Washington supports reform of the Security Council in the face of confrontation with Russia

The dossier of reforming the structure of the United Nations is at the forefront of the priorities of many member states of the organization, as both friends and opponents of the United States call for a change in the composition of the Security Council.

As world leaders take part in the United Nations General Assembly, calls for change are coming from an unexpected quarter, the United States, which is fed up with Russia’s veto power at a time when it seeks to hold Moscow responsible for the invasion of Ukraine. .

Western powers have studied the rules of procedure to ensure that Russia does not ban Security Council meetings and, in their eagerness to condemn them, have turned to the General Assembly, where each of the 193 UN member states has the right to vote.

The powerlessness of the United Nations became apparent to the world in February, when diplomats continued to read prepared statements as Russia began bombing its neighbor.

In her recent speech, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield expressed her support for “reasonable and credible proposals” to expand the 15-nation Security Council membership.

“We must not defend an outdated and unsustainable status quo,” he said. Instead, we have to show flexibility and a willingness to compromise for the sake of credibility and legitimacy,” she said, without adding clarification.

He noted that the five permanent members with veto power – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – had a special responsibility to uphold standards and promised that the United States would only use the veto in “rare and exceptional cases”.

He added that “any permanent member who uses the veto to defend their acts of aggression loses moral authority and must be held accountable.”

Russia and China scoff at these types of statements issued by the United States, which ignored the UN Security Council during the era of its president George W. Bush for the invasion of Iraq.

Naledi Pandor, the South African foreign minister, who has long called for African representation on the Security Council, said criticizing Russia’s veto was hypocritical.

“Some of us who asked to strengthen the role of the General Assembly did not receive any support, and suddenly today” the situation changed, he said at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

“In these cases, international law loses its meaning. Because some of us see it as cheating.”

While Thomas-Greenfield acknowledged that the United States has not always lived up to her standards, she noted that Washington has used its veto power only four times since 2009, all but one in support of Israel, compared to 26 vetoes in the United States. Russia.

Richard Gowan, a United Nations expert from the International Crisis Group, noted the real concern of the United States about the “deficit” of the UN Security Council.

“But it’s also a clever way to shame China and Russia,” he said. Because we all know that the two countries most sensitive to the idea of ​​reforming the council are Russia and China.”

The five permanent members reflect the balance of power at the end of World War II, a defining historical moment for Russian identity. A new opinion has recently emerged from Ukraine that the UN Security Council seat was for the former Soviet Union, not Russia.

The biggest step in reforming the Security Council came on the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, when Brazil, Germany, India and Japan launched a joint bid for permanent seats.

China has strongly opposed the possibility of Japan, which it considers a parallel power in East Asia, taking a seat, knowing that Tokyo is one of the biggest contributors to the United Nations after the United States.

In the past, US leaders have verbally advocated reform without actually pursuing it. Washington has long supported giving a seat to Japan, an ally whose positions often align with those of the United States. In the past, former President Barack Obama has generally supported giving India a seat.

Gowan noted that a clear invitation from Biden would immediately jump-start efforts to reform the council, but added, “I feel like the Americans don’t have a clear plan on this.”

“They’re bringing it up to test the situation, to challenge China and the Russians. The idea may fade later.

Observers concerned with diplomatic issues question the possibility of implementing any reform in the Security Council while Russia and China consider that the matter endangers their interests.

“Some people in the (international) community who have supported Ukraine in the face of Kremlin aggression talk about it all the time … but I think the realistic chances are very slim,” said John Herbst, a former US diplomat and researcher. in the Atlantic Council.