(CN) — With Russia mobilizing hundreds of thousands of reservists and doggedly escalating the war with its neighbor, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging world leaders to severely punish Russia economically, put its leaders on trial for war crimes and strip it of its veto power at the United Nations Security Council.
But Zelenkskyy's appeal on Wednesday to the U.N.'s 77th General Assembly also exposed how divided the world has become. While many of the chamber's delegates stood up to applaud at the end of his speech, many other delegates, mostly from the developing world, remained seated.
It is also highly unlikely his demands will be carried out by the U.N. Security Council because Russia and China, a growing ally of the Kremlin, are permanent members. The two superpowers are drawing closer together as the United States and its allies openly declare Beijing and Moscow enemies. Many scholars believe the world has entered a new Cold War.
It was the first face-to-face meeting of the General Assembly in three years due to the coronavirus pandemic and it highlighted the precarious state of the world, which is racked by the war in Ukraine, climate change, superpower conflict, ideological divides, famine, soaring prices and various regional conflicts. Amid so much turmoil, the U.N. itself is coming under fire as an institution due to its inability to solve global problems.
Ghana's president, Nana Akufo-Addo, summed up the gloomy mood with a speech in which he said it was doubtful any generation had ever witnessed “such a perfect storm of global economic chaos, a war with global consequences, and an unwillingness or inability to find a consensus to deal with the catastrophe.”
He said the war in Ukraine was causing widespread economic problems and soaring inflation in Africa. “Every bullet, every bomb, every shell that hits a target in Ukraine, hits our pockets and our economies in Africa,” he said.
The war in Ukraine, now raging for 211 days, is threatening to take on global dimensions after Russian President Vladimir Putin mobilized 300,000 reservists on Wednesday to fight in Ukraine and prepared to officially annex large swaths of Ukrainian territory now occupied by Russian troops.
While in the West the war in Ukraine has come to be seen as the most urgent problem facing the planet, many developing countries view the war differently and have refused to go along with Western sanctions on Russia.
In many parts of the world, Western arguments about Russia's violations of international law ring hollow in the wake of U.S., NATO and European military interventions in countries like Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
Western leaders, though, urged all nations to show more solidarity with Ukraine and condemn Russia.
In his speech, French President Emmanuel Macron said countries cannot remain neutral over Russia's aggression, which he characterized as a new form of “imperialism.”
“They are wrong; they are making a historic error,” Macron said about neutral countries. “Those who are keeping silent today are, in a way, complicit with the cause of a new imperialism.”
He said the world was at risk of splitting over the war and that unless Russia was stopped other “wars of annexation” may occur.
“On the 24th of February this year, Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, through an act of aggression and invasion and annexation, broke our collective security,” Macron said. “It deliberately violated the U.N. Charter and the principle of sovereign equality of states.”
Yet with Russia and Ukraine showing no willingness to stop fighting and negotiate, it appears the war will only intensify with the approach of winter as both sides try to claim victory on the battlefield before Ukraine's snows and cold set in.