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Even before the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Belarus (which were then officially part of the Soviet Union) had independent seats at the United Nations. Why didn't the US or the UK get the same privilege?

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up vote 38 down vote accepted

The Soviet Union had three seats in the UN. In addition to the Soviet Union itself, two of the Soviet republics had seats: Ukraine and Belarus. This obviously didn't make much sense given that neither of them was an independent state at the time. So it can only be viewed as a way for the Soviet Union to increase its weight in the UN.

This was one of the results of the Yalta Conference in 1945. In fact, originally the Soviet Union wanted that all the then 16 republics are represented, in the end they settled on two. Why did Roosevelt agree to these concessions? I can see the following reasons:

  • The USA needed Soviet Union's support in the war against Japan. The Soviet Union agreed to enter the war three months after they defeated Germany but not without some concessions.
  • One of the main reasons for the failure of the Leage of Nations was the fact that some countries weren't represented, especially the Soviet Union. Having the Soviet Union join the United Nations was important if it were to do any better.
  • At that time only two communist countries existed: Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Even with four voices (out of fifty) they wouldn't have much weight. Of course the situation changed very soon but Roosevelt probably didn't foresee that at the Yalta Conference.

Wikipedia claims that the USA also had the option to get two US states represented in the UN but this didn't happen for political reasons (difficult to choose). It's a very weak article not listing any sources so one would need to find better evidence.

As to the UK, in a way they got even more than three seats with Canada, Australia and India present. Note that India wasn't even an independent country at that point.

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Good answer. I was totally unaware of this. Would be nice to have more conclusive sources, but yeah... – Noldorin Oct 24 '11 at 13:32
Belarus was choosen because it had lost 25% of population during WW2. – Andrei K. Nov 27 '11 at 16:30
@AndreiK.: How many of that 25% were Poles forcibly relocated (by the Soviets) westward in 1944 and 1945 in order to make Belarus homogeneous and non-Pole? – Pieter Geerkens Feb 14 '14 at 22:02
There was no relocation of poles. Even more Stalin had "presented" to Poland a large part of Belarus (whole Bialystok region) in 1946. – Andrei K. Feb 15 '14 at 16:48
@PieterGeerkens: before the war, 7-8% of Belarus population was Jewish. Also, the partisan war there was extremely acute. – sds Feb 19 '14 at 23:28

The "original" UN consisted of countries in several distinct categories: 1) the "Big Four" of America, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China 2) British "Commonwealth" countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and others 3) Latin "American" countries in Central and South America and 4) "captive" nations under Nazi rule with governments in exiles like Poland, Greece and Belgium.

Britain had multiple nations in the UN if you count the Commonwealth nations, and likewise for America if you count nations from central and South "America." So in this regard, it seemed only fair that the Soviet Union have several nations in the UN, with Russia, Ukraine and Belarus being the three largest ones.

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