The UN has appointed veteran Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov to head the newly established counter-terrorism division, despite growing tensions between the US and Russia. UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq announced the appointment made by Secretary General Antonio Guterres, one week after the General Assembly voted to create the new coordinating body, The Independent reported on Wednesday. The UN Counter-Terrorism office would oversee the counterterrorism efforts of 36 UN-funded programmes currently housed under a variety of UN agencies, 12 inter-agency working groups, as well as Interpol, and the World Customs Organisation.
The existing Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force is under the political affairs division. There are also two related offices under the Security Council, which will remain in place. If the appointment of a Russian official seems controversial at this time, Richard Gowan a UN expert with the European Council of Foreign Affairs previously told The Independent that it is “a pretty open secret” that the deal was actually made in 2016 when Guterres was campaigning for his position.
For its part, Russia had agreed to give up its regional turn to lead the world body so that the Portuguese Guterres could have a chance. “It is not pretty, but that is how UN politics works,” said Gowan. Guterres also met Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month at an economic forum in St. Petersburg. Voronkov will have the rank of Under-Secretary-General. He has spent more than 30 years in Russia’s foreign service, serving in Vienna as an ambassador to UN organisations since 2011. One of the world body’s entities housed in Vienna includes the Office on Drugs and Crime, which often deals with counterterrorism issues.
Former Ambassador to Ukraine and Uzbekistan John Herbst, now Director of Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, told The Independent that Voronkov’s appointment “makes sense” in terms of the UN having a senior official in a coordinating capacity because as a global body, the UN “needs to be able to address” the matter more effectively. He also noted that “counter-terrorism is a much easier issue to discuss” with Russian officials than Ukraine, for example.