail the aspiration for peace, she reiterated the General Assembly’s call to support the de-escalation of the situation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict, with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
ROGER WATERS, civil peace activist, briefed the Council video link, stressing that he speaks for countless “voiceless” people around the world who are concerned about the high volume of weapons currently flooding into Ukraine. In that unhappy country, civilians face daily violence as well as a lack of food, fuel and electricity. However, even here in a “big, rich city like New York”, countless people find themselves in dire straits despite working hard every day. Indeed, too many people have fallen overboard from the deck of today’s “neoliberal ship” and ended up drowning. Around the globe, people only wish to live in peace and conditions of parity, and to be able to care for themselves and their families.
Calling for the international community’s help to rectify that imbalance, he said the Council’s five permanent members will need to put their own goals — bigger profits for war industries, and a larger slice of the cake that is the Earth, for example — to one side. Urging them to open their minds to new points of view and put themselves in the shoes of others, he said the voiceless majority is concerned that their wars “are not of our choosing, but will destroy this planet that is our home”. They are worried about the hegemonic march of some empire or other towards unipolar world domination. “Please, assure us that that is not your vision,” he implored, noting that the further down that road one goes, the closer the planet gets to Armageddon.
Noting that the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation was indeed illegal — and condemning it in the strongest possible terms — he said it was nevertheless “not unprovoked”. He condemned, also in the strongest terms, the provocateurs. Referring to recent statements that derided his own invitation to address the Council, he recalled that his own father was killed in the Second World War, adding: “I know something about war and loss”. His parents taught him to always do the right thing, which includes always supporting human rights — for Ukrainians, Palestinians “and all the rest of us as well”.
Turning to the arming of Ukraine by third parties, he said the voiceless majority does not willingly raise sons and daughters to serve as fodder for the cannons of the world’s major Powers. “Not one more Russian or Ukrainian life is to be spent,” he stressed, calling urgently for a ceasefire. A huge global constituency — who themselves can barely afford heat and food — is demanding change, albeit voicelessly. “It seems the only thing the Powers that Be think we can afford is perpetual war,” he stressed, calling on the heads of major Powers to drop their arms race and urgently end the conflict in Ukraine.
VASSILY NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that the levers that could influence the pursuit of a peaceful settlement ended up in the hands of Western arms corporations, emphasizing that they are the last people interested in peace. He pointed out that, thanks to the “never-ending conveyor belt” of new supplies to Ukraine over the last three months, the share prices of certain Western defence companies have risen, and “American industrialists” have found a new testing ground for their weapons. Asking how arms manufacturers could possibly resist such profit and opportunity, he said that Western countries have found in Ukraine a pretext with which to significantly increase their defence budgets and the revenues of domestic defence companies. Further, Poland and the Czech Republic are profiting by becoming “military repair centres” and 2022 was one of the most profitable for the Switzerland’s defence industry. He said that, in this race for profit, modern-day Swiss people are “keeping up with their predecessors from 80 years ago”, when Swiss weapons armed “the Third Reich and militaristic Japan”.
“That’s pragmatic neutrality for you,” he added, stating that a business scheme has been concocted in which Ukraine plays the role of a private military company — one which the West wants to hold out as long as possible. Until the Kyiv “regime” is “fully bankrupted on the battlefield”, the flow of Western weapons won’t dry up, he said. He also stressed that the West is directly involved in the Ukraine conflict, not only by supplying arms and intelligence but also by sending mercenaries and service personnel, without which Kyiv would not be able to operate Western weapon systems. He also underlined the responsibility of the Western backers of the Kyiv regime for the inhumane methods of waging war and the glaring violations of international humanitarian law carried out by their proxies.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine continues to cost lives and increase the suffering of the civilian population in the midst of winter. Moreover, the humanitarian and economic repercussions of this war are felt beyond Ukraine. Demanding an end to the hostilities, she called on Moscow to cease all combat operations and withdraw its troops from the territory of Ukraine without delay. Voicing full support for the latter’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, she called on all parties to strictly respect international humanitarian and human rights law, emphasizing: “Even in times of war, there are rules to follow.” Calling for accountability for all violations, she said it is now crucial to move towards a peaceful, just and lasting solution via diplomatic channels, and offered Switzerland’s good offices for that purpose.
