The United States decided to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations with a withering critique of that institution, accusing it of abuses and impotence. Usually Washington undertakes such campaigns in order to lay the groundwork for significant maneuvers the US administration is planning to take on the international stage. This time they’re trying to deny Russia her power of veto in the UN Security Council.
* * *
The idea to create the United Nations was first discussed by the leaders of Great Britain, the USSR, and the US during the Tehran Conference in 1943, at the initiative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In Tehran, the leaders of the Big Three powers sketched out some rough goals, objectives, and a structure for that future organization. The final decision to establish the United Nations was made at the Yalta Conference, based on the work of the US-British-Sino-Soviet conference at the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Washington, DC, which was held between September and October of 1944. There the date and location were set for the Conference for the Establishment of the United Nations - April 25, 1945 in San Francisco.
FDR’s unexpected death, 13 days before the conference was to begin, could have not only disrupted its opening session, but might have even derailed the very creation of the UN. However, Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman, decided to move ahead with his predecessor’s idea, and on the appointed day 3,500 representatives from 50 states (including two delegations from the Byelorussian and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics) convened the first session of the conference.
Work on the creation of the UN Charter lasted exactly two months, and on April 25, 1945 it was unanimously approved and then signed a day later by the representatives of every country taking part in the conference.
Over the course of writing the charter, the most serious disagreements centered on the power of veto, a prerogative that had the staunch backing of those who had spearheaded the establishment of the UN as well as of the permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, the Soviet Union, the US, and France. Many small states expressed their fear that these great powers would thus be able to impose their will when important decisions were made. However, for the sake of agreement on the main issue - the creation of the institution - the objections were withdrawn.
But shortly after the ratification process ended and the charter went into effect on Oct. 24, 1945, the process of reforming the UN began, and almost every year endless numbers of new proposals regarding the charter arise for debate.
* * *
The documents and structure of the United Nations, which were developed during the Second World War and post-war years, reflected the global environment of their day, but are of course inadequate to cope with the changes that have occurred in recent decades. During that time many politically and economically influential states have taken their place on the world stage and are now vying for a more meaningful role within the UN.
This problem was partially solved in 1965 by increasing the number of non-permanent members of the UN Security Council from six to ten. However, in the 21st century the question of expanding the permanent body and raising the number of permanent Security Council members has arisen once again. Discussions have centered on the total number of Security Council seats, the candidates for new permanent membership, and their veto power. Thus, as one of the conditions for boosting the number of permanent members of the UN Security Council, it has been suggested that they not be entrusted with veto power until after 15 years of work in their new status. The idea of increasing the Security Council to 24 members is also being discussed.
The most serious debates focus on the candidates for new permanent seats. There are four primary contenders - Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan - countries that are very often elected to be non-permanent members of the Security Council. However, far from everyone is satisfied with these choices, and alternative candidates such as Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Niger, Pakistan, South Africa, and the European Union have also been proposed. In addition, some countries are demanding a radical step - that the permanent members be stripped of their ability to block UN Security Council resolutions and deprived of their power of veto.
This is not a new stipulation. It was suggested in one form or another back during the years of the League of Nations, but that all ended badly: after the USSR was expelled - and only seven of the 15 members of the Council of the LN voted in favor of that ouster, and three of those had been elected only one day before the vote - the League of Nations ceased its activities and six years later was disbanded. The Big Three kept this bitter experience in mind when designing the architecture of the United Nations.
* * *
The current situation, in which some US satellites are demanding that Russia be stripped of her veto power, did not arise out of nowhere. The UN evolved out of multipolar world, and for many years it reflected this world order. The disappearance of the Soviet Union from the global map and the profound crisis that gripped the countries of the former Soviet Union during the 1990s resulted in the US envisioning herself as a global hegemon. Given this backdrop, Washington began to view the old architecture of the United Nations as a sweet, innocuous, and harmless relic, like some quaint British customs. However, once the growing military and economic might of China reached a par with that of the US, and Russia recovered from its enervation of the 1990s, this «relic» regained its significance and began to once again reflect the reemerging multipolar world.
Of course, elements remain of America’s dominance of the world stage. According to Professor Jonathan Adelman of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver (Colorado), the European powers are still under the thumb of US influence. And he is not the only one who thinks so. Anne Applebaum, a columnist on European affairs for The Washington Post, likewise notes that «American influence in Europe is shrinking, along with American engagement in the world». That’s also indisputable. According to Ms. Applebaum, «America’s allies are as wary of American belligerence as they are of American indecision».
This is definitely a problem for the US. The second problem is the rest of the world’s growing dislike for America. «Even if the U.S. is the most powerful militarily, if the nations and people of the world no longer want its presence in their countries, there is little that Washington can do anything about it. The U.S. government’s extremely aggressive military policies are making new enemies at an alarming rate. This is just the tip of the iceberg», writes Michael Payne at the website NationofChange. «America, once the most respected nation in the world has now become the most feared and, according to independent international organizations... it is viewed by a majority of the nations of the world as a great threat to world peace».
This claim that the US is globally seen as «a great threat to world peace» is more than empty rhetoric. In addition to the 737 military bases the US operates in 38 countries, American soldiers have a presence of some kind in 171 nations. And what’s most dangerous is that as a result of US policies, many of these countries are becoming what are called «failed states». Canadian Professor Michel Chossudovsky writes that «[t]he Washington based National Intelligence Council (NIC) in its Global Trends report (December 2012) ‘predicts’ that 15 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East will become ‘failed states’ by 2030, due to their ‘potential for conflict and environmental ills.’ The list of countries in the 2012 NIC report includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, DR Congo, Malawi, Haiti, Yemen». Chossudovsky contends that «the US and its allies have, since the 1970s, provided covert support to religious extremist organizations as a means to destabilize sovereign secular nation states. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan were secular states in the 1970s. A Yugoslav or Somalia-style ‘failed state status’ is not the result of internal social divisions, it is a strategic objective implemented through covert operations and military action».
* * *
Washington is striving to uphold America’s dominant position in the world, but is aware that this cannot be done without neutralizing Russia’s and China’s leverage in the world’s most influential international organization – the United Nations. Hence the attempts to eliminate from the UN Charter a key provision such as the veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council – counting on the fact that by pressuring the other members of the UN Security Council, it will be possible to automatically «legitimize» American intervention in the affairs of any country. The system of mutual deterrence that was designed 70 years ago by the Big Three leaders for the sake of preserving peace on Earth no longer suits the US.