“In the first United Nations General Assembly vote in early March, 141 countries affirmed that Russia should “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw,” and in another resolution, 140 countries voted for humanitarian protections of Ukrainians.
But when the General Assembly voted in early April to expel Russia from the Human Rights Council, the majority was smaller. Ninety-three countries voted in favor, but 58 abstained and 24 voted against. The abstentions included Egypt, Ghana, India, and Indonesia, which were leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement — countries that created their own transnational grouping rather than back the US or Soviet Union during the Cold War. Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa also abstained. China voted against.
The US and NATO have led unprecedented sanctions against Russia. But almost no countries in the Global South have signed onto them.
Analysts looking at these responses see a reinvigoratednonaligned movement. “When you see a return to what looks a lot like Cold War politics, then it’s quite natural that people start to reach for the Cold War conceptual toolbox,” Richard Gowan, the UN director of the International Crisis Group, told me. “It’s a mirror to the ‘NATO is back’ talk.”
The Non-Aligned Movement of the 1960s was not about neutrality. It put forward a unifying agenda for developing countries caught between warring superpowers. A similar platform for the 21st century hasn’t emerged yet, but with the majority of people in the world living in the Global South and the Ukraine war heightening tensions between two of the world’s largest powers, there are signs that it could.”
“The first reason relates to economics and trade. Russia is a major exporter of energy, food, and fertilizer. Many countries can’t afford to cut economic ties with Moscow. India also depends on Russia for arms sales. Though Russian investment is not in the top of countries in Latin America, it’s still a factor.”
“Second, there remains skepticism toward the US and NATO. The US invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law, and many nations see the West’s other regime-change efforts in Afghanistan and Libya as similarly flawed with ongoing spillover effects, according to experts with whom I spoke.
That skepticism extends to sanctions.”
“As Guillaume Long, the former foreign minister of Ecuador, told me, “A lot of Latin Americans feel and think that sanctions are applied in a sort of selective, politicized way with a lot of double standards — basically, a tool of the US hegemony rather than a tool of global justice.” He cited the unpopularity across Latin America of the US’s coercive economic measures against Cuba and how civilians are negatively affected by US sanctions on Venezuela.”
“The thirdfactor is enduring solidarity with Russia, given its anti-colonial positions at times during the Cold War, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. The USSR was a superpower itself, making strategic foreign policy choices in its own perceived interest. Among more left-leaning governments, Russia also has a legacy of supporting independence from colonial powers. In particular, the African National Congress in South Africa was close to the Soviet Union and looks fondly on Russia for its staunch anti-apartheid position. Botes noted South Africa’s connections to Ukraine, too, and told me that Odesa, when it was part of the USSR, hosted ANC training camps.
“Some countries may avoid choosing a side as an insurance policy in case Russia were to win over Ukraine. And Russia is an important force in the international system, especially in the United Nations. “If you’re a Latin American country, and you’re trying to get some votes at the UN, you know, 50 percent of the time you might get the support of Russia,” Long said. “But you can be sure that Ukraine will vote with the United States.”
For all of those reasons, something approximating a nonaligned position has begun to take shape.”