The US presidential administration intends to initiate reform of the UN Security Council (SC). President Joe Biden will announce plans to expand the UN Security Council in a speech at the organization’s 78th General Assembly (GA) on September 19. This was confirmed on September 18 by US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “We believe it is time to look at the architecture of the Security Council. We think it should be more inclusive and comprehensive,” he said in an interview with Britain’s The Daily Telegraph. Since the founding of the UN Security Council in 1945, it has always included five permanent members: the USA, China, the USSR (since 1992 – the Russian Federation), Great Britain and France. These countries can block the adoption of Security Council resolutions using the veto.
Kirby did not say who the US is proposing to include. But during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on September 8, Biden expressed support for India’s aspirations to become a permanent member of the Security Council. In February, Biden met with Brazilian President Lula da Silva, and both leaders expressed support for expanding the composition of the Security Council by providing permanent member seats to “countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.” According to The Daily Telegraph, the United States would also like to see Germany and Japan on the Security Council. At the same time, despite regular statements of support for the inclusion of African countries in the permanent membership of the Security Council, the United States has never specified which state it would like to see there.
According to Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, the Security Council “really needs transformation in order to maximize the effectiveness of this extremely important international body.” “This requires a consensus of all participants and, of course, greater inclusivity in terms of the participation of precisely those states that have recently acquired an additional role and have a much greater influence on global security and the global economy,” he said. The process of reforming the UN Security Council “needs very difficult and maybe even lengthy negotiations,” but Peskov agrees that “this conversation needs to start, and we have talked about this more than once.”
A year ago, at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2022, Biden already stated that he supported the idea of expanding the composition of the UN Security Council to include Africa and Latin America. At the same time, French leader Emmanuel Macron called for expanding the composition of permanent members to include “regional” countries with the possibility of depriving the right of veto in case of accusations of “mass crimes.”
At the end of December 2022, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the need to admit India and Brazil to permanent members of the UN Security Council. At the same time, Lavrov expressed doubt about the rationality of raising the status of Japan and Germany, since Russia does not observe “any difference in the position of these two countries from the position of the United States and NATO.” On August 21, 2023, the Russian minister, on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in South Africa, stated that the interests of African countries should also be represented in the UN Security Council.
In mid-June 2023, The Washington Post reported that President Biden’s UN envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield was consulting with diplomats from 193 member states for feedback on a potential expansion of the UN Security Council to six permanent members. According to Art. 108 and 109 of the UN Charter, it is not easy to make amendments to the charter, recalls international law expert Sergei Glandin. The amendments will come into force when two-thirds of the 193 member states ratify them. Therefore, the United States tried to work with everyone this summer, but it is likely that the initiators of innovation will not be able to get enough votes. Therefore, until now, the UN Charter has not changed even once, except for technical changes such as changing the names of countries, Glandin concludes.
Biden wants to seize the initiative to democratize the UN Security Council and show the countries of the global South, primarily Brazil and India, his support, says RIAC scientific director Andrei Kortunov. According to him, the admission of new members is associated with a number of problematic issues: the presence of a veto, the general complication of the decision-making process based on consensus, and the disagreement of permanent members with the candidacy of individual countries. Thus, Russia and China are unlikely to agree with the inclusion of Germany and Japan in the Security Council. “These proposals [по расширению] must be approved at a minimum [помимо США] four more members of the UN Security Council, including Russia and China. But in the current geopolitical situation this seems difficult,” Kortunov believes.
One of the most significant lines in the discussion about expanding the permanent membership of the UN Security Council is the choice of an African candidate, says Natalya Piskunova, associate professor at the Faculty of World Politics of Moscow State University. According to her, after 2015, the most likely candidates are Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria.
The economic growth of India and Japan has made it possible to talk about their possible inclusion in permanent membership, but India, as a possible permanent member of the UN Security Council, will not suit its key rival, China, the expert continues. The membership of Germany and Japan is also problematic: the Security Council was originally created as an instrument to prevent the restoration of German and Japanese militarism. “This continues to be important for two permanent members of the UN Security Council: Russia and China,” Piskunova concluded.
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