Editorial: a goal from the blessed past

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Photo: cfr.org

Does it make sense for Estonia to toil to get its temporary seat at UN Security Council? Depends on the role we attribute to UN and its security council in the world today. And, secondly, on ability to task Estonian foreign services with what fits the present reality and our own particular interests. 

Created in the immediate wake of WW2, the arrangements at UN still reflect the times and expectations of that day. Permanent seats at the Security Council are filled by winners of the war, and China. Each of these has the right to veto resolutions. As a result of that, the Security Council has been unable to pass a joint and binding verdict after the events in Crimea (and many such instances before that when it was very much expected). Knowing beforehand, that Russia would do its veto.  

It’s a matter of taste what word to use about a security council which, in case of controversies between major powers, is unable to arrive at decisions and ends up looking the other way when international law is broken. Considering that, the statements by President Ilves and Mart Laar’s «pointless place» are rather diplomatic.

On the other hand, the adjectives like «toothless», «paralysed», «pointless» do not apply to all issues. As pointed out by some of our diplomats, a temporary member status allows learning the machinery and practice for potential crises.

In Postimees last year, international law professor Lauri Mälksoo wrote that «no matter how critically we look at UN at present, there will always be a need for some measure of order and predictability, towards which the UN does continually labour.»

For nations, sitting at the council table is a matter of prestige. The way the aspiring presidential candidate Siim Kallas puts it, any opportunity to raise political profile must be seized. As we are obviously unable to seize «every» opportunity, the question will always be whether this is the prudent place for wasting our money and mental effort.

For over ten years, the goal to get the temporary seat has been copied and pasted from one foreign ministry development plan to the next. From an interview to Public Broadcasting, the opinion of President Ilves is quite specific: «This, rather, belongs to the times when we had this empty feeling /…/, of what would be our next great challenge.» We are lacking an explicitly exhaustive answer to the question about what we wish to achieve by getting to sit there.