If these were normal times, the United States and its allies would surely have endorsed a recent United Nations resolution condemning Nazism and all forms of racial hatred and xenophobia.
But since we live in the shadow of the unnecessary and protracted war in Ukraine initiated by Russia on the flimsy pretext of “de-Nazifying” its neighbor, many Western countries voted against a Russian-sponsored resolution presented to the General Assembly’s Committee on Social and Cultural Issues, commonly known as the Third Committee.
The non-binding resolution was passed by 105 countries, including Israel. It was opposed by 52 nations, notably the United States, Canada and the European Union. Fifteen countries abstained.
This resolution has been submitted by the Russian Federation annually since 2012, and it has sailed through the General Assembly effortlessly. Last year, 130 countries voted for it.
It is clearly dear to the heart of Russians.
Having defeated Nazi Germany in World War II at a horrific cost in men and materiel, Russia is understandably invested in it on both an emotional and intellectual level. Russia regards its immense sacrifice in blood and treasure as a special victory worthy of eternal gratitude and remembrance.
Lest it be forgotten, the Russian front was of monumental importance to the outcome of the war. This is where the Red Army crushed the Wehrmacht, obliterating the malevolent march of Nazism once and for all. It is estimated that nine out of ten German soldiers were killed in combat in the Soviet Union.
The Allies scored key victories over Germany, Italy and Japan in Western Europe and Asia, to be sure, but the most devastating blows against Germany were struck by the Soviet Union.
UN member states that had previously endorsed the Russian resolution withdrew their support following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Concerned that Russia would cynically use it for its own geopolitical ends, the European Union feared that its condemnation of “the despicable ideology of Nazism” would be “misused” by Russia for “politically-motivated reasons.”
Ukraine, the victim of Russia’s imperial land grab, branded the resolution as a Russian pretext to justify its invasion.
Before the General Assembly formally considered the resolution, Australia correctly modified it by inserting a crucial amendment condemning Russia’s invasion and its exploitation of neo-Nazism as a justification for territorial expansion.
While Russia and 22 other countries deplored this amendment, 63 nations supported it. As a result, the resolution was passed with a full-throated condemnation of Russia’s unjustified invasion.
Given the final wording of the resolution, it is hard to understand why some countries, particularly the United States and Canada, voted against it.
After all, what can possibly be wrong or inappropriate with condemning Nazism, fascism, racism and intolerance? That Russia unwisely invoked the red herring of neo-Nazism to rationalize its “special military operation” in Ukraine should not detract from the importance of endorsing a resolution that comes down on the right side of history.
Israel acted wisely in supporting it, never forgetting that the aura of the Holocaust pervades its statehood and very existence, and that a large proportion of Holocaust survivors live and have lived in the Jewish state.
With the passage of the resolution, the Russians may have been recklessly attempting to sugarcoat their unacceptable invasion of Ukraine.
Yet no one should lose sight of the fact that modern Russia’s identity as a nation was forged, in part, on the anvil of the Great Patriotic War, during which millions of Russians were killed and maimed and the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland.
These are events that cannot be swept under the rug. Which is why the resolution, strengthened with its Australian amendment, should have been passed unanimously.