The U.S. and Russia are reportedly standing in the way of an international agreement for a global ceasefire called for by the United Nations, claiming their militaries must retain the ability to attack enemies even as countries around the world face thousands of coronavirus cases.
The Trump administration is reluctant to agree to a universal ceasefire, Foreign Policy reported Friday, because of U.S. counterterrorism operations and partially because a ceasefire could impede key ally Israel's ability to conduct military operations throughout the Middle East.
President Donald Trump's position puts him at odds with "a broad global consensus for a ceasefire over all violent conflicts in the midst of COVID-19," tweeted author Henry Tam.
There is a broad global consensus for a ceasefire over all violent conflicts in the midst of #COVID19;
Except for Trump & Putin, who insist conflicts, deaths, & their countries' arms exports should continue: https://t.co/ntD0QCjtBS
— Dr. Henry Tam (@HenryBTam) April 20, 2020
While both the U.S. and Russia have "publicly praised" the idea of a global ceasefire, according to Foreign Policy reporter Colum Lynch, White House officials insist the U.S. must be able to continue its operations around the world despite the pandemic, which has killed more than 160,000 people worldwide so far and has infected more than 2.3 million.
"The U.S. pushback against a globally encompassing ceasefire may come from the Trump administration's increasingly heavy dependence on elite counterterrorism operations and covert strikes to kill Islamic State and Iranian-linked military operatives over the past six months," wrote Lynch.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly reluctant to support a blanket ceasefire due to Russia's continued operations in Syria and its support for groups in Libya and other countries, according to The Guardian.
Luc Dockendorf, a career diplomat from Luxembourg, summarized the American and Russian positions as supporting the ceasefire for other countries only.
— Luc Dockendorf (@LucDockendorf) April 17, 2020
Since U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres first called for an immediate global ceasefire last month—saying that "the fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war"—French President Emmanuel Macron attempted to garner support from Trump and Putin by making the agreement non-binding.
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Under Macron's proposal, countries could be exempt from the ceasefire "to continue to carry out military operations against individuals and armed groups designated as terrorists by the U.N. Security Council," Lynch reported.
Macron's draft would make the ceasefire "impossible to enforce," Simon Tisdall wrote at The Guardian Sunday, potentially putting vulnerable populations in as much danger of violence as they are now.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Foreign Policy of Macron's proposal that "the United States supports the Secretary General's call for a global ceasefire, but have noted that we will continue to fulfill our legitimate counterterrorism mission."
Although U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Knight Craft indicated last week that an agreement based on Macron's limited, non-binding proposal could be reached in the coming days, even that process has met impediments due to the Trump administration's objections. The U.S. demanded in March that the resolution include the phrase "Wuhan virus" to refer to the coronavirus, and last week demanded that language praising the World Health Organization (WHO) for its response to the pandemic be removed—an impasse which had not been resolved as of Friday. Trump held funding for WHO last week—at least temporarily—drawing condemnation from public health experts.
Humanitarian group UNICEF urged all countries to halt violent conflicts during the pandemic, calling on world leaders to "protect children under attack."
To protect #ChildrenUnderAttack, we need a global ceasefire, NOW.
— Kent Page (@KentPage) April 17, 2020
"As we face the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, children need peace more than ever," tweeted UNICEF strategic communications advisor Kent Page.