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The General Assembly Hall as President Barack Obama addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2014 United Nations, New York (U.N. photo by Mark Garten).

U.S. Sidelines Russia at U.N., but Real-World Gains Remain Elusive

Monday, Sept. 29, 2014

Last week’s top-level session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York offered three basic lessons. The first is that the United States can still dominate the U.N. when it wants to. The second is that a clear majority of other countries’ leaders are quite relieved to follow an American lead. But the third is that the U.N. is only really still relevant in two—admittedly sensitive—regions: Africa and the Middle East.

America’s ability to direct U.N. affairs was in doubt a year ago, when the annual General Assembly jamboree was overshadowed by the Syrian chemical weapons crisis. While the U.S. and Russia agreed to dismantle President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical stockpile, Moscow was the obvious winner. President Barack Obama looked unnerved by the potential fallout of a military attack on Damascus and obliged to rely on Russian assistance to drive a compromise deal through the Security Council. ...

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