At the UN General Assembly, a risk of fragmentation

Omnipresent, although absent. The shadow of Vladimir Putin should hang over the debates of the United Nations General Assembly, which will begin on Monday, September 19, in New York, in the heavy context of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This highlight of multilateral diplomacy, already undermined by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, will be held until September 24 against the backdrop of a lightning counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces after seven months of clashes and diplomatic deadlock between Moscow and kyiv.

Never has the international order seemed so fractured, the conflict revealing a new cartography of global power relations. On the one hand, Westerners and their allies, led by the United States tired of playing the police of the world, but spearheading support for Ukraine in a traumatized Europe by the return of the war. On the other, Russia, a member of the Security Council, accused of violating the United Nations Charter by invading its neighbor, and supported cautiously and not without ulterior motives by China.

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Finally, a heterogeneous group, represented by India, Asian and African countries, such as South Africa, the Middle East and South America, which does not want to choose sides, and is worried about diplomatic, food and energy consequences of this war on the European continent. “This conflict marks a break, that of the declining influence of the West, despite their mobilization on the side of Ukraine, and the great return of the United States to Europe”considers the former diplomat Gérard Araud.

The atmosphere is heavy. Emmanuel Macron, who is due to arrive Monday evening September 19 in New York, after the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London, sees in the shock wave caused by the hostilities a lasting risk of ” partition “ of the world. For the Elysée, the General Assembly must make it possible to amplify support for Ukraine, while seeking to rally the countries “unaligned” we “neutral”, in order to put pressure on Russia. It is also in this spirit that the head of French diplomacy, Catherine Colonna, has just made two visits in quick succession, to Turkey and India. The urgency is twofold, according to a French diplomat: “Do not allow international divisions to deepen in the context of the war in Ukraine and do not enter into a logic of fragmentation into blocks. »

President Zelensky in videoconference

The task promises to be difficult for Westerners, even if the Chinese leaders, Xi Jinping, and Indian, Narendra Modi, will not be present in New York either. Considered a pariah in the Western world, the head of the Kremlin had the opportunity to show that he was not totally isolated. Shortly before the opening of the UN General Assembly, he met, on Thursday 15 and Friday 16 September, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, his Chinese, Indian, Iranian and Turkish counterparts, during a summit of the Organization of Shanghai Cooperation, presented as a rival forum of the G7, the group of industrialized countries.

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