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?
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 all the then 16 republics to be 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 League 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 three communist countries existed: Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Mongolia. Even with five 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.
2Belarus was choosen because it had lost 25% of population during WW2. Nov 27, 2011 at 16:30
6@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? Feb 14, 2014 at 22:02
4There was no relocation of poles. Even more Stalin had "presented" to Poland a large part of Belarus (whole Bialystok region) in 1946. Feb 15, 2014 at 16:48
3@PieterGeerkens: before the war, 7-8% of Belarus population was Jewish. Also, the partisan war there was extremely acute.– sdsFeb 19, 2014 at 23:28
2I remember reading (wikipedia?) that USSR believed UN would be unbalanced towards west, so he asked for all 15 SSRs to join. USA responded they would allow 2 SSRs if they allowed the headquarters to be moved to New York. This explained to me why the headquarters was not a neutral city like Geneva or Stockholm. I also remember reading that USA wanted 2 of their states to join too, but they didnt want to cherry pick which ones because the other 48 would create political backlash. Sadly I cannot find this on wiki articles and I'm hoping someone here will recognize it, if its true.– DrZ214Aug 4, 2015 at 20:36
Question: Why did the Soviet Union get 3 seats in the UN?
It should also be mentioned that it really didn't matter how many seats the Soviet Union was given in the general assembly. The General Assembly of the United Nations can't make binding decisions without the placid agreement from the Security Council. Also the Security council doesn't work by consensus either, but only works through unanimous agreements or abstentions. One security council veto is enough to stop any security council or general assembly action dead in it's tracks. Thus it was felt effectively giving the Soviet Union 3 general assembly seats/votes was a small price to pay to ensure Soviet participation in the Assemble.
It didn't stack the assembly as some newspaper editorials at the time suggested. I didn't really give the Soviet Union more power than they already had with their Security Council seat, nor did it reduce America's, Britain's or France's security council authority.
The United States and the Founding of the United Nations, August 1941 - October 1945
Churchill and Roosevelt also made an important concession to Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s request that the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic be seated in the United Nations General Assembly, thus increasing the Soviet Union’s seats in that body to three. Stalin had originally requested seats for all sixteen Soviet Socialist Republics, but at Yalta this request was turned down, and the compromise was to allow Ukraine and Byelorussia into the United Nations. The United States originally had countered Stalin’s proposal with the request to allow all fifty American states into the United Nations, a suggestion that encouraged Stalin to agree to the compromise. At Yalta, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom also drafted invitations to a conference beginning in April 1945 in San Francisco that would formally establish the United Nations.