When he unleashed the aggression against Ukraine on February 24, Vladimir Putin chose the words: “Whoever interferes will face consequences never before seen in history.”
It is the worst crisis Europe has faced since 1945. It is also the most dangerous. The advance of Putin's military columns, causing a massive exodus of displaced persons and refugees, who spread out along the roads or pile up in train stations, recall scenes that we only saw in movies from when the Nazi troops advanced: women, children, old-age people - the fit men from 18 to 60 years old staying to fight.
Only clothes, vehicles, and suitcases are from our time; the rest is from 1939 or 1941. What did Putin have in mind when he launched the threat “consequences never before seen in history”? What was he thinking about? We all understand. No one wants to say it, not even think about it.
It unfolds in daily intimidations, in finger-pointing. Putin has already threatened Sweden and Finland. What did he mean when he ordered “high alert to nuclear deterrent forces”?
U.S. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed it the day before yesterday: “Russian nuclear forces have been placed on high alert. This is a scary development. The mere idea of a nuclear conflict is simply inconceivable. Nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons.”
This is where we have arrived. Here we are. Article 28 (3) of the Charter of the United Nations stipulates: “The Security Council may hold meetings at such places other than the seat of the Organization as in its judgment will best facilitate its work.”
What is its work? And what is, at this point, the most appropriate place? The Security Council's work is “to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations (…) for the maintenance of international peace and security.”
More: it is for this purpose that all UN members “confer on the Security Council primary responsibility” (art. 24).
And also the work of exercising “the specific powers granted to the Security Council (…) in chapters VI [and] VII”, that is, those concerning “Pacific Settlement of Disputes” and “Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression”.
That's what the Security Council is for.
Thus, where today is the place most suited to perform its work? The answer is Kyiv.
It is to Kyiv that a meeting (or meetings) of the Security Council must be urgently convened to deal with the peaceful solution of a terrible and extremely dangerous dispute and to face the threat to peace, the rupture of the peace, and acts of aggression.
The United Nations was founded in the aftermath of 1945, determined “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” (Preamble to the Charter). They must act quickly because this scourge is back.
We are facing a leader who wants worse: he brandishes, against Ukraine and the world, “consequences never seen before in history.”
The United Nations also declares itself determined “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours; to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security; to ensure (…) that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.” They must move now to safeguard “good neighbours”.
It is the opposite that floods Ukraine, bombs cities, kills and chases on its way to Kyiv.
The United Nations aims to: “Maintain international peace and security; take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace and develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” (Article 1).
They must send the Security Council to Kyiv now, because in New York it will not be able to deliver. They have been discussing it since February 24 – and even before.
Why is it that what is necessary is not happening? Because they are gathering in the wrong place.
The United Nations act in accordance with the “principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members”. And these “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security (…) are not endangered”; and also “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” (Article 2).
For this reason, it is imperative that the Security Council meets in Kyiv now. It is not just that in New York it is not easy to reach what is needed. It is because, here, it is impossible to get it; and in Kyiv, once the Security Council arrives, it will be easy to do it.
If decided, the mere arrival of the Security Council in Kyiv will be a ceasefire, an immediate truce. Now, this ceasefire is what we need immediately. There is no doubt that the authorities and the people of the country would gladly welcome the Security Council. And I do not believe the invader would do anything against the Council, let alone being one of the five permanent members.
The problem, of course, is making the decision. Either because of the boldness and courage to take it, or because of Russia's predictable veto, if such a problem arises. But the simple political and diplomatic struggle to face and overcome Putin's veto will create more problems for the aggressor and deepen its isolation. No one in the entire world will understand, except Putin's followers, that the Security Council might be blocked from going to the place where it is most needed, imperative, and urgent.
Why does Putin want the Ukrainians to negotiate on Belarusian soil and why would he not accept the Security Council, the highest instance of peace, in Kyiv?
The Ukrainians would not fire. And if Putin would shut up his weapons, the key to security was instantly found. Nothing to fear.
World public opinion would passionately follow this debate on whether the United Nations will go to Kyiv through the Security Council: bare-handed, unarmed, entirely civilian, armed only with reason and the Charter.
World public opinion, growing vigour, awareness, and mobilization, is the only force capable of stopping and rolling back the “consequences never seen before in history” and guaranteeing peace. It is European and world public opinion, inspired by the heroic resistance of Ukrainians and the heroic protests of many Russians, that explains the extraordinary cohesion that is emerging in the West, in the European Union and in NATO, in their countries and in their peoples, as well as all around the world, echoing in the United Nations General Assembly.
It is world public opinion that can overcome the madness that Putin unleashed because it blows like the wind. And that wind also reaches Russian public opinion.
We do not mean any harm to Russia. On the contrary. We want the good of Russia and for the Russians. We want to live in peace with Russia; and, more than that, in real friendship.
For that, it is necessary that Russia changes its policy and stops the aggression. We need to get the Security Council to meet in Kyiv.
_José Ribeiro e Castro is a former Member of the European Parliament. _