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US commission: Kick Russia off UN Security Council

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)
October 17, 2022

The Helsinki Commission, a U.S. government agency which operates under the purview of Congress, is calling for the United Nations to remove Russia’s permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken provided to Foreign Policy, the Helsinki Commission called for the U.S. to launch a long-shot bid to end Russia’s status as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

The Helsinki Commission was established by Congress in 1975 to monitor compliance with the Helsinki Accords, a set of agreements to maintain peaceful relations between the West and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R. or Soviet Union).

“We urge you to initiate a process to replace Russia on the U.N. Security Council as the fifth permanent member,” commission co-chair Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and ranking member Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) wrote in their letter on Wednesday. “Russia is not a responsible international actor and is unbecoming of a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Moreover, it has no right to this seat. Rather, it was provided to Russia in a deal after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Ukraine could and should be recognized to fill the USSR seat rather than Russia.”

There are five permanent seats on the 15-member U.N. Security Council. While the other ten member-nations are changed out on a rotating basis, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States all remain permanently on the council. Each of the five permanent members also the power to absolutely veto any council resolutions regardless of how much support they have.

Earlier this month, Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council measure to censure Russia’s annexation of four eastern Ukrainian territories.

The U.S.S.R. had previously held the U.N. Security Council Seat now held by Russia. In 1991, as part of an agreement to dissolve the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation assumed the U.S.S.R.’s role in the U.N. and took Russia’s place as one of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members. Foreign Policy noted Ukraine supported the Russian Federation’s continuance of the Soviet Union’s United Nations membership in 1991.

Russia has held onto this U.N. Security Council seat for the past 31 years.

According to Foreign Policy, the plan to now kick strip Russia of its U.N. Security Council tweet would entail Ukraine issuing credentials to a representative to claim the seat and then using that move to force a vote over the legitimacy of Russia’s claim to the Security Council seat.

This letter calling for Blinken to help challenge Russia’s permanent spot on the U.N. Security Council is just the latest in a series of efforts to unseat Russia.

Earlier this year, Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. Sergiy Kyslytsya argued that the permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council once held by the U.S.S.R. should have dissolved with the Soviet Union, The Guardian reported.

The Russian Federation’s decades-long hold of the Soviet Union’s U.N. Security Council seat, along with Ukraine’s initial support for that transfer of U.N. privileges to the Russian Federation could undermine arguments to strip the Russian Federation of its permanent seat.

Richard Gowan, the United Nations director for the International Crisis Group also told Foreign Policy that such a move could upset the international community’s support for the U.N.

“A lot of states worry about the general precedent for the U.S. and its allies trying to exclude countries from U.N. forums,” Gowan said. “They worry that if Russia can be somehow turfed out of the security council, then in the future, the West will start trying to throw smaller countries that it doesn’t like out of U.N. bodies or trying to use the U.N. charter rules to expel smaller countries from the U.N. altogether.”