Soviet Union and the United Nations
|United Nations membership|
|Membership||Former full member|
The Soviet Union was a charter member of the United Nations and one of five permanent members of the Security Council. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, its UN seat was transferred to the Russian Federation.
Role in founding of the UN
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. 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.
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 48 states be similarly recognized. Ultimately two Soviet Republics (Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR) were admitted as full members of the UN, so between 1945 and 1991, the Soviet Union was represented by three seats in the United Nations. The United States was also offered two additional seats, but due to political problems (regarding which two of the 48 states would be represented), it was never acted upon.
An alternate explanation as to why the US never got the two additional seats to bring it even with the three seats in the General Assembly is related by later United States Secretary of State, James F. Byrnes who in his autobiography quotes a letter from Premier Stalin to President Roosevelt dated 2/11/1945 in which Stalin says in part: "I entirely agree with you that, since the number of votes for the Soviet Union is increased to three, the number of votes for the USA should also be increased. If it is necessary I am prepared officially to support this proposal." Byrnes states that he later reminded Roosevelt of Stalin's letter of agreement to the three votes for the USA, but that Roosevelt had apparently either changed his mind or, perhaps because of his declining health, forgotten it and replied, "It is not really of any great importance. I am not really keen for three votes in the Assembly. It is the little fellow who needs the vote in the Assembly."
This resulted in the chairman of the US delegation to the San Francisco Conference, Edward Stettinius, not pressing the demand for three seats in the Assembly. No mention is made by Byrnes, who was at the Yalta Conference where the three seat issue was first discussed, of any official offer of three seats to the US, nor of any discussion as to which of the US states would have held those seats had they been offered.
Security Council and veto
John G. Stoessinger argued the Soviet Union did not abuse its veto power.[page needed] 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 the United States. Many more vetoes were used because of Cold War and anti-Communist actions taken by the 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.[page needed]
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. "The veto power is the paramount principle which constitutes the cornerstone of the United Nations"
Relationship with China
Debate over China's representation with the United nations began in 1949. The Communist Party of China took over the country'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 the West. The Security Council sided with the United States and saw the Communist government of People's Republic of China (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 viewed it as being the legitimate government.
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. Yakov Malik was the sole Soviet representative that walked out of the UN, and announced that they would be boycotting further Security Council meetings. 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. 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.
Relationship with the West
For many years, the West 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.
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.
The Soviet Union did not, however, win support in the UN for its foreign policy positions. The Soviet Union and Third World states often argued 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 fierce opposition to its invasion and 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."
Participation in special agencies
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. 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.
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.
Dissolution and succession by Russia
In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, 11 Soviet republics—all except the Baltic states and Georgia—signed the Alma-Ata Protocol on 21 December 1991, establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States and declaring that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. The Protocol provided that the Russian Federation would assume Soviet Union's UN membership, including its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. The resignation of Soviet President Gorbachev on 25 December 1991 and the dissolution of the Soviet of the Republics the following day formalized the end of the Soviet Union.
On 24 December 1991, the Soviet Permanent Representative to the UN Yuli Vorontsov delivered to the Secretary-General of the UN a letter from the Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The letter stated that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist, and that Russia would continue the Soviet Union's membership in the UN and maintain the full responsibility for all the rights and obligations of the Soviet Union under the UN Charter. The letter was circulated among the UN membership without any objection, and Russia formally took over the Soviet Union's seat in the UN General Assembly, in the Security Council and in other organs of the United Nations. The letter also confirmed the credentials of Soviet representatives to represent Russia, and Soviet representatives to the various UN agencies continued serving as Russian representatives without presenting new credentials. Ambassador Vorontsov continued serving as the first Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN.
On 31 January 1992, Russian President Boris 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.
- 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.). Washington, D.C.: The Division. p. 445. ISBN 0160363802.
- Stoessinger, John G. (1977). The United Nations & the superpowers : China, Russia, & America (4. ed.). New York, NY: Random House. p. 25. ISBN 0394312694.
- Stalin: The Man and His Era. by Adam B. Ulman
- James F. Byrnes in his autobiography, All In One Lifetime, published by Harper Brothers,1958
- Stoessinger, John G. (1977). The United Nations & the superpowers : China, Russia, & America (4. ed.). New York, NY: Random House. ISBN 0394312694.
- Stoessinger, John G. (1977). The United Nations & the superpowers : China, Russia, & America (4. ed.). New York, NY: Random House. p. 3. ISBN 0394312694.
- 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.
- "Soviets boycott United Nations Security Council". History. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- Zickel, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress ; edited by Raymond E. (1991). "10 Foreign Policy". Soviet Union : a country study (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: The Division. p. 446. ISBN 0160363802.
- Blum, Yehuda Z. "Russia Takes Over the Soviet Union's Seat at the United Nations" (PDF).
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies. – Soviet Union (May 1989).