The Russian president may look isolated over Ukraine, but important players are hedging their bets
When Vladimir Putin recognised Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics, days before his invasion of Ukraine, one of the most powerful denunciations came from Kenya’s envoy to the UN. Martin Kimani cited his country’s own history as he warned against irredentism and expansionism: “We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression,” he said.
On two general assembly resolutions – the first denouncing the invasion, the second blaming Russia for creating a humanitarian crisis – 140 or more nations have approved. Only four have voted with Russia to oppose them: a rogues’ gallery of Belarus, Eritrea, Syria and North Korea. Yet widespread condemnation, along with the west’s unexpected unity, should not be mistaken for Russian isolation. Having boasted of a relationship with “no limits”, and sharing a common interest in countering the global might of the US and Nato, China is now seeking to portray itself in a more nuanced light and avoid economic and political damage – but is not, in reality, distancing itself from Russia. Beijing is not alone. Few of the world’s most populous nations, and only a few leading players outside the west, have assailed Mr Putin.