The Russian Federation inherited the permanent membership of the Soviet Union on the United Nations Security Council, an international body whose decisions affect the security of Ukraine, which is suffering from Russia’s war, and the security of the entire world.
The primary responsibility for upholding global peace and security has been given to the United Nations Security Council, where permanent members keep a veto authority. The state, which is supposed to enforce peace, has launched a full-scale, cruel, deadly, unprovoked war against its neighboring country.
Russia blocked the condemnation of its phony referendums by the UN Security Council
On September 30, the UN Security Council tried to condemn the illegal “referendums” on the “accession” of Ukrainian territories to the Russian Federation. However, Russia vetoed the general decision.
The Ukrainian delegation to the UN systematically raises the issue that Russia has no place in the Security Council – the only UN body whose decisions are binding on all its members. The country, which violated international law and the UN Charter by committing aggression against Ukraine, now blocks all decisions that contradict its interests.
Russia blocked the deployment of a UN peacekeeping contingent to Donbas
The discussion about the ineffectiveness of decision-making in the Security Council, mainly through the Russian Federation, has been resumed since 2014 – after Russia annexed Crimea and the first attempts to occupy part of the Ukrainian territories.
Thus, at that time, Russia did not allow the deployment of a UN peacekeeping contingent to Donbas. On February 25, 2022, the Security Council resolution was vetoed on ending the Ukraine invasion, even though 141 out of 193 states in the General Assembly condemned Russia’s aggression.
Russia abuses its right of veto as a permanent member of the UN Security Council
Russia is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, along with China, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. These are the countries that have the right to veto.
Russia always uses its right to veto in the voting on Ukraine – the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, reminded about it in his speech at the UN General Assembly in September and proposed to suspend Russia’s membership in this body. According to him, the Security Council needs to be reformed because one of its permanent members abuses the right of veto.
Article 23 of the Charter states: “The Security Council shall consist of eleven members. The Republic of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America are permanent members of the Security Council”.
There is no Russian Federation on the list. How did a Russian representative sit there and block critical security decisions? Let’s see this.
Who is a member of the Security Council – Russia or the USSR?
“We are already tired of the constant repetition that allowing Russia to use the right of the Soviet Union to veto the decisions of the Security Council does not allow this body to fulfill its main mission under the UN Charter, namely the maintenance of international peace and security,” said Sergiy Kyslytsya, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN, at the Security Council.
Commenting on Russia’s actions, he often refers to the position that Russia is not a legitimate member of the Security Council and the UN in principle.
Russia proclaimed itself the successor of the Soviet Union
Indeed, the UN Charter lists not Russia but the USSR among the Security Council’s permanent members. Russia proclaimed itself the successor of the Soviet Union – this was stated in Boris Yeltsin’s letter to the UN Secretary-General, but it is not documented.
At the time of Yeltsin’s appeal, he was not the President of the Russian Federation but of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. In 1991, the Russian Federation should have gone through the formal procedure of joining the UN, like the Czech Republic and Slovakia or the countries of the former Yugoslavia, but this did not happen.
Falsification at the highest level
Russia was engaged in this falsification at the highest level. On December 24, 1991, the President of the RSFSR, Boris Yeltsin, sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General, in which he announced the change of the name of the “USSR” to the “Russian Federation” on the same day, Mr. Vorontsov with his cover letter handed Yeltsin’s letter to UN Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar. The latter sent it by telegram to representatives of other UN member states.
The implementation of this fraud was facilitated by the fact that December 24 was Christmas Eve. The fact that the Security Council at that time, by coincidence, was chaired by the Soviet Union, so Vorontsov, at the next meeting on December 31, changed the sign of the USSR to “Russian Federation” – and no one objected.
But no formal decisions on this matter were ever made, and the issue was never formally discussed in the UN.
Successor state has no right to inherit the seat of its predecessor at the UN
Meanwhile, there is a principle in the UN that the successor state (which the Russian Federation regards as the USSR, as well as Ukraine and other former Soviet republics) has no right to inherit the seat of the predecessor state in the UN.
How can the world change the situation that has been ignored for more than 30 years? Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN from 1997-2001 and 2015-2019, explains that Ukraine can ask the International Court of Justice to consider this issue.
Volodymyr Yelchenko noted Russia’s violation of international law, war of aggression against Ukraine, and abuse of veto power in the UN Security Council. Mr. Yelchenko recalled that since the 1990s, Moscow has been pursuing “revisionist tactics” and utilizing force against various nations, notably Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine.
Is there a legal justification for Russia’s election as Soviet Union’s replacement for the UN Security Council permanent member seat?
Bohdan Ustymenko, an international law scholar, and an expert in the field of international maritime law, provided legal analysis on the matter to the InformNapalm OSINT community.
Among others, the USSR, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and Belarus were among the nations that joined the UN as founding members in 1945. The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) should be reminded that it never held the title of UN founding member.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, not the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic or the Russian Federation as a separate republic, according to the current text of Article 23 of the UN Charter.
