The Legacy of Vitaly Churkin, a Russian Grandmaster of the U.N. Game

The Legacy of Vitaly Churkin, a Russian Grandmaster of the U.N. Game
Russia's former U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin returns to his seat after making a statement, New York, Oct. 13, 2016 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

In the past two months, three of the most influential individuals at the United Nations have made their exits. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon bade farewell in December. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power quit as the Obama administration wrapped up in January. And this week, Russian representative Vitaly Churkin died unexpectedly at his office at the Russian mission in New York. His departure may be the most significant of all three.

Ban was a stodgy bureaucrat. Power was a fiery but often frustrated advocate for serious U.N. interventions in trouble spots like the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Churkin was an old-school diplomat, and a strikingly good one.

Over the course of a decade in New York, he reasserted Russia’s authority as a permanent member of the Security Council after the Kosovo and Iraq crises. In those cases, despite its veto, Moscow had been unable to stop Western interventions. Churkin redressed the balance by exploiting Western uncertainties over how to engage in Syria’s civil war, blocking all serious U.S. and European efforts to put pressure on Damascus.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.