Soviet Union and the United Nations

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Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Flag of the United Nations.svg Flag of the Soviet Union.svg
United Nations membership
Membership Former full member
Dates 1945 (1945) – 1991 (1991)
UNSC seat Permanent

The Soviet Union was a charter member of the United Nations and one of five permanent members of the Security Council. Its UN seat was transferred to Russian Federation in 1991.

The Creation and Joining[edit]

The Soviet Union took an active role in the United Nations and other major international and regional organizations. At the behest of the United States, the Soviet Union took a role in the establishment of the UN in 1945.[1] The Soviet Union insisted that there be veto rights in the Security Council and that alterations in the United Nations Charter be unanimously approved by the five permanent members.

From the creation to 1955, there was a Western majority in the UN. Other nations joining the UN were limited. 1955 marked the end of American hegemony over the General Assembly, because as more nations became states, they were accepted into the UN. The new states were often just beginning to understand what being their own state meant as they were pushed into the organization where they were often asked to pick between the West and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union made many new allies this way.[2]

The USSR initially protested the membership of India and the Philippines, whose independence was then largely theoretical (being basically colonies of the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively, in all but name). A demand by the Soviet Union that all fifteen Soviet Socialist Republics be recognized as member states in the UN was counter-demanded by the United States that all then forty-eight states be similarly recognized. Ultimately two Soviet Republics (Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR) were admitted as full members of the UN, so between 1945–1991 the Soviet Union was represented by three seats in the United Nations. [3]

Security Council and Veto[edit]

John G. Stoessinger argued the Soviet Union did not abuse its veto power.[4] The Soviet Union had cast its veto 109 times by 1973, out of a total 128 vetoes used by the council. The Soviet Union used the veto 18 times to protect their national interest against USA. Many more vetoes were used because of Cold War and anti-communist actions taken by Western states. Even with all the vetoes used not all stuck. It is shown that for 75 percent of the vetoes cast by the Soviet Union, further actions were taken by UN.[4]

The Soviets believed strongly in the veto power, and insisted it be part of the UN Security Council. They voiced this option for the veto power to both the Security Council and the General Assembly.[4] "The veto power is the paramount principle which constitutes the cornerstone of the United Nations"[5]

Relationship with China[edit]

Debate over China's representation with the United nations began in 1949. The communist regime took over China's mainland, while the Nationalists moved to the island of Taiwan. The UN seat of China was held by the Nationalist government of the Republic of China, but conflict arose on which government should hold the China seat. The Soviet Union supported the communist party, leading to conflict with Western Powers. The Security Council sided with the United States and saw the Communist government of PRC as illegitimate, and prevented it from entering the UN until 1971. Before the China seat was transferred to the Communist government of PRC in 1971, the Soviet Union was one of sixteen states that recognized it as being the legitimate government.[6]

A major turning point in the Soviet UN relation occurred in January 1950, when Soviet representatives boycotted UN functions in protest over the occupation of the seat of China by the Republic of China.[1] Jacob Malik was the sole Soviet representative that walked out of the UN, and announced that they would be boycotting further Security Council meetings.[7] In the absence of the Soviet representatives, the UN Security Council was able to vote for the intervention of UN military forces in what would become the Korean War.[1] This was a downfall to the action of the boycott that was unforeseeable to the Soviet Union at the time.

