U.N. Security Council meets on Ukraine; U.N. Web TV provides no English interpretation in video recording for Russia, China, UAE, France, Mexico, and Gabon interventions (with links to video and Press Release)


See “Threats to international peace and security (Ukraine) – Security Council, 8960th meeting, January 31, 2022. The video recording is here.

The summary and transcript of the meeting is found here:

Press Release,”Situation along Russian Federation-Ukraine Border Can Only Be Resolved through Diplomacy, Political Affairs Chief Tells Security Council,” SC/14783, (8960th Meeting (AM), January 31,2022.

I once knew an American international lawyer who had worked at the International Postal Union (a U.N. Specialized Agency), at the height of the Cold War, when the U.N. and its specialized agencies were battlefields, and where influence could be gained by controlling the machinery and key appointments of the corresponding organization.

He explained that while Soviets didn’t necessarily have controlling majorities in the voting bodies, they were very adept at gaining control of key machinery within the secretariat of the organization. At the IPO, he recounted, they did have something of immense value: control of the minutes and documentation of the meetings, and of the printing presses.

This story came to mind today as I was watching the public meeting of the U.N. Security Counsel on the the Ukraine on U.N. Web TV. I realized, when I was viewing the video recording of the meeting, which is now what is available on the website, that the English language version of the interventions of the representatives of Russia, China, France, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, and Gabon were not available on the recording.

It had been available in the live transmission of their remarks. I had listened to the Russian, Chinese, and United Arab Emirates representatives, speaking in the original Russian, Chinese and Arabic, on the English channel, in the English interpretation. I had listened to the French and the Mexican interventions in the original French and Spanish.language, on the French and the Spanish channels. When I went back to review these interventions, I found that in the recording the English versions of the Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and French language remarks were not available, on the English channel or anywhere else.

Instead of the English interpretation, the original language was playing on the “English” channel.

This was a highly significant “mistake” by U.N. Web TV, because it meant that the Russian representative’s outrageous comments were not available for review by English-speaking journalists.

Nor could the Russian’s abrupt departure just before the Ukrainian representative spoke be appreciated by listening to the English interpretation of his remarks. The Russian ambassador, suddenly and without previous warning, ended his intervention and left the meeting on the pretext that he had a meeting with the Secretary General.

It was a remarkable moment. He just got up and left, immediately before the Ukrainian representative proceeded to detail the facts of the Russian mobilization and military threat which were the reason the meeting had been called. Obviously, the Russian ambassador had no response to offer to any of the charges.

Nor were the cynical remarks of th4e Chinese ambassador available in English.

Both the Russians and the Chinese were opposed to an open meeting, arguing that it the current moment was a time for quiet diplomacy, not public discussion. Indeed, at the beginning of the meeting Russia had made a procedural motion not to hold the meeting in public. The motion was defeated by a vote of 10-2, with three abstentions. Kenya was one of the countries which abstained. The Kenyan ambassador assumed the mantle of speaking for “Africa’, all the 54 countries in Africa, despite the fact that two, Ghana and Gabon, were also present.
The representatives of Mexico, France, and the U.A.E. spoke in strong support of the U.N. Charter, international law, and Ukraine. Unfortunately their remarks are not available in English interpretation in the recorded video of the meeting.

An innocent error, one might think. I don’t think so. By the time the “mistake” is fixed, TV and print journalists around the world will have filed their stories, and moved on to another news cycle.

So, while the Russians and the Chinese could not avoid the light of publicity, the “mistake” of U.N. Web TV appeared to achieve part of their objective, seeking to shield them from shame.

It seems like the Russians still have influence over the printing presses, or their modern-day equivalents.

But it also appears that international law, and the mobilization of shame, can still be used as a powerful weapon in international relations.

The Trenchant Observer