The United Nations General Assembly elected five new Security Council members this week. India, South Africa and Colombia ran in uncontested races from the Asian, African and Latin American regional groups and will begin serving on the Security Council in January. But the remaining races were contested, with Germany, Portugal and Canada competing for two seats from the Western European and Others group. With the European Union already represented by veto-wielding France and Great Britain on the Security Council, and either Portugal or Germany certain to win another seat for the EU, it was critical that America’s close ally Canada win a two-year term. The U.S. could use the help in pushing for UN reform and advocating pro-democracy policies. The current conservative government in Canada had been campaigning for months to sit on the UN’s most powerful committee with no public support from the Obama Administration. In fact, U.S. State Department insiders say that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice not only didn’t campaign for Canada’s election but instructed American diplomats to not get involved in the weeks leading up to the heated contest. With no public American support, Canada lost its bid to serve. That gives the EU more than 25% control of the body and a strong voting block to ensure EU priorities become global priorities. This was the second time a high profile ally could have used U.S. help yet Rice chose to stay silent.
Israel was left to defend itself against a full-out assault from the UN after it captured a flotilla aid ship headed to the Gaza Strip on May 31. Susan Rice never showed up for the marathon emergency UN meeting and left Israel without its most powerful friend. “It was a crucial moment for Israel and for the top American Ambassador to not even show up to the meeting where Israel was being attacked by hypocritical dictatorships was a powerful sign to others,” one current UN diplomat said.
While Rice is currently in Africa on an official UN trip and was unable to attend Tuesday’s actual vote, she could have had her team work to Canada’s benefit. Instead she instructed colleagues to steer clear, effectively abandoning Canada. By contrast, when Venezuela wanted a seat on the Security Council over U.S. objections in 2006, then-US Ambassador John Bolton aggressively campaigned for Guatemala instead. Bolton met with a plethora of UN diplomats and publicly pushed the UN to vote 48 times over 3 weeks until Venezuela finally gave up its campaign and was denied a seat. Rice’s actions also differ greatly from the words she used during the 2008 presidential campaign when she promised that the Obama Administration would “lead our friends and allies.”
Some conservatives in Canada believe that the Obama team worked with Canadian liberals to leave Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative government hanging without vocal U.S. support. In the past, American ambassadors around the globe were instructed by Washington and led by the US Mission to the UN to work aggressively behind the scenes rallying capitals around the world to support certain countries in crucial Security Council elections. At other times, vocal American support was needed to highlight a priority U.S. issue. In Canada’s case, Rice chose to say nothing publicly and declined to lead a global campaign on behalf of our northern neighbor. Her silence also seemed politically coordinated when Canadian Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff criticized his own country’s policies on climate change and its staunch support for Israel – policies the Obama team disagrees with.
For Rice, this latest episode highlights her willingness to put partisan liberal policies above representing the American people at the UN. Ambassador Rice’s consistent silence when faced with difficult issues is exactly what America doesn’t need at the UN and our allies are beginning to take notice of her timidity.