On December 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited his ally, the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, in Minsk. The Kremlin denied Putin’s visit was to try and drag Belarus into joining Russia’s war in Ukraine.
On the sidelines of the Minsk meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the press that the West had failed to isolate Russia:
"These attempts (to isolate Russia) are futile. These vain attempts by our Western colleagues have not found any material embodiment."
This statement is misleading. Russia remains a member of the United Nations Security Council, but a series of U.N. General Assembly votes to condemn the invasion of Ukraine was passed by a large margin. Russia remains suspended from the group of the world's leading industrialized nations, which is now known as the G-7. The Russian president did not attend a G-20 summit in Indonesia; Western economic sanctions slashed Russia's GDP and budget, and reportedly, only Iran has agreed to help Russia with arms supplies.
Isolation of Russia in the United Nations and G-20
The isolation of Russia is especially evident in the U.N. In a series of votes after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, most U.N. members supported Ukraine and disapproved of Russia.
Only a small number of countries, which are also under Western sanctions, such as North Korea and Syria, continued to support Russia during the voting.
On February 24, 2022, Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. On March 2, 2022, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution demanding that Russia completely withdraw its troops from the territory of Ukraine and cancel the decision to recognize the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.
The resolution was adopted with 141 votes in favor (77.90% of votes) and 35 abstentions. Only five countries (2.76% of votes) voted against the resolution: Russia itself and four countries that are called authoritarian regimes by the UK-based The Economist Intelligence Unit's democracy index: Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria.
On March 24, the General Assembly adopted a second resolution demanding that Russia withdraw from Ukraine, as well as expressing serious concern and condemning attacks by the Russian army on the civilian population and infrastructure in Ukraine. The resolution passed with 140 votes in favor, with 38 abstentions. The same five authoritarian countries voted against it.
On October 12, 2022, the General Assembly declared so-called Russian referendums in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions and an attempted annexation invalid and illegal under international law. The U.N. called on all states not to recognize these territories as part of Russia.
In addition, the U.N. demanded that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” The resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority: 143 votes in favor, with five against, and 35 abstentions.
On November 2, the U.N. Security Council denied Russia a formal investigation into Moscow’s allegations that the United States and Ukraine have illegal biological weapons programs. Only China supported the Russian draft Security Council resolution on this measure. Three countries - the USA, Britain, and France voted against it, while the other 10 council members abstained.
Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the U.N., called the Russia-proposed resolution a “disinformation campaign” that failed to mislead anyone:
“The result of today’s vote is clear: Russia is isolated, more than ever, and its lies fool no one. France voted against the draft resolution presented by Russia because it refuses to allow the Security Council to become a platform for propaganda. If words no longer have any meaning, if truth and lies have equal rights, diplomacy is no longer possible.”
In November, Russian President Vladimir Putin declined to participate at the summit of the G-20, an intergovernmental forum that includes 19 countries and the European Union. The G-20 comprises most of the world's largest economies and accounts for about 80% of the gross world product.
A month before the summit in Bali, Indonesia, the West showed Putin in various ways that his presence would be undesirable. Diplomatic pressure was put on host country Indonesia to withdraw its invitation to the Russian leader. In October, White House officials told Politico that they “are taking steps to ensure that the American president does not encounter his Russian counterpart in a hallway or even in a leaders’ group photo.”
In an October 19 report, Politico quoted William Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, as saying:
“We know what President Biden thinks about President Putin: he thinks he’s a killer, he thinks he’s a war criminal. … You don’t usually meet with killers and war criminals.”
The G-20 summit ended on November 16 with a denunciation of Russia's war in Ukraine:
“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.”
BRICS and CIS country members distance themselves from Moscow
Moscow's BRICS allies, an intergovernmental organization that includes Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa, are ready to buy oil from Russia at a 40% discount but have joined the Western sanctions on arms sales to Moscow.
Russia is losing influence in the countries of the former USSR, which are now part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Kazakhstan, until recently the second closest partner of Moscow after Belarus, has strengthened ties with China and Turkey, respects anti-Russian sanctions, and recognizes the territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders.
Peter Dickinson, editor of UkraineAlert at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research institution, notes that Russia's problems with its allies are not limited to Central Asia:
“In the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan is increasingly ignoring Russia’s nominal role as regional peacekeeper while Armenia bristles over Moscow’s failure to provide any meaningful protection. Even Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who depends almost completely on the Kremlin for his political survival, has so far managed to resist Russian pressure to directly participate in the invasion of Ukraine.”
Russia has been excluded from several international organizations
Since February, dozens of international organizations have revised their cooperation with the Russian Federation, ending or at least suspending Moscow's membership. Among them are the Bologna Process, Barents Euro-Arctic Council, Danube Commission, Council of the Baltic Sea States, World Tourism Organization, International Gas Union, and International Paralympic Committee.
On March 15, Russia was excluded from the Council of Europe, an international organization with 46 member states and a population of approximately 675 million. The text of the Assembly's statement says the "Russian Federation has chosen recourse to force over dialogue and diplomacy to achieve its foreign policy objectives, in violation of the legal and moral norms that govern the peaceful coexistence of States."
On April 7, the U.N. General Assembly removed Russia from the Human Rights Council for “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine.
On October 1, Russia was not re-elected to the International Civil Aviation Organization board. Russia was punished for violating Ukraine's sovereign airspace and accused of illegally confiscating hundreds of privately-owned foreign aircraft that had been leased by Russian airlines.
Russia was isolated economically and militarily.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, a coalition of Western countries whose combined GDP exceeds 50 percent of the world’s, including the U.S., the European Union, Japan, the UK, Canada, Australia, etc., has imposed new wide-ranging sanctions against Moscow.
The sanctions were directed against Russia's financial and energy sectors, access to Western technologies, and the economic activities of the Russian elite. The sanctions have led to severe economic problems in Russia. A December 13 Congressional Research Service report lists the following examples:
· Russia’s financial sector faces losses of hundreds of billions of dollars;
· the Russian military is having difficulties procuring key components for its war effort;
· many Russian factories have suspended production because they cannot access foreign-made parts;
· many affected companies are placing employees on part-time schedules or furlough;
· hundreds of U.S. and international companies have exited the Russian market;
· Russian oil is selling below market prices.
Western sanctions have closed the ways for Russia to pay foreign creditors, as a result of which, on June 27, Russia defaulted on a portion of its foreign currency-denominated debt. It was the first such default since 1918.
As the war with Ukraine drags on, Russia has begun to experience a shortage of weapons and ammunition. Moscow has been forced to deploy battle tanks produced in the 1960s and 1970s which had been placed in storage.
The use of tanks that are decades old also signifies that Western sanctions prohibiting the supply of weapons and components to Russia are working. Only a handful of rogue states dares to support Russia with weapons. Among them is Iran, which is accused of supplying Moscow with kamikaze drones Russia is using to strike at infrastructure facilities and civilians in Ukraine. Iran and Russia deny the accusations.
Photographic and other forensic evidence, along with intelligence and media reports, confirm that since August Russia has deployed Iran-made Shahed and Mojaher drones.
According to Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, President Putin's alleged reliance on Iranian arms for the war in Ukraine signifies Russia’s isolation. The fact that Russia is forced to receive ammunition from Iran "says a lot about the kind of company they keep and where they stand in the world right now in terms of isolation," said Ryder on November 1.