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The UN General Assembly will underline Russia’s isolation

Even the countries Russia hoped it could pivot to after wrecking relations with the West are unsettled.

By Ido Vock

The UN General Assembly will open on Tuesday 20 September. The New York summit is the first to be held in person after two years of pandemic-induced virtual and hybrid meetings.

Debate will be dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its consequences, from a global competition for scarce energy supplies to a food crisis exacerbated by a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. The future of a deal to restart grain exports brokered by the UN in July was thrown into doubt this month after the Russian president Vladimir Putin called the agreement a “deception”.

Putin will not attend. His foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is to be sent instead. The Russian president received a frosty reception at last week’s summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Uzbekistan, illustrating the unease at Russia’s war of aggression even among fellow strongmen and autocrats. Public acknowledgement of criticisms by China’s Xi Jinping and India’s Narendra Modi last week showed that even the countries Russia hoped it could pivot to after wrecking relations with the West are unsettled with the seven month-long invasion.

At the same time, many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have expressed frustration that the war in Ukraine is distracting attention from long-standing issues in their countries. Anjali Dayal of Fordham University told NPR, “This isn’t to say that [those nations] no longer support Ukraine, [but] they just want to make it clear that they intend for the body to do the rest… of the work on its plate.”

Resentment among countries of the Global South towards the rich world lingers over issues such as the inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and climate financing. But Russia’s hopes of exploiting divisions between countries to weaken the international coalition against it have so far not succeeded.

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This article first appeared in the World Review newsletter. It comes out on Mondays and Fridays; subscribe here.

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[See also: Where does Putin go from here?]

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