UN Charter prohibits the replacement or succession of a country’s permanent membership in the UN Security Council by another
In addition, the UN Charter expressly prohibits the replacement or succession of a country’s permanent membership on the UN Security Council by another. Additionally, the following provisions are included in the USSR Constitution, which was enacted on October 7, 1977.
As a result of nations’ right to free self-determination and the voluntary Union of equal Soviet Socialist Republics, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is an integral, federal, multinational state founded on socialist federalism.
The countries of the Union Republics make up the entire Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. All of the USSR’s land is under its total jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, represented by its highest bodies of state authority and administration, shall cover.
The USSR’s representation in international relations; the USSR’s relations with other states and with international organizations; the establishment of the general procedure for, and coordination of, the relations of Union Republics with other states and with international organizations (Article 72 of the Constitution).
In other words, the USSR was a separate state. Every Union Republic simultaneously maintained its status as a sovereign state.
As a result, the RSFSR was considered an independent state by the USSR under the Soviet Union’s Constitution. It had the same freedom as other republics to leave the Union. However, there is no provision for the USSR to succeed under the Constitution of the USSR.
The Moscow Treaty on succession concerning the sovereign debt and assets of the USSR (hereafter referred to as the Moscow Treaty) was signed by the states that are or were constituent members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the USSR, as the predecessor state, on December 4, 1991. It was “…taking into account the need for a radical revision of the entire range of relations between the states that were part of the USSR…”
For the Moscow Treaty, the parties agreed that “succession of states” refers to when one state takes over another’s responsibility for international relations on behalf of any territory, whereas “the moment of a succession of states” refers to the time when the successor state assumes control over international relations from the predecessor state regarding the territory that is the subject of the succession.
The parties agreed, as stated in Article 4 of the Moscow Treaty, that the following states would hold the following percentages of the total amount of sovereign debt and joint assets: Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic – 61.34%; Ukraine – 16.37%; Republic of Belarus – 4.13%; Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic – 3.86%; Republic of Georgia – 1.62%, etc.
Moscow Treaty does not stipulate that Russia would replace the USSR in international organizations
Also worth mentioning is that the Moscow Treaty does not call for the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to take the place of the USSR in international bodies like the UN Security Council.
And already on December 8, 1991, the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine signed the Belavezha Accords, which established the Commonwealth of Independent States [source].
“The USSR as a subject of international law and a geopolitical entity no longer exists,” the Belovezh Accords say.
Under this international agreement, the former Soviet Union’s legal principles shall not apply in the signatory states’ territory. The former bodies and authorities of the USSR shall cease operations in the parts of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Additionally, the Belovezh Accords stipulated that Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine would be responsible for ensuring that the duties arising for the countries, as mentioned earlier from the treaties and accords of the former USSR, would be fulfilled.
The Almaty Declaration reaffirmed that the USSR no longer exists
The Almaty Declaration, signed on December 21, 1991, by 11 independent governments that were once part of the Soviet Union and included the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, reaffirmed that the USSR had ceased to exist with the creation of the CIS.
The fulfillment of international commitments resulting from the treaties and accords of the former USSR was likewise guaranteed by all signatories to the Declaration, in line with their respective constitutional systems.
The CIS Council of the Heads of State decided on December 21, 1991, that the CIS nations should “…assist Russia in succeeding the USSR’s participation in the UN, including permanent membership on the Security Council, and other international organizations.”
However, as is evident from the decision of the Council of Heads of State of the CIS, this Declaration was signed by only 11 of the 15 countries that made up the former USSR after it ceased to exist, and without the participation or approval of the Soviet Union itself.
With its Declaration No. 142-N dated December 26, 1991, the Council of Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR declared that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist as a state and as a subject of international law in connection with the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
They also invited the heads of the Independent States to consider the issue of the succession of the USSR and union-level bodies of state power and administration, as well as on the ratification of the CIS. In other words, Declaration No. 142-N, along with other evidence, confirms the invalidity of the CIS Council of Heads of State resolution from December 21, 1991.
Conclusion on Russia’s veto right at the UN Security Council
After carefully examining the legal implications of the UN Charter, the USSR Constitution, the Moscow Treaty, the Belavezha Accords, the Almaty documents of December 21, 1991, the Declaration of the Council of Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR No. 142-N, and other pertinent records, the author thus draws the following conclusions.
- The RSFSR and the other Soviet Union Republics were formally granted the status of independent republics with the power to secede from the USSR under the USSR Constitution. Regarding the Union Republics, the USSR was a separate entity as well.
- The USSR Constitution does not allow the Soviet Union to be replaced by a Union Republic in international organizations and bodies, including the UN Security Council.
- The USSR’s highest state power and administrative bodies did not make any decisions to replace the Soviet Union with the RSFSR at the UN Security Council.
- The UN Charter does not contain any provisions for substituting or succession of one country’s permanent membership on the UN Security Council by another.
- The Russian Federation enjoys the rights and fulfills the obligations of a permanent member of the UN Security Council without a proper legal basis.
- The final judgment on the legal validity of the Soviet Union substituting the Russian Federation on the UN Security Council was made before the USSR’s dissolution.