This could be the perfect time to reform the United Nations – Roddy Gow

Roddy Gow OBE, President, Asia Scotland Institute

Global developments sound ominous with the drumbeat of war described by journalists in Asia and the West. The Winter Olympics, themselves impacted by the political environment in which they take place, were preceded by the meeting that was expected with Putin and Xi reunited in Beijing.

As expected, Putin appears to have agreed to support China’s claims on Taiwan and its implied willingness to invade in exchange for China’s acceptance of Russia’s claims on Ukraine and its demands that NATO does not extend further east.

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No one should be surprised by these early positions taken by two members of the UN Security Council, the body that must have passed its sell-by date, with Russia and China routinely vetoing any effort to achieve unanimity on motions aimed at achieving world peace. Their self-interest runs counter to the UN charter and underscores the need to overhaul the organization and its modus operandi. The pessimist might say that such an exercise is too difficult, but an optimist might judge that now is the right time, with frustrations over Ukrainian and Chinese policies, to push for the necessary reforms and allow the UN to operate as its founders intended.

Next, this year’s Winter Olympics, amid fears the host country could find itself accused of human rights abuses and excluding many people in order to achieve Covid Zero. How far is this from the founding spirit of the Games as a celebration of sporting achievement removed from political considerations and goals – but was Berlin in the summer of 1936 so different from Beijing in the winter of 2022? The pessimist points to a repetition of the nationalist posture of the host country in each case, but the optimist will point out how clearly any authoritarian government is exposed by the presence of so many top athletes who represent the future .

Writing in the New York Times, Steven Myers and Alan Blinder remind us that Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter prohibits athletes or other participants from demonstrating or displaying “political, religious or racial propaganda” at Olympic events. Ms. Yang Yang, a senior Beijing organizing committee official and Olympic champion, said “athletes should be responsible for what they say,” but added that “athletes are free to express their opinions.” For the optimist, possible grounds for hope.

With regard to the tensions on Ukraine’s borders, it should be remembered that it is the right of this country, as a sovereign state, to apply for NATO membership, whatever Russia or its Belarusian satellite can claim. Indeed, Russia’s positioning may well have served to unite Western opinion behind Ukraine, which is unlikely to be an outcome that Putin wanted. It also brought the United States back into a leadership role, a welcome change from the disastrous actions of the previous administration. Again, grounds for hope for the optimist.

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