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Similar to his short-sighted call to remove Senate filibuster because it is inconvenient to his legislative agenda, President Joe Biden said in his speech to the UN General Assembly that his administration has proposed reforms to expand the UN Security Council and add more veto Wielding permanent members to make the Council “more inclusive.”
Biden administration officials have been talking for several weeks about these reforms, apparently because Russia and China have been using their veto power to block US-backed Security Council resolutions on Ukraine, the Middle East and North Korea. . However, while this proposal has long been backed by most UN members and the foreign policy establishment, it is sure to go nowhere.
The UN Security Council has 15 members. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia are the five permanent members with veto power. The regional blocs elect the other 10 members for two-year terms. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, recently called this arrangement “an unsustainable and outdated status quo.”
BIDEN CALLS ON THE UN TO EXPAND PERMANENT MEMBERS OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL
Thomas-Greenfield has proposed not only an expansion of the council and the addition of members, but also informal restrictions on when the veto can be used and a voluntary requirement for permanent members to explain their vetoes to the UN General Assembly. If implemented, these proposals could become formal limits on the use of the Security Council veto and possibly a way for the General Assembly to override vetoes.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration refuses to admit how important the United States Security Council veto has been in protecting our interests and those of our allies on the council. Of the 266 vetoes cast to date, 122 were from the USSR and Russia. The US issued 82, often on anti-Israeli resolutions.
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Given the continued hostility against the US and Israel by many UN members, the US will exercise more vetoes in the Security Council in the future. The Security Council veto also continues to serve an important purpose: to prevent the five permanent members, all nuclear states, from passing resolutions against each other and promoting consensus.
This is not the first time that a presidential administration has attempted to undermine the UN Security Council’s veto. As a CIA analyst at the UN in the 1990s, I worked with Clinton administration officials who had their own proposals to do this. However, they got nowhere because the other permanent members were prepared to use their veto power to block any changes to the council.
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Although Biden’s proposal to reform the UN Security Council is dangerous and radical, it is dead because it will be vetoed by China and Russia, who like the council as it is. His Security Council reform proposal will further address the global perception of the incompetence of the Biden administration’s leadership and foreign policy.
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