top of page

The UN Security Council Resolution on Gaza: Implications for Ukraine

Yesterday 25 March 2024 the United Nations Security Council voted 14:0 (United States abstaining) for a brief resolution, number 2728 (2024), demanding both an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in the hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the organisation previously governing Gaza; and also demanding release of hostages taken from Israel on 7 October 2023 that led to the current crisis in the Gaza Stip. The effect under international law of this resolution is questionable and Israel has already breached the violation, bombarding the Gaza Strip overnight at the time of writing. Israel has also shown her displeasure with the United States for not vetoing the resolution (which, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the United States had the power to do) and it is unclear the extent to which the resolution will have any effect upon the actions either of Israel or of Hamas. Hamas is an internationally unrecognised political authority within the Gaza Strip and Israel has ignored UN Security Council Resolutions on plenty of occasions in the past. Nevertheless the resolution may have some political consequences for the conflict in Ukraine, even though not formally related.

The fact that the United States abstained rather than vetoed the resolution shows an increasing willingness, even in an election year, to engage in a more activist foreign policy, ironic as it may seem. The safer course for the United States Government would have been to veto the Resolution, given the substantial Jewish population in the United States that may be presumed to support Israel and given that Israel’s government so despises the resolution that was allowed to pass. In abstaining on the resolution the United States was taking a position at least moderately critical of Israel, suggesting that the civilian suffering in Israel’s incursion into Gaza in response to the events of 7 October 2023 have been disproportionate and excessive. They stand in contradistinction with the US efforts to provide humanitarian supplies to suffering Gaza civilians by sea from the Eastern Mediterranean, something which has been necessary only as a result of Israel’s unwillingness to permit such deliveries across Israel’s borders with Gaza in sufficient quantities.

More generally, the message seems to have filtered through to the White House that foreign policy decisions are not likely to affect substantially the November 2024 general election in the United States and determine who of Joe Biden and Donald Trump is the next US President. This battle is likely to be determined by internal political factors alone. If that is right, then it gives US foreign policy more latitude in this critical election year and it means that the White House may decide that it take more dramatic steps towards supporting Ukraine in 2024, unafraid that doing so may jeopardise Biden’s election prospects. So far in the US election cycle, we have not seen the candidates sparring over US foreign policy although the various bills to support Israel and Ukraine have become mindlessly bogged down in Congress. However that is something rather different than the opposing Presidential candidates’ perspectives which appear in many ways to be consonant. Donald Tump has been critical of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and now in his own way President Biden is expressing the same sort of implicit criticism by not vetoing Resolution 2728. In fact the two Presidential candidates seem to see eye to eye on a number of foreign policy issues, even if they are careful not to express agreement on anything.

If that is right and private both Trump and Biden have similar views on Ukraine, precisely because they realise that foreign policy issues will not be outcome-determinative in November of this year, then that gives the Biden administration in its final months before the November election greater latitude to act upon its own conscience and upon the conscience of the administration as a whole because Donald Trump’s team is unlikely to condemn Biden’s White House on these grounds. The real electoral battleground is elsewhere. This means that the coordination between the European powers and the United States seen yesterday in the UN Security Council (France and Great Britain, traditionally the United States’ two allies on the Security Council and the United Kingdom never as a point of principle voting in fundamental contradiction to US interests) might be replicated in policies towards Ukraine. As momentum in Europe builds up towards support for harder intervention in Ukraine, with plans on the part of NATO military powers to enter free Ukraine to bolster the Ukrainian Armed Forces, one might hope that the White House is freed from the electoral cycle to join Europe in these plans and for the United States herself to commit to contributing US troops to a collective NATO peacekeeping force and training force actually on Ukrainian soil.

We can only speculate as to the discussions going on in the smoke filled rooms of the United Nations and elsewhere as to how to construct a coalition within NATO that can enter Ukraine and start to bring this ugly conflict to a close. Effective International foreign policy towards Ukraine cannot happen in the UN Security Council where Russia has a veto which would undoubtedly be exercised in any vote condemning Ukraine. But UN Security Council resolutions are seldom the instruments by which Realpolitik is pursued. The war in Ukraine will be won or lost on the battlefield and the presence of NATO troops in Ukraine is what will put it to an end. Let us hope that in showing an element of consensus yesterday over the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the United States and Europe have demonstrated themselves capable of showing common coordination over an assertive foreign policy towards Ukraine as well.


bottom of page