Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type



International Relations


International affairs, United Nations Security Council, History of United Nations


Under the United Nations Charter the Security Council was mandated to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security. Within the Security Council, the five permanent members, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russian Federation and China have special veto powers that have enabled them to greatly impact the international crisis across the globe. During the Cold War, the United States and then Soviet Union exercised the veto to enforce their political and ideological will rather than to uphold the UN Charter. Several events such as the Korean War, the Suez Canal Crisis and the fight for Namibian independence were greatly affected by actions taken by the Security Council, particularly the permanent five. At the end of the Cold War, it appeared as though the division within the Council would end. The unification of the Security Council during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait created hopes that the Council could now function as mandated. A unified front from the Council in response to the situation in Kuwait brought other questions to the table. Should countries such as Germany and Japan be allowed a seat at the permanent five table for contributing the majority of the financial backing for the Gulf War? Many questions also arose about representation within the Council. With no countries from Africa or Latin America, UN member countries grew weary of adding Japan and Germany to an already unbalanced permanent five membership. During the 1990s the United States emerged as a hegemonic power, using their political, economic and military might to control the actions of the Council. When war broke out in Kosovo and Rwanda, the United States was hesitant to involve their military in the crisis. Without the backing of the United States, the Security Council found it difficult to act. China also showed hesitation, as they feared the Council was becoming too entangled in the domestic affairs of sovereign nations. With regards to collective security, the Security Council lost sense of legitimacy by not responding promptly to the situation in Rwanda. After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the foreign policy agenda of the United States shifted. The invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban happened without a Security Council resolution that would have legalized the action. This action was overlooked by the member nations of the United Nations due to the severity of the terror attacks. When the United States and their allies believed that Iraq was a threat to international peace and security in 2002, the US government attempted to gain support from the Security Council but failed. The US circumvented the authority of the Council and invaded Iraq against the greater will of the international community.


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