The UN memberships of Ukraine and Belarus are based on fraud that was perpetrated when the United Nations was founded in 1945.
How could such an enormous injustice have happened? The answer can be seen in the first founding steps of the world’s leading international organization.
Many people are unaware that both the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic were founding members of the United Nations [https://research.un.org/en/unmembers/founders]. They later changed their names to Ukraine and Belarus. But how could they have been members? They weren’t nations. Weren’t Ukraine and Belarus subservient parts of a real country, the USSR? It was the Soviet Union that was a founding member of the United Nations.
So how can Ukraine and Belarus be both parts of one founding member country, the USSR, while at the same time be independent countries that are founding members too?
Isn’t that a paradox? Didn’t that give the Soviet Union two additional votes in the nascent United Nations of 1945? Was that the trick?
If in fact the USSR was entitled to those extra votes couldn’t the Americans have brought in, say, Utah and Tennessee as founding members? Certainly the Brits could have gotten their extra votes by bringing in Scotland and Wales. Why was the extra-votes perk exclusively for Stalin and his Soviet Union?
The answer is because the US and the UK played fairly. Stalin didn’t.
To understand Stalin’s trick, take a look at the UN Charter and what it says about the qualifications for membership:
“Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”
Obviously, it is an organization whose members are states. That raises the question, “what are states.” That was actually defined in international law earlier by the Montevideo Convention of 1933. It says:
“Article 1. The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states.”
I can imagine Stalin looking over that list and wondering, “How can I pass off Ukraine and Belarus as states?”
“Qualification (a), check. They have permanent populations.
“Qualification (b), check. They have defined territories, of course.
“Qualification (c), check. They have governments, too.
“Qualification (d), oops. They have the capacity to enter into relations with other states? No they don’t. International relations for the Soviet Union are handled centrally.”
But Stalin had a fix for that. He was aware of how plans for the United Nations might shape up. His representative was one of the original signers of the United Nations Declaration of 1942. So in 1944 Stalin set out to fix his deficiency for Qualification (d). He amended the constitutions of Ukraine and Belarus along with the other Soviet republics to give them the right to maintain diplomatic relations with foreign states. They never had the right before. But now they conveniently did.
Professor Urs W. Saxer, in The Transformation of the Soviet Union: From a Socialist Federation to a Commonwealth of Independent States [https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/ilr/vol14/iss3/9/], observed,”This amendment was designed to provide the Soviet Union with greater representation in the future United Nations.”
Stalin must have truly believed that he could perpetrate the paradox: pass off Ukraine and Belarus as both subservient parts of the Soviet Union and at the same time as states in their own right as defined by the Montevideo Convention.
But would the other organizers of the United Nations swallow that?
Professor Saxer reported: “Most Western jurists, however, rejected the Soviet concept of the republics’ sovereignty, given the republics’ factual and legal dependence on the central government. Because a mere constitutional change could not grant international status to the members of a federation, the world community did not honor the Soviet republics’ claims of sovereignty.”
In The Moulding of Ukraine [https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7829/j.ctt1cgf89k], Kataryna Wolczuk commented, “Yet in reality, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was only a hollow institutional caricature of a sovereign state.”
Nonetheless the UN organizers were apparently outliers on the matter. They accepted Stalin’s preposterous paradox. Ukraine and Belarus got in by masquerading as states. Saxer asserted, “The admission of two republics to the United Nations was a mere political accommodation, and it did not result in formal recognition of the other Soviet republics as full members of the international community.”
Why did the UN founders make that accommodation? The only explanation I can think of is that they were bullied by Stalin. I can imagine him exploding with righteous indignation, stomping his boots, demanding the two extra votes he’d receive from Ukrainian and Belarusan membership. After all “they were on the front lines against the Nazis” he could have posited. Remember, this is 1945 that we’re talking about.
Soviet war deaths had been mounting high. It was the Red Army that just took Berlin. Stalin likely believed that the Soviet Union had won the war for the world at Soviet expense. Now he wanted some payback. If he didn’t get it, he could pull out of the United Nations and the nations would no longer be united. Perhaps he made them an offer they could not refuse, and refuse they did not.
Of course, I have no way of verifying what might have actually transpired. But Stalin got his two extra votes.
Now the founding members of the United Nations had two interlopers that still lacked basic qualifications. You see, Stalin’s maneuver that gave him a way around Qualification (d), the capacity to enter into relations with other states, wasn’t the only deficiency that the Ukraine and Belarus candidacies possessed. There was also another relevant Article of the Montevideo Convention that he overlooked:
“Article 2. The federal state shall constitute a sole person in the eyes of international law.”
Oops again. Clearly the Montevideo Conference envisioned and defined states as being federal states.
According to Oxford:
“fed·er·al / fed(ə)rəl/ adj. having or relating to a system of government in which several states form a unity but remain independent in internal affairs: Russia’s federal and local governments.”
In this scheme of things, Moscow was the federal seat and Ukraine and Belarus were the local governments.
There’s no way that Stalin’s constitutional trick about diplomatic relations with foreign states really did the trick.
Now the unavoidable conclusion is that Ukraine and Belarus really did fail to qualify for UN membership. They entered under false pretenses.
The fraud was not of their origin. Stalin was the culprit.
But his deed leaves those countries with an unsavory act in their past. It deserves acknowledgment and exploration for any lingering negative consequences.