U.S. should call for “Emergency Meeting” of U.N. Security Council, invoking Article 39 of the U.N. Charter, to urgently consider the Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s frontiers, Russia’s demand for NATO commitments, and associated threats

There is no sign that the Biden administration has decided to launch a serious international legal critique of Russia’s mobilization of troops near the Ukranian border and its implicit and not so implicit threats of invasion.

The call for an “open meeting” of the Security Council suggests that the Biden administration and the new U.S. Ambassador don’t have a clear idea of their objectives, or even of the technical terms that are used in the U.N. Charter.

Is the U.S. calling for an “Emergency Meeting” of the Security Council to consider a situation that threatens international peace and security, under Article 39 of the Charter?

Is the Biden administration drafting a resolution to be discussed and voted on at the Monday meeting?

It appears not, as there has been no discussion of such a resolution.

Or is the Biden administration simply calling a meeting where Council members can speak in banalities and circumlocutions, since there is no specific resolution before them whose terms they can debate and upon which they must decide?

Is the U.S. simply calling the meeting because someone in the State Department woke up on Thursday morning and realized that Russia will assume the rotating Presidency of the Security Council for the month of February on Tuesday? Russia’s holding the Presidency could make the convocation of a meeting more difficult–particularly as Russia opposes enen holding a meeting on Monday, January 31.

Together with one or more of the above reasons, could it be simply a maneuver to placate advocates of involving the Security Council and the General Assembly in efforts to diffuse the situation, without actually doing anything other than convoking a gabfest?

The meeting on Monday would be a great opportunity to make a very strong legal case against Putin and Russia, building support among a broad coalition of nations for a resolution.

A recorded vote on the resolution would force countries to take a stand, including even China which would have to decide between casting its veto and simply abstaining.

After a Russian veto, the resolution could be taken to the General Assembly for a recorded vote. Such steps could change the equation for Putin and Russia, and help lead to deescalation and a resolution of the conflict.

Such broad support could be particularly helpful in efforts to control escalation and bring a war to a halt should Putin launch an invasion.

Still, we must remember that Joe Biden is an alumnus of the Barack Obama school of appeasement, whose leader in 2014 bent over backwards to avoid doing anything that might provoke Vladimir Putin, particularly after Putin and his surrogates made veiled threats of nuclear war.

The international lawyers and other State Department and national security officials should be burning the midnight oil tonight, working on a draft resolution to present to the Security Council by tomorrow, Saturday, to allow time for translation and printing of the draft resolution before the meeting on Monday.

Are they?

Will they present a resolution for the meeting on Monday?

How do they plan to overcome the opposition of Russia when it takes over the Presidency of the Council on February 1?

Can we expect effective action from the foreign policy team that gave us the Afghanistan debacle?

We should certainly hope such action is forthcoming.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.