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Ukraine war: Russia considers withdrawing from WHO and WTO

Russia may sever ties with prominent global bodies as Vladimir Putin continues to isolate his nation from the West following the invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow’s Foreign Ministry yesterday sent a list of international organisations to parliament, with orders to review it and break ‘obligations [or] treaties which do not bring benefit, but direct damage to our country,’ deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said.

The World Health Organisation and World Trade Organisation are among names on the list, Russian news agencies reported.

It comes after Western countries cut off large parts of the Russian economy from the global trade via sanctions, with hundreds of western businesses pulling out of the country to protest the war.

Russia’s foreign ministry has ordered parliament to cut ties with any global body deemed to be ‘harming’ the country, as Putin isolates himself from the West (file image)

WHO member states have already tried to force the health body – which typically avoids taking a stance on politics – into taking action over the invasion.

Just last week they voted in favour of a non-binding resolution condemning Russian attacks on Ukrainian healthcare facilities, and the effect of the war on public health.

The same resolution also called on WHO chiefs to consider closing their office in Moscow and relocating it outside the country.

Russia condemned the resolution as ‘exclusively political in nature’ and said it had no bearing on healthcare provision in either country.

Plans to withdraw from the WTO – which sets benchmarks for global trade for its members – have been tabled in Moscow many times before.

Russia only joined the global body in 2012 after 19 years of negotiations, with opponents viewing some of its terms as unfavourable to Moscow while also giving the West a tool with which to punish the country.

But a renewed push to leave has been sparked by the decision of several member states – including most European nations, the US and Canada – to suspend Russia’s ‘most favoured nation’ status over the Ukraine war.

The WHO (Moscow office, file image) is among global bodies on the list which also includes the World Trade Organisiation

The WHO (Moscow office, file image) is among global bodies on the list which also includes the World Trade Organisiation

It means those countries can impose tariffs on Russia in excess of what WTO rules typically allow, in addition to allowing them to sanction Russian companies.

Putin has branded the moves ‘illegal’ and said he will be updating Russia’s ‘WTO strategy’ to take them into account – without spelling out exactly what that means.

Earlier this week, McDonald’s became the latest Western company to announce a complete withdrawal from Russia – saying it has made plans to sell off all its outlets and quit the country 30 years after arriving there.

‘The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable,’ it said.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Starbucks are among other notable brands to have ceased or paused operations in Russia over the war.

Corporations from British energy giants Shell and BP to French carmaker Renault have pulled out of Russia, taking a hit to their bottom lines as they seek to sell their holdings there.

Other companies have stayed at least partially, with some facing blowback.

Russia is facing near-total global isolation over its war on Ukraine, which has seen large parts of its economy cut off from global trade and Putin's regime sanctioned

Russia is facing near-total global isolation over its war on Ukraine, which has seen large parts of its economy cut off from global trade and Putin’s regime sanctioned

Russia has faced near-total isolation from the world community over its invasion of Ukraine, which Putin has tried to play off as a ‘special military operation’ to remove what he calls a ‘Nazi’ regime.

But he has received little support even from Russia’s traditional allies, with a UN vote to condemn the war returning a near-unprecedented 141 votes in favour, 35 abstentions and just five in favour.

The only countries to vote with Russia were North Korea, Syria, Belarus and Eritrea. China, which had signalled support for the war before it began, was among notable abstentions that also included the likes of Cuba and Venezuela.

Since then, western governments have imposed a raft of punitive sanctions that have cut off most Russian banks from the international SWIFT payment system, deprived Moscow of its foreign currency reserves, and hammered Putin’s oligarchs.

Europe has also moved to place embargos on Russian oil and coal and is working – with some reluctance – to end its dependency on Russian gas, which could hobble the country financially.

Meanwhile the International Criminal Court at The Hague has opened an investigation into allegations of war crimes after the discovery of civilian massacres in towns such as Bucha and Irpin.

Putin ‘has a messianic obsession with Russia after locking himself away from Covid for two years’

Vladimir Putin has developed a ‘messianic obsession’ with Russian greatness after being ‘closeted away from the virus and the real world’ for two years, a former NATO general secretary has said.

Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, who led the alliance from 1999 to 2003, warned the West must avoid provoking the ‘thin-skinned’ leader who could further escalate his barbaric invasion of Ukraine.

The Labour peer said in a lecture at St Anthony’s College at Oxford University that the Russian president showed an ’emotional side’ when they met before but now he has a ‘dangerous mind-set’ that could lead to even greater devastation.

He said, according to The Times: ‘Words matter and they are magnified and distorted and the reaction to loose language from Western countries can lead to an ‘I’ll show them’ response.

Vladimir Putin has developed a 'messianic obsession' with Russian greatness after being 'closeted away from the virus and the real world' a former NATO general secretary has said

Vladimir Putin has developed a ‘messianic obsession’ with Russian greatness after being ‘closeted away from the virus and the real world’ a former NATO general secretary has said

‘The man in the Kremlin has a remarkably thin skin and we should avoid provoking him into even more reckless violence against the Ukrainians. I have seen him in the meetings I had, in what were good times, display an emotional side which surfaced from the cool, controlled approach he took to most matters.

‘Today, closeted away from the virus and from the real world, that emotionalism has been boiled up with a partial view of history and a messianic obsession with Russian greatness. It has produced a dangerous mindset.’

As secretary general, Robertson invoked NATO’s collective defence clause known as article five for the first and only time, following 9/11.

It means an attack against one member state is considered an attack against all, and forces each nation to assist by taking ‘such action as it deems necessary’.

Robertson added that Putin’s ‘worst nightmare’ was a revolution on the streets, urging the West to appeal to ordinary Russians in a bid to topple the despot.

He said: ‘The younger generation of Russians who have been seduced by Putin’s nationalism and the manipulative traducing of Ukraine’s government, and even its right to exist, will not want to live with the stain of his aggression.’

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