A Dangerous Proposal• By: Ted Galen Carpenter
Just when one is tempted to conclude that Ukraine's sycophantic backers in the West can't embrace policies that are more detached from reality, leading figures in that faction manage to plumb new depths of absurdity. The latest example is a May 22 Wall Street Journal op-ed by Bernard-Henri Lévy. He fumes that one of Vladimir Putin's chief weapons in his war against Ukraine "is Russia's status as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, which entails the power to block any resolution. It's a legacy of World War II and the decision to reserve this status to the five victors, including the Soviet Union."
But "the Soviet Union no longer exists," Lévy emphasizes. Consequently "Russia's permanent membership and the veto power it confers have no legal basis." After delineating Russia's "war crimes" since 1991 (real or exaggerated) while ignoring similar international behavior by the United States and its European allies, Lévy finally comes to the meat of his proposal. "Ukraine can and should inherit the rights of a fallen Russia. Remove the Russian Federation from its seat as a permanent member and transfer it to Ukraine."
Unfortunately, Lévy is not the only figure to advocate expelling Russia from the Security Council. In October 2022, the Helsinki Commission made a similar proposal. Representatives Steve Cohen (R-TN) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced a congressional resolution in December 2022 endorsing that objective.
Expelling a permanent member of the Security Council from its seat is dubious from a legal standpoint and recklessly provocative from a geopolitical one. The closest legal analogy for removing Russia was the U.N.'s decision in 1971 to transfer China's Security Council seat from the exiled Kuomintang government of Taiwan to the communist government in Beijing. However, that situation was vastly different from what Lévy and Ukraine's other advocates are proposing. Beijing effectively ruled all of mainland China, but Ukraine inherited only a small portion of the defunct Soviet Union. Most of the USSR's territory, the majority of its population, as well as the bulk of its military and economic infrastructure, went to Russia.