DAI BING (China), expressing concern that some countries keep sending weapons to the theater of war and expanding the categories and range of weapons, said this amplifies the risk of strategic miscalculation and escalation of hostilities. The relevant parties should adopt strict control measures that prevent the proliferation of weapons and ammunition, he said, warning of the risk that they may fall in the hands of terrorists and armed groups, thereby creating new instabilities in a greater geographic region. “The dire consequences of conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia serve as sobering lessons,” he said, adding that European countries must consider the significant threat posed by weapons and explosive remnants of war to post-war recovery and reconstruction as well. The crisis in Ukraine is global and multifaceted in nature and there is no purely military solution, he said, adding that sanctions and upgrading weapons have not calmed the situation.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) recalled that, at its meeting on Ukraine on 6 February, his delegation expressed its regret that the public debate on the conflict is increasingly focused on transfers of weapons and ammunition, and not on what seems most important — an immediate ceasefire and the opening of peace negotiations. “The emphasis on arms transfers is symptomatic of what we see as a serious escalation in the conflict,” he said, reiterating that States have a right to self-defence as a fundamental principle of international law. “Nevertheless, this right must never overshadow the greater duty to restore international peace and security,” he stressed, citing the serious risk that weapons transferred to any of the conflict parties might fall into the hands of unauthorized recipients, including militias and criminal or terrorist groups. “These threats are real and deserve the attention of this Council,” he said, while urging the parties in Ukraine to immediately suspend hostilities without preconditions and to engage in dialogue.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), reiterating his country’s condemnation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine in the strongest terms, said Moscow’s actions constitute a “clear and flagrant” violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. He underscored Ukraine’s right of self-defence against aggression, adding that the international community’s support is entirely legitimate for the maintenance of international peace and security. “On the contrary, no nation should support Russia’s aggression,” he stressed, adding that Moscow should refrain from using the Security Council as a platform to divert attention away from its acts.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) reaffirmed Ukraine’s rights to self-defence and to take all necessary measures — within the limits of international law — to protect its people and territory from the aggressive acts of the Russian Federation. She expressed concern, however, over the possibility of accidental or miscalculated actions that could have catastrophic outcomes as the warring sides mass strategic resources in anticipation of intensified warfare in the coming days. Further, it is alarming that a military victory is being sought over collectively held values relating to the peaceful settlement of conflicts, and many past and present conflicts throughout the world have shown that there is little — or no — chance of establishing peace through military action. She therefore urged the Council to intensify its efforts towards peace, including by facilitating dialogue between the parties, their allies and other relevant actors. She went on to emphasize the moral and legal obligations of the Russian Federation — as the protagonist of this war — to end all its operations in Ukraine and immediately, unconditionally withdraw its forces from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine. Until then, she added, Ghana fears that the prospect of a peaceful settlement may continue to remain out of reach.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon), stressing that “when we talk of war, we are talking of human lives”, said the flow of armaments portends not only a continuation of fighting but also that fighting will grow ever more bitter. “We can expect to count more dead” and more destruction of civilian infrastructure, she said, even though the international community has time and time again condemned the use of weapons of mass destruction, the targeting of innocent civilians and the shelling of residences and hospitals. Citing the Secretary-General’s statement that prospects for peace continue to diminish, she noted that renewing the grain export initiative was a source of hope because it proved that it is always possible to activate the channels of diplomacy. Calling upon all parties to set in motion the mechanisms provided for under Chapter VI of the Charter in order to put an end to the war-mongering, she called upon parties to silence weapons and launch good-faith negotiations.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said the Russian Federation did not call today’s meeting to discuss prospects for peace. Instead, it is aimed at attempting to justify its war and misdirect responsibility. By this time in 2022, Moscow had assembled a military force of over 100,000 troops and a massive accumulation of weaponry and equipment on three sides of Ukraine. On 24 February, it launched its all-out invasion. While Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin claimed he was stopping a genocide in the Donbas region, the International Court of Justice rejected that reasoning and ordered Moscow to immediately end its invasion. Noting that its war has been assisted by Belarus and conducted with weapons from Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — in contravention of United Nations sanctions — she said Ukraine had no choice but to exercise its United Nations Charter right to defend itself. It is in that context that the United Kingdom and other countries have proudly provided support, she said.