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

Roddy Gow, OBE, Chairman of the Asiatic Scottish Institute

As expected, Putin appeared to agree to back China’s claim to Taiwan and hinted at a willingness to invade in exchange for China accepting Russia’s claim to Ukraine and its demands not to expand NATO further east.

No one should be surprised by these anticipated positions taken by two members of the UN Security Council, a body that has long since ceased to function, as Russia and China consistently veto any effort to achieve unanimity on proposals for peace on a global basis. Their own interests run counter to the UN charter and highlight the need to rethink the organization and its working methods. A pessimist might say that such an exercise is too difficult, but an optimist might decide that this is just the time when frustration over Ukrainian and Chinese policies is building to push through the necessary reforms and allow the UN to function as its founders intended.

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Then this year’s Winter Olympics, amid fears that the host country will be held up for human rights violations and the exclusion of many of them in order to achieve Covid Zero. How far removed from the underlying spirit of the Games as a celebration of sporting achievement, divorced from political considerations and goals, is that how Berlin in the summer of 1936 was different from Beijing in the winter of 2022? The pessimist points to the repetition of the host nation’s nationalist posing in each case, but the optimist will emphasize how obvious it is that any authoritarian government is exposed by the presence of so many high-achieving athletes who represent the future.

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

As for tensions on Ukraine’s borders, we need to be reminded that it is the country’s right, as a sovereign state, to ask for NATO membership, no matter what Russia or its satellite Belarus claims. Indeed, Russia’s stance may well have contributed to the unification of Western opinion around Ukraine, rather than the outcome that Putin seemed to want. It also returned the US to 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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