The Security Council was established by the 1945 UN Charter and comprises 15 members. Ten rotating non-permanent countries are elected by the UN General Assembly to do a two-year term on the Security Council. Five members – the USSR (now Russia), Republic of China (now People’s Republic of China), the US, UK and France – have the status of permanent members and so have a veto on any vote before the Council.
There is no mechanism to remove a permanent member of the Security Council written into the UN Charter. The word “permanent” was to mean just that. But there is a process to remove a country from the United Nations. That would require a vote of the UN General Assembly based on the recommendation of the Security Council. This has never been done. And given that Russia has a veto on the Security Council, the Council cannot recommend Russia’s removal without Russia’s agreement. This simply will not happen. So no, Russia cannot be kicked out.
But is Russia validly there at all? This is Ukraine’s question. The UN Charter says that the USSR, not Russia, is the permanent member. While no permanent member of the Security Council has ever been removed, two have changed – and it is worth analysing how and why, not just for the current crisis but for the next one surely coming over Taiwan.
Because the two changes were China and Russia.
The China question
From the formation of the UN in 1945 until 1971, the “Chinese seat” was held by the Republic of China (ROC), the Taiwan-based government that claimed to represent “all of China”. But in 1971, the seat switched to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Beijing-based Communist government that also claims to govern “all of China” and which still holds it.
While it is often said that “Nixon recognised China” in 1971, the truth is that the then US president did not recognise China – not in so many words, anyway. What Richard Nixon did was to change the recognition of who governs China_ – from Taipei to Beijing. And this also changed which of the two Chinas sat on the Security Council.
It’s an extremely important point. Take the Korean War, which raged from 1950 to 1953 and pitted North Korea and China (Beijing) against South Korea, supported by US and UN forces. The deployment of UN forces had to be approved by the Security Council – including China (Taipei) – to fight against China (Beijing).
These days, few people would argue that Taiwan and mainland China are separate, sovereign nations, and not even Taiwan claims independence. From Beijing’s perspective, which claims Taiwan as a renegade province, a takeover of Taiwan by force would not be an “invasion”, because a country can’t “invade” its own territory.