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said Mr. Waters is lucky to be in a free country, with the right to say whatever he likes. Had he said what he did today in the Russian Federation, “he might already be in custody”. Calls for peace must be sincere, he said, describing the war in Ukraine as a war of choice without a shred of justification. “This dangerous adventure has posed a clear threat to the peace and security of Europe […] with much larger implications worldwide,” he said. All of Moscow’s plans in Ukraine have gone wrong, and it has achieved none of its goals. Urging it to reverse course, he said the world has chosen not to look away as a Member State of the United Nations was viciously attacked by its neighbour. Instead, they have supported Ukraine under the clear provisions of Article 51 of the Charter, which allows States to assist countries exercising their right to self-defence. Urging Ukraine’s partners to continue to push back against the aggression, he said the real source of concern should be the illegal transfer of weapons by the Russian Federation from Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which are in blatant contravention of United Nations resolutions.
GHASAQ YOUSIF ABDALLA SHAHEEN (United Arab Emirates) reiterated her country’s long-standing position that it is vital to safeguard weapons during transfer, storage and deployment, particularly in the context of ongoing military hostilities. She therefore urged continued vigilance and transparency regarding the measures in place to mitigate any unintended risks that may be associated with arms transfers in this context. To this end, she welcomed all ongoing efforts and initiatives to strengthen arms control in Ukraine and across the region, especially those aimed at addressing potential diversion, as it is crucial that these weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. Adding that today’s topic highlights the importance of addressing the conflict’s potential impact on weapons proliferation, she said that the Council must ensure consistent compliance with all its resolutions.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States), questioning Roger Waters’ qualifications to speak to the 15-member organ as an expert briefer on arms control or European security issues, cited his question about the Council’s vision and said that his country’s vision is for a world where Europe is at peace and free. Stressing that the Russian Federation’s invasion is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, he said that defence of the Charter of the United Nations is not just about words written on paper but about the principles at its heart. While some countries have chosen to do that by taking up diplomatic efforts for Ukraine, others are supporting Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself, he said. Stressing that the right to individual and collective self-defence is reflected in Article 51 of the Charter, he added that these are inconvenient realities for the Russian Federation. The security assistance, including weapons that the United States and more than 50 other countries are providing, is for Ukraine’s self-defence, he stressed, adding that the country is using these weapons to stop the Russian Federation’s relentless shelling of cities. Rejecting the victim-blaming notion that Ukraine’s self-defence is the obstacle to ending this war, he added that the Russian Federation has consistently failed to take any actions towards peace. In fact, that country is preparing for a further large-scale offensive action against Ukraine, he said, adding that if it wants to talk about dangerous arms transfers, it should come clean about the hundreds of Iranian drones that Tehran transferred, or the rockets and missiles delivered by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the peaceful settlement of the war depends on the Russian Federation, “which is entirely responsible for it”. Demanding that Moscow immediately withdraw from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, he said that if the Russian Federation stopped fighting today there would be peace, but if Ukraine stopped fighting it would be annihilated. “Let us not allow [the Russian Federation] to invert who is responsible for what,” he stressed. France is providing Ukraine with military support both bilaterally and through the European Union, thereby helping a sovereign State that has been attacked by another. Meanwhile, Moscow is violating numerous Council resolutions, including by using combat drones supplied by Iran in contravention of resolution 2231 (2015). Calling on the United Nations to investigate those violations and to report back to the Council, he added that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has also delivered arms for use by the Moscow-backed Wagner private military company. Moreover, all of those weapons are being used to systematically target civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, in blatant violation of international law. “The defence of these principles is everybody’s business,” he stressed, praising the 10-point peace plan recently put forward by Ukraine.