Soviet U.N. Seat Goes to Russia, But Others Also Covet Permanent Seats With PM-Soviet, Bjt
PETER JAMES SPIELMANN
Dec. 30, 1991
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ No one objected publicly when Russia took over the Soviet seat on the U.N. Security Council, but plenty of countries believe they have a claim to a permanent council seat, too.
Economic powerhouses Germany and Japan, for example, have let it be known that they would like permanent Security Council seats. And if population is a reason for putting a country on the council, Brazil, India and Nigeria are waiting in the wings.
The U.N. Charter names only five countries - the victorious World War II allies - as eligible for permanent council seats, with veto power: the United States, Britain, France, ''Republic of China'' and ''Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.''
No one has ever made an issue of the People's Republic of China taking over the seat once occupied by the Nationalist government that fled to Taiwan in 1949. The General Assembly simply voted in 1971 to oust Taiwan and seat mainland Communist China.
Now Russia has taken over the Soviet seat by simply sending a letter from Russia's Boris Yeltsin to the United Nations noting that the new Commonwealth of Independent States had agreed to the move. No General Assembly ratification has been called for.
The argument is that Russia is the ''continuation'' of the Soviet Union, just as modern India is the ''continuation'' of British colonial India's U.N. membership.
The General Assembly set that precedent in 1947, when Pakistan split off from India and entered the U.N. system as a new state. India simply retained its seat in the General Assembly.
But the power and prestige of a Security Council seat, and the geographic distribution of the permanent seats, are causing increased pressure from developing nations to amend the U.N. Charter and revamp the council. Of the current five permanent members, none is from Africa or Latin America. Three are European - Britain, France and Russia.
Proposals abound for rectifying the imbalance:
-Non-voting permanent seats for regional powers such as India, Brazil and Nigeria.
-Voting seats without veto power for world economic powerhouses such as Japan and German.
-Consolidating the British and French seats into a single European Community seat and giving Japan a permanent seat with veto power.
Any of those would require amending the U.N. Charter.
Britain and France, fearing loss of their influence or even their seats, adamantly oppose reforms that would open the charter to revision.
One of their key arguments involving Japan and Germany is those two have constitutions that prohibit them from sending troops overseas. If Japan and Germany cannot contribute to peacekeeping forces, they should not hold permanent council seats, the argument goes.
Yet that point was never raised when Germany and Japan held temporary two- year seats on the 15-member council. And both countries are considering constitutional changes to allow participation in peacekeeping forces.
The United States has been glad to go along with having the Soviet Union materialize as Russia on the council.
In Washington's view, it was far more manageable than the other option considered, in which all 11 republics in the new Commonwealth of Independent States would share the seat and have to coordinate their foreign policy on every question.
The United States, Britain and France have lobbied hard to head off any challenges to Russia assuming the Soviet seat, and none is anticipated.
International legal scholars, such as Professor Richard Gardner of Columbia University, have noted that the U.N. Charter limits U.N. membership to ''states.'' They say that rules out seats for the Commonwealth of Independent States, or the European Community.