Impact of the cold war in the functions of United Nations

  • The Security Council of the United Nations has the power to take necessary measures to maintain and restore international peace and security.

  • One of the most important powers given to the permanent members was the veto (negative vote).

As per the Article 27 of the United Nations’ (UN) Charter the affirmative votes of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members of the Security Council are required for adopting decisions of the Council on all matters other than the procedural ones.

If any of the permanent member files negative vote, no substantive decision can be made by the Council.

The arrangement of the veto, which allows the permanent members of the Security Council to negate an issue as often as they see fit, tied Security Council decisions directly to Cold War politics.

The system works well when the big powers are in agreement.

However, when the powers are divided, as was the case throughout the Cold War, the Council is hindered in their decision‐making abilities.

Obstacles in Admission of New Members:

The Cold War caused obstacles in the membership process of the United Nations.

One of the stated goals of the United Nations was to have universal membership.

Agreeing on admitting members was not a simple task. New members would be admitted by decision of the General Assembly;

the General Assembly would make its decision only based on the recommendation of the Security Council.

The Security Council had to vote on the membership applications of many states.

In 1946, just a year after the signing of the Charter, nine admission applications were received: Albania, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Jordan, Ireland, Portugal, Iceland, Thailand and Sweden.

Four of the applicants were recommended for admission by the Security Council ‐ Afghanistan, Iceland, Sweden and Thailand.

States such as Mongolia could not receive the necessary votes to obtain membership and thus their applications were continuously denied.

Since the permanent members reserved their right to use the Security Council veto on issues of membership, a deadlock on new members occurred between 1949 and 1955.

The Soviet Union insisted on the admission of Communist sponsored states or no admissions at all. The United States worked rigorously to prevent the admission of communist states.

Ineffective Collective Action

The United Nations took a back seat in the developments in Europe during 1945 ‐ 1949. There was no collective response through the UN when Soviet Union occupied Eastern Europe.

Berlin blockade of 1948 ‐ 1949 by Soviet Union, the UN was powerless to intervene.

On 25 June 1950, the Security Council learned of the full‐scale invasion of South Korea by North Korea and discussions began on what the UN response should be.

The Soviet Union had vetoed the South Koreans joining the UN, and the USA would not recognize the legitimacy of the North Korean government.

No Involvement in the Superpowers’ Spheres of Influence:

United Nations continued to engage in ‘peacekeeping’ missions around the world

The UN’s work was generally in areas the superpowers did not find strategically important.

When the USA attempted to force regime change in Cuba in 1961, the UN did not get involved.

As had been the case with the Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe, the UN avoided becoming engaged in the superpowers’ spheres of influence.

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