Nations questioned Soviet actions on relations with China, and how they acted on the issue of representation. The Soviet Union always voted for China's Communist Party to have the seat.[6]

Relationship with Western Powers[edit]

For many years, the Western powers played a guiding role in UN deliberations, but by the 1960s many former colonies had been granted independence and had joined the UN. These states, which became the majority in the General Assembly and other bodies, were increasingly receptive to Soviet "anti-imperialist" appeals. By the 1970s, the UN deliberations had generally become increasingly hostile toward the West and toward the United States in particular, as evidenced by pro-Soviet and anti-United States voting trends in the General Assembly.[1]

Western media reported in 1987 that Eastern European and Asian communist countries that were allies of the Soviet Union, had received more development assistance from the UN than what the Soviet Union had contributed. This contradicted communist states' rhetorical support for the UN's establishment of a New International Economical Order, which would transfer wealth from the rich Northern Hemisphere to the poor Southern Hemisphere states. The Soviet Union announced in September 1987 that it would pay back a portion of its debt to the UN.[8]

The Soviet Union did not, however, win total support in the UN for its foreign policy positions. The Soviet Union and Third World states often agreed that "imperialism" caused and continued to maintain the disparities in the world distribution of wealth. They disagreed, however, on the proper level of Soviet aid to the Third World. Also, the Soviet Union encountered opposition to its occupation of Afghanistan and the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia and received little support (as evidenced by Third World abstentions) for its 1987 proposal on the creation of a "Comprehensive System of International Peace and Security."[1]

Special Agencies[edit]

After walking out of the UN in January 1950 known as the Chinese Boycott, the Soviet Union returned to various UN bodies in August 1950. The return brought with it a beginning of a new policy of active participation on international and regional organizations.[1] By the late 1980s the Soviet Union belonged to most of the special agencies of the UN. They did, however, resist joining various agricultural, food and humanitarian relief efforts.[8]

During the Mikhail Gorbachev era, the Soviet Union made repeated suggestions for increasing UN involvement in the settlement of superpower and regional problems and conflicts. Though these proposals were not implemented, they constituted new initiatives in Soviet foreign policy and represented a break with the nature of past Soviet foreign policy. This lessened world tensions.[8]


When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, it formally "notified" the UN that it was designating Russia as its successor. The Russian Federation was then given the USSR's permanent seat on the Security Council. The eleven signatories (the republics that were previously part of the Soviet Union) of the declaration titled "On UN Membership" agreed that they support Russia in taking over the USSR seat in the UN, including the permanent membership it held on the Security Council. The Soviet Permanent Representative to the UN Vorontsov sent a letter to the Security-General of the UN announcing its resignation and giving its seat to the new government of Russia.[9]

No new credentials were presented by Ambassador Vorontsov in his new capacity as the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation. On 31 January 1992 Russian President Yeltsin himself was in the Russian Federation’s seat in the Security Council during the ‘summit meeting’ of the Council attended by heads of state and government.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Zickel, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress ; edited by Raymond E. (1991). "10: Foreign Policy". In Raymond E. Zickel. Soviet Union : a country study (2nd ed. ed.). Washington, D.C.: The Division. p. 445. ISBN 0160363802. 
  2. ^ Stoessinger, John G. (1977). The United Nations & the superpowers : China, Russia, & America (4. ed. ed.). New York, NY: Random House. p. 25. ISBN 0394312694. 
  3. ^ Stalin: The Man and His Era. by Adam B. Ulman
  4. ^ a b c Stoessinger, John G. (1977). The United Nations & the superpowers : China, Russia, & America (4. ed. ed.). New York, NY: Random House. ISBN 0394312694. 
  5. ^ Stoessinger, John G. (1977). The United Nations & the superpowers : China, Russia, & America (4. ed. ed.). New York, NY: Random House. p. 3. ISBN 0394312694. 
  6. ^ a b Stoessinger, John G. (1965). "Two; The General Assembly; Problems of Membership and Representation of China". The United Nations and the Superpowers: China, Russia, and America (third ed.). New York: Random House. 
  7. ^ "Soviets boycott United Nations Security Council". History. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Zickel, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress ; edited by Raymond E. (1991). "10 Foregin Policy". Soviet Union : a country study (2nd ed. ed.). Washington, D.C.: The Division. p. 446. ISBN 0160363802. 
  9. ^ a b Blum, Yehuda Z. "Russia Takes Over the Soviet Union's Seat at the United Nations".