2019: Double vetoes by Russia and China
During 2019, three draft resolutions have been vetoed by both the Russian and China, resulting in a total of six vetoes during the year.
The first draft resolution (S/2019/186) was vetoed in February by Russia and China and related to the Venezuelan presidential crisis, which left the world divided in support for either Nicolás Maduro or Juan Guaidó. The draft resolution put forward by the United States requested the Secretary-General to ensure free and fair elections in Venezuela. This was a controversial draft, which only just reached the 9 required votes in favor. At the same time, Russia brought forward a different draft resolution, which did not call for new elections, but rather supported initiatives to reach a political solution initiated from the Maduro government and pointed out that international assistance should only be provided with the consent and invitation from the Venezuelan government. This draft resolution did not pass because it did not reach the 9 required votes in favor. This situation is reminiscent of other instances, including the Syrian conflict, where the Security Council fails to act, because Russia and China support non-interference against a sitting government that fails to protect its own people, while the United States and its allies want to step in more directly.
It should also be noted that these were the first vetoes concerning a country in Central America since the Chinese veto regarding Guatemala in 1997. It remains to be seen if this is an indication that the deep divisions within the Security Council may be expanding to other geographical areas than the Middle East, which is the region that has seen the most vetoes in recent years.
The year continued with two vetoed draft resolutions in September (S/2019/756) and December (S/2019/961) regarding the situation in Syria. The failed draft resolutions called for a cease fire and for continued access for the delivery of humanitarian aid. This increases the tally of vetoed draft resolutions regarding the war in Syria to 14. All of those 14 have been vetoed by Russia, with the backing of a Chinese veto in 8 instances. The ongoing tragedy in Syria is a prime example of how the illegitimate veto prevents effective action of the Security Council.
Compared to 2018, we have the same number of vetoed draft resolutions, namely three, but we have twice as many vetoes, because Russia and China consistently voted together. The USA has not vetoed in 2019, however this may only be due to controversial draft resolutions by Russia not reaching the required majority regardless of the United States negative votes. The vetoes of 2019 illustrate the continued and possibly increasing rift between Russia and China on the one side, and the rest of the Council on the other side. It remains to be seen if this trend continues in the future.