After a weeks-long diplomatic offensive by Ukraine and its allies, the United Nations has rejected Russia’s attempted annexation of four Ukrainian regions by a strikingly large majority. As many as 143 of the 193 countries condemned Russia, 35 abstained and only four countries voted in favor of Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin received support only from the dictatorships of North Korea, Nicaragua, Belarus and Syria. Wednesday night’s vote in New York will not have a direct effect on the battlefield, but it is a major victory for Ukraine and its Western allies in the global battle for the war narrative. The West wants to isolate Putin as much as possible and continue to make it clear to the Kremlin that aggression is not accepted. However, there is also a downer: a large number of key countries – China, India, South Africa – abstained and are therefore unwilling to defend a basic principle of the international order by unreservedly condemning illegal annexation. Ukraine fatigue In March the members of the General Assembly, in which each country has one vote, already condemned the Russian invasion by a large majority of 141 votes, but in the course of the spring Western diplomats in New York noted a certain “Ukraine fatigue” mastered the UN. Many countries preferred not to choose between Russia and the Western alliance that gathered around Ukraine. A total of nineteen African countries abstained. Djibouti, which previously voted to condemn Russia, did not vote on Wednesday. Moscow’s traditional allies in Central Asia abstained or did not vote. Bangladesh, Iraq and Morocco have now spoken out against Russia. Countries in the ‘Global South’ have various motives for not turning against Russia head-on. Some capitals have good ties to Moscow because the Soviet Union has supported their struggle against colonial rulers in the past. For other countries, economic or strategic interests are paramount. A third group values a good relationship with China and follows Beijing, which presents itself in the UN as an advocate for developing countries and is gaining more and more influence. irritation And then there is a group that prefers not to choose the West. They see Putin’s war in the first place as a European matter from which they like to stay out. It also led to the necessary irritation that the West has money and attention for Ukraine, but does not keep promises to developing countries. For example, rich countries give less money than promised for climate measures. The ‘rich countries first’ approach to the distribution of scarce corona vaccines has not been forgotten either. Western diplomats and politicians have therefore spent the past few weeks trying to convince the doubters that a vote against Russia is not automatically a vote for the West, but a vote for UN principles. All countries benefit from the principle of territorial immunity, they underlined. Today it is Ukraine, tomorrow it may be your country’s turn, the US ambassador to the UN said before the vote. Also listen: The Russian annexation: there seems to be no turning back for Putin Russia portrayed Western meddling as neo-colonialism and tried to blame the food shortage on Western sanctions, when it is Putin’s war that is hindering grain exports from Ukraine. Both the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers have recently visited a number of African countries to reinforce their position. Dmytro Koeleba broke off his journey early this week after the rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities. A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 14, 2022