Editorial writers around the world have called the recent Russia-Georgia war a watershed in how Russia views the world and the world views Russia. Moscow's response to criticism—"we don't need the G8, the WTO, and anything the West has to offer"—has been met with handwringing over a supposedly new multi-polar world where, in fact, Russia might not actually need the West. And without any sticks or carrots, the West might just have to settle for a new imperialistic Russia that will act with hubris and without regard for the consequences.
If any more evidence was needed for that viewpoint, a new report out this week provides plenty of ammunition. The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has issued a detailed analysis of voting records at the United Nations in recent years and come up with some startling conclusions. Behind the scenes, Russia and China have successfully built coalitions at the UN to an extent where the majority of the world's nation states are more likely to vote with them than with the European Union, let alone the United States.
That isn't the case. In "A Global Force for Human Rights? An Audit of European Power at the UN," the authors, Richard Gowan and Franziska Brantner, show the reversed fortunes of the EU and US, compared with Russia and China. In the late 1990s, over 70 percent of the votes cast at the UN General Assembly on human rights issues supported EU positions; over the past two years, such "voting consistency" has fallen to only around 50 percent. The EU has lost the regular support of 41 former allies (including most of the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia). The U.S. has done even worse, seeing its consistency on human rights votes plummet from 77 percent to a mere 30 percent over the past decade.
Over the same time period, support for Russian positions, in contrast, has skyrocketed from around 50 percent to 76 percent today. China came in only slightly worse, at 74 percent.
"A pattern is emerging which points to declining EU influence throughout the UN to promote an international rule of law based on human rights and justice," the authors write. "That is bad news for Europe and bad news for the world."
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