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique) noted that the trajectory of the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine points towards a prolonged war of attrition and away from compromise at the negotiating table. There is a growing expansion of actors directly and indirectly involved in the conflict, the continued erosion of long-held notions of restraint in the conduct of matters related to the maintenance of international peace and an open disregard for long-negotiated global agreements regulating and controlling the trade and transfer of arms. As vast transfers of arms to the conflict zone are occurring without United Nations oversight, it is just a matter of time until some of them end up in parts of the world already awash with deadly illegal arms. He cited estimates that every year more than $5 billion worth of armaments are illegally sold on the black market to terrorists, violent extremists, rebel groups, criminal networks and “a whole host of illegal arms clientele”. While Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations acknowledges all States’ inherent right to individual or collective self-defence, the nature of the present conflict — and the staggering amount of sophisticated weapons involved — justifies alarm. He therefore urged those countries providing assistance to the conflicting parties to act in a manner consistent with international arms-control agreements.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), reiterating his country’s historical position of rejecting armed violence and militarization, underscored the importance of respecting the right to self-defence in accordance with international law and the inviolability of territorial integrity. Noting that all Member States have assumed the obligation to settle their international disputes via peaceful means, he added that waging a military aggression against another country violates this. Expressing concern about the threats posed to peace and security by the large-scale flow of arms and munitions into any situation of armed conflict, he highlighted the risks of deviation, spread and escalation. Measures to counter these risks are of the utmost importance for post-conflict recovery as well as regional security and stability, even for the prevention of conflicts on other continents, he noted. Underscoring the protracted invasion of Ukrainian territory is at the root of these risks, he also expressed concern about the involvement of non-State actors in occupation activities.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), Council President for February, spoke in her national capacity, recalling that the organ addressed the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine at its meeting on 6 February. “We stressed, once again, that [international law] must always be unconditionally respected,” she said. Noting that thousands of children have been killed or injured in Ukraine and women and girls are suffering sexual violence — all while Moscow continues to strike at civilian facilities in the depths of winter — she reiterated her calls for the removal of all obstacles to the safe, rapid and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Ukraine. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must have unhindered and unconditional access to all prisoners of war, as allowed for by the Geneva Conventions. The Russian Federation must immediately withdraw its military forces from all Ukrainian territory, she said, adding that all calls for a ceasefire must be coupled with such a withdrawal.
The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor again to respond to statements directed at him by other delegations, responded to the representative of Albania by stressing that Roger Waters is not threatened in any way in the Russian Federation — a country that fully respects free speech. However, he has been targeted by Ukrainian nationalists on websites. In addition, he reminded the representative of the United States that the victory achieved in the Second World War was a collective one, and not theirs alone.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) thanked those who said that restoring respect for the Charter of the United Nations is the only viable option to deal with ongoing aggression, stating that its principles are the only basis for both the exercise of the inherent right to self-defence and for post-war settlement “following the military defeat of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine”. Such defeat is imminent if the Russian criminal regime does not implement the demands of the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice to withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s territory. He also said that the Charter and international law will provide the framework with which to hold the Russian Federation accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. Stressing that this “is a war of choice”, he said that, while Mahatma Ghandi said that “non-violence is infinitely superior to violence”, Mr. Putin has chosen the latter, emasculating his nation while treating it as an “animal farm to produce more and more cannon fodder”.
To those who call for a stop to the war at any cost — including at the cost of Ukrainian lives and lands — he offered another quote from Mahatma Ghandi: “I would rather have my country resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour”. To Mr. Waters — who “knows so little, but seems to know it so fluently” — he recalled that Pink Floyd released “Another Brick in the Wall” in 1979, the same year that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. After the invasion was condemned by Pink Floyd, the band was banned in the Soviet Union. “It is ironic — if not hypocritical — that Mr. Waters attempts now to whitewash another invasion,” he added, noting that Mr. Waters’ former fans must be sad to see him now accept the role of just “another brick in the wall” of Russian disinformation and propaganda.