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President Joe Biden in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly His government has proposed reforms to expand the UN Security Council and add more permanent members with veto powers to make the council “more inclusive”.
Biden administration officials The reforms have been talked about for weeks, apparently because Russia and China have been using their vetoes to block U.S.-backed Security Council resolutions on Ukraine, the Middle East and North Korea. However, while the proposal has long had the support of most UN member states and foreign policy establishments, it is sure to get nowhere.
The UN Security Council has 15 members. The United States, Britain, France, China and Russia are the five permanent members with veto power. Regional groups elect 10 other members for two-year terms. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, recently called the arrangement an “unsustainable and outdated status quo.”
Thomas-Greenfield proposed not only an expansion of the council and an increase in membership, but also an informal limit on when the veto can be used, and a voluntary requirement for permanent members to explain their veto to the UN General Assembly. If implemented, the proposals could evolve into formal restrictions on the use of the Security Council’s veto and could be a way for the General Assembly to override the veto.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration refuses to recognize how important a U.S. Security Council veto is to protect our interests and that of our allies on the Security Council. Of the 266 vetoes to date, 122 by the Soviet Union and Russia. The United States cast 82 votes, usually on anti-Israel resolutions.
The U.S. will cast more vetoes on the Security Council in the future, given the continued hostility toward the U.S. and Israel among many U.N. members. The Security Council’s veto also continues to serve an important purpose: preventing the five permanent members — all nuclear states — from adopting mutually opposing resolutions and promoting consensus.
This isn’t the first time a presidential administration has tried to undermine a UN Security Council veto. As a UN analyst at the CIA in the 1990s, I worked with Clinton administration officials who had their own advice to do this. They have nowhere to go, however, as the other permanent members prepare to use their veto powers to block any changes to the Council.
As dangerous and radical as Biden’s proposal to reform the UN Security Council, it is dead as soon as it arrives because it would be vetoed by China and Russia, who like the status quo on the Security Council. His Security Council reform proposals would further deepen global awareness of the incompetence of the Biden administration’s leadership and foreign policy.