"Never have I been so ashamed of my country" wrote Boris Bondarev, a Russian diplomat posted at the United Nations in Geneva, in his resignation letter of May 23.
Bondarev went on to condemn the war Russia had instigated. "Those who conceived this war . . . are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this."
This follows other senior Russian defections, including President Vladimir Putin’s veteran Special Envoy Anatoly Chubais.
In March, Chubais quit, fleeing his homeland in disagreement with the invasion of Ukraine. However, another Soviet-era apparatchik at the U.N. nonetheless continues Putin’s bidding with impunity.
By rank he is privy to the most sensitive U.N. considerations meant to address the crisis.
Let's call things out for what they are: Putin’s toady Vladimir Voronkov oversees the U.N.’s counter-terrorism work while Putin executes the widest terrorism campaign in living memory.
U.N. member states have condemned Russia forcefully, so why are they tolerating Voronkov’s "blind spot" on Ukraine keeping Putin on the road of geopolitical bedlam?
Most troubling is that Voronkov is in the Cabinet of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
There, Voronkov wraps himself in the U.N. flag, while enjoying real-time access to sensitive, real-time U.N. talks and plans — vis-à-vis Putin’s movements and threats.
Are we to believe Guterres does not see this?
Could he not name someone appropriate to champion U.N. counter-terrorism, specifically in Ukraine right now? Why doesn't Guterres demand Voronkov’s resignation?
This scenario needs to change immediately.
Every U.N. employee takes an oath of loyalty to the U.N., to not take instructions from any one government. Voronkov can't have it both ways by appeasing two masters simultaneously.
As a duly placed international civil servant, he must denounce Russia’s war crimes and prepare a counter-terrorism plan of action for the U.N. to implement.
That has most decidedly not happened months into the crisis.
And where is the Biden administration when it comes to closing this rathole?
It called for Russia’s further expulsion from the U.N., an unworkable exhortation.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s hyperbole might have been better spent engineering quietly Voronkov’s departure.
Voronkov must resign immediately or be fired by Secretary-General Guterres.
So, why is Putin’s Voronkov in this critical U.N. post in the first place?
It's the U.N. spoils system at work.
In 2016 the Kremlin sought to regenerate its access and influence throughout U.N. operations at levels previously enjoyed by the Soviet Union. Putin craved a skybox in the U.N. secretariat to put eyes and ears on everything from a commanding height.
So, in exchange for Russian support to make Guterres the next secretary-general, Putin "suggested" his catbird Vladimir Voronkov for a senior U.N. post custom-made for placing a Russian snitch in the executive suite.
Incoming Secretary-General Guterres then needed to enlarge his cabinet with another senior-most seat for the Russian, since all the other senior roles had been duly apportioned to other major powers.
So, he rummaged through his bureaucracy and elevated its Office of Counter-Terrorism into a domain primed for Putin’s purposes. Why didn't the United States call foul?
In exchange, Obama promised to look the other way if Guterres kept Obama’s senior operative in place, regardless of the fact that Trump had been elected.
And so, it happened.
Voronkov had been groomed to Putin’s specifications.
In Soviet times he meddled against Poland’s Solidarity movement.
He then survived USSR meltdown.
He rehabbed himself as head of U.N. offices in Vienna.
There he brokered the controversial Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to Moscow’s satisfaction.
Finally, Voronkov arrived at the gates of Troy, U.N. Headquarters, to explore and exploit.
He's settled in like a low-grade headache, inflating Russia’s capacities, and significance, all to Putin’s satisfaction. This has marked a return of Soviet-era influence after decades of absence from the U.N.’s cabinet.
Now six years into it Voronkov has developed the bandwidth to thwart U.N. efforts to isolate and contain Putin — Ukraine or bust.
The net effect?
Voronkov is prolonging Putin’s terrorism within the very chambers where the opposite is so desperately needed from a counter-terrorism czar.
He must go immediately.
Perhaps then the lay-about U.N. might begin delivering on its mission — the maintenance of global peace and security.
Hugh Dugan served as Senior Director for International Organization Affairs in the National Security Council after having advised 11 US ambassadors to the United Nations since 1989.
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