Russian Federation was certainly the biggest component after the collapse of USSR. However, I don't quite understand why the very valuable geopolitical position as a permanent member of UN Security Council with veto power was inherited by Russia alone, rather than, for example, shared in some proportion by the countries that used to be the components of USSR, or completely vacated.

More generally, how exactly international agreements and memberships involving USSR have been decided after the collapse of USSR?

  • AFAIK, post-Soviet states agreed that Russia will inherit international treaties regarding disarmament, non-proliferation and UN membership.
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 13:28

3 Answers 3


What and Why Happened

The agreements called for Russia to be the sole heir to the USSR, because, contrary to the official Soviet propaganda, Russia was not just the "first among equals". USSR was a "re-branding" of the Russian Empire.

Thus Russia inherited

  • The debt
  • The properties abroad (embassies &c)
  • Operational control over Nukes
  • Treaties, including
    • UNSC permanent membership
    • nuclear status in the NPT

This was the only natural and generally acceptable solution, similar to the solution taken after the British empire's dissolution. Just like it would have been absurd to make the UK share the UNSC veto power with the British Commonwealth countries (erstwhile colonies), it would have been absurd to make Russia share the UNSC veto power with the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Observe that the above inheritance is a "package" called "Assignment", i.e., one can hardly expect Russia to get some but not all of these items.

Who would want a different solution?

  • Russia?
    • Do you know of any country who would voluntary dilute its power?
  • The former Soviet "republics"?
    • They wanted as little association with Russia as possible, in fact, CIS was so loose it might as well not exist.
  • The West?
    • They were so overjoyed with the end of the Cold War that they bent over backwards to welcome Russia "back into the fold". They were also concerned with non-proliferation, so they wanted all nukes under a single control.


Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances:

The memorandum included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine as well as those of Belarus and Kazakhstan. As a result Ukraine gave up the world's third largest nuclear weapons stockpile between 1994 and 1996, of which Ukraine had physical though not operational control. The use of the weapons was dependent on Russian controlled electronic Permissive Action Links and the Russian command and control system.

Thus, in theory, Ukraine can claim that, unless US and UK protect it from the Russian aggression, it has the right to re-acquire nuclear weapons (but not claim a share in UNSC membership). In practice, Ukraine acquiring nukes will be counterproductive, as they will not nuke Moscow anyway and just chill their relationships with the West, while giving a pretext to Russia to invade in earnest.

  • 2
    Ukraine gave up nukes in a separate agreement in 1994, under guarantees from Russia and USA and UK that Ukraine's territorial integrity won't be violated and in case of such violation would be protected. Now that Russia blatantly violated that agreement, does it mean that Ukraine can claim breach of the assignment you mentioned and stake a claim on UNSC seat or other parts of USSR package?
    – Michael
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 17:23
  • @Michael: see edit
    – sds
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 17:46
  • 1
    It is nice that in our turbulent world some things never change. The @brilliant's demagoguery gave me flashbacks to my childhood - it is so similar to the crap we were fed by the soviet agitprop.
    – sds
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 13:40
  • 1
    @brilliant, according to your argument, Russia does not belong at UN Security Council: it was assigned to USSR, and USSR does not exist anymore. Also, according to your argument, many territories that Russia control do not belong to Russia. For example, Siberia was acquired by Russian Empire, and since then several revolutions happened, so China for example has equal claim to Siberia with all its resources. Also, by your own arguments, most paintings in Russian museums belong to France or Italy or Netherlands, where they were purchased by Russian Empire before all the revolutions.
    – Michael
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 16:42
  • 1
    @brilliant, all of those arguments are pure BS, as most of the Russian state's arguments are these days. It's not Russian's business who holds power in the sovereign nation such as Ukraine, or how they acquired their power. Russia has signed a treaty with Ukraine that it will honor Ukraine territory, and, regardless who governs Ukraine, it had absolutely no right to send its special forces, with or without insignia, to steal Crimea and to induce civil war in the Eastern Ukraine.
    – Michael
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 16:48

I've been researching this question for a few years as well, and wrote a university research paper on it a few years ago and writing my thesis topic on it too. Contrary to what one of the commentators said above, Russia getting U.S.S.R's veto power is NOT the same as UK getting veto power from the commonwealth. Not even close! Russia was only ONE of the Federations (similar to states in the U.S.) of Soviet Union not the parent country. If you look at the precedence from all the other countries that have split up, whichever country gets out from the parent country umbrella has to reapply for even the "general" UN Membership let alone be admitted to the Security Council or even think about the veto. Regardless of whether the other former U.S.S.R. Federations wanted to "give" Russia the veto power that so many other countries in the world want to have, it wasn't there's to "give". When Russia declared it was no longer part of U.S.S.R, it would've technically needed to first apply for the general membership before even thinking about veto power. To put it in perspective, if hypothetically China was to split up, the biggest province in China couldn't just "assume" the veto power of all of China. In the case of United Kingdom, the reason it got to keep its veto power is because it was the parent country. The colonies is what split from it, not the other way around. Russia on the other hand, was not U.S.S.R, U.S.S.R was the parent country, and Russia and the other former Soviet Federations declared it as "dissolved" -- as in -- no longer exists! This means that Russia technicaly should've needed to reapply for the General membership. Once they got that, it would've needed to apply for Security Council (which is not easy to obtain), and once they got, only then could they have appealed for the veto power. However, I'm sure other countries that want the veto power around the world would've put Russia in the back of the line. So, the big question still remains, exactly how did Russia end up with U.S.S.R's veto power without anyone in the world questioning it. Stay tuned... thesis research in progress.

  • 2
    Thanks! Please keep posting your research, it's very interesting indeed.
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 2:41
  • So, it's been already more than three years. Are you done with your research yet? Can you, please, share here with us your findings?
    – brilliant
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 10:14

According to the head of representatives of the Soviet Union back then on the UN it's was mainly because of bureaucracy on the UN...

He said it was really complex, but US was happy for the cold war ending and thought Russia will be kind of supporting US politician decisions (back then USSR and Russia were flattering US, USSR mainly for the credits getting from US. US had the upper hand back then, even media implied that they still true enemies). So the US told Russia the will make inherits the USSR status in two statement that are USSR agreement (because of Nukes) will still apply on Russia and to gather all Nukes from former USSR members. Russia agreed...

On the next meeting a speaker on the UN start with "there's a minor thing is that USSR is becoming Russia... and we need to change those labels to move on the important issues we need to discuss".

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=542bl6cbwiY

The source is in Arabic and sorry for my poor phrasing, I just wanted to interest you in the source. If you found it in your language it would be cool.

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