United Nations Veto Power

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A criticism of the United Nations Security Council is the veto power of the five permanent nations – China, France, United Kingdom, United States, and Russia. A veto from any one of these nations can halt any possible action the Council could take. This veto may cripple any UN armed or diplomatic response to a crisis somewhere in the world.

Above is bar chart displaying the number of vetoes by the five permeant members of the UN Security Council. Typically in the western media it is presented that, time and time again, if it where not for vetoes from China or Russia the West could have intervened and prevented some conflict. Yet, a look at history presents a counter narrative.

Early in the history of the UN, the USSR used it’s veto power frequently. From 1945 to 1966 the USSR had a total of 105 vetoes compared to 6 for the four other members combined! However, over the next decades the situation reversed itself.

From 1986 to 2007, the United States took a dominate position using it’s veto power 36 times compared to 18 for the remaining four members. Combining the UK and France with the US (the UK and France voted in combination with the US on all of their vetoes) the total is: Western nations – 47, Others – 7. Further, John J. Mearsheimer is quoted that “since 1982, the US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members.”

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To be fair, since 2007 there has been a large uptick in vetoes cast by Russia and China – virtually all them concerning the situation in Syria and the Ukraine. The total vetoes from 2007 to present are: Russia – 9, China – 5, France, UK, US combined – 1. Further, China voted with Russia on all 5 of it’s vetoes.