The Negotiations for a Security Council Force

  July 19, 2021   Read time 3 min
The Negotiations for a  Security Council Force
The UN, it is said, is always a mirror reflecting the world without. As the world changes, so too does the reflection in the mirror. For the first ten years of the UN's life the world reflected was above all a world of cold war.

This political reality dominated and shaped the UN throughout this period. It brought indeed a whole new peace-keeping system into operation. The issues that arose in the organisation were not all cold-war problems in origin. Some did arise directly from the confrontation between East and West: Azerbaijan, Greece, East European questions, above all Korea. Others had different causes, arising in quite other areas of the world from the centre of East-West confrontation: Indonesia, Palestine, Kashmir. Yet all, whatever their origin, came to be seen in the UN through cold-war eyes. All were fought and manoeuvred over, partly at least, as episodes within the wider struggle between the two great ideological cam ps. The UN, contin ually in the glare of the spotlight, provided the perfect, highly publicised forum for this, where the machinations of antagonists could be denounced, appeals for justice proclaimed, the righteousness of one's own cause declared to the world.

Strategies were adopted by each side accordingly. The UN had within it, and in all its constituent bodies, a clear majority supporting Western positions. Early in its history, the Security Council arrived at a 'gentleman's agreement' governing the distribution of seats within it. This provided two seats for Latin America, one for Western Europe, one for Eastern Europe, one for the Commonwealth and one for Asia, besides the five permanent members. This normally secured a predominance for the West of at least eight seats to two; and in practice from 1948 this became at least nine to one, since from that year the m.yority ensured that the East European seat ceased to be given to a communist country for the next ten years. The proportions in the Assembly, where there were, at the beginning, five communist states out of fifty-one, were little different.

The Western powers, therefore, could normally expect to win each vote. They had no need to negotiate compromise solutions: they had only to mobilise the majority permanently available for their own view. On most issues they would support strong action by the UN, since they knew they could control the action the UN took. And they could thus proudly present themselves, almost tautologically, as the supporters and upholders of the organisation, and of its declared views; for to support the UN was to support themselves and their decisions.

The communist countries, on the other hand, knowing they could always be outvoted, sought on the contrary to play down UN legitimacy, to restrict UN activities and power, which were always likely to be unfavourable to them. They too sought to organise an equally, indeed even more, partisan group, however exiguous, to contest every sentence in every resolution proposed. And they could, if necessary, in the final resort, use the veto to frustrate action, even to prevent judgements, by the Security Council that the Western m.yorities would otherwise impose: a course which cold-war confrontation made far more frequent than those who framed the Charter had ever envisaged.

This in turn provoked another strategy by the West. Because effective action by the Security Council could be so easily frustrated through the Soviet veto, the Western countries, above all the United States, sought to transfer discussion from the Council to the Assembly. First they established an interim, or 'little', assembly, which could be called at short notice to consider any international issue on which the Security Council had not been able to act. Secondly, special assemblies were called on occasion, such as those set up to deal with Palestine in 1947 and 1948. Thirdly, and above all, in the Uniting for Peace resolution of 1950 (p. 253 below), a procedure was laid down whereby not only could the General Assembly be recalled at short notice when the Security Council was deadlocked by veto (emergency Assembly sessions were already provided for under the Charter), but the Assembly could call for the use of force in such situations-a provision that was emphatically not contained in the Charter.