The Corner

National Security & Defense

Does the U.K. Still Have a Claim to a U.N. Security Council Seat? Yes (More than Russia!)

Now that Brits have voted to leave the EU, outraged critics have been saying its global influence will decline and questions must be raised about why it still has a U.N. Security Council seat.

Nonsense. The British deserve that seat far more than one of the other permanent members of the Security Council — namely Russia.

Consider some comparisons. Start with the military: Both countries are nuclear powers, and have roughly equal military budgets just under $50 billion. But the British have troops deployed in over 80 countries all over the globe, while Russian troops are in just nine former Soviet republics plus Syria.

Then, economic weight: The British economy is more than 150 percent as large as Russia’s: almost 3 trillion dollars GDP, versus Russia’s less than 1.9 trillion. Per capita GDP is nearly five times higher in Britain. And of course, Russia has what amounts to a one-crop economy: oil.

Then, diplomacy: Both countries have some sort of diplomatic presence nearly everywhere — in over 200 embassies and consulates. But of course, in very many former parts of the British Empire and current members of the British Commonwealth, Britain actually has more real influence than Russia.

So the picture is clear: Britain is more of a global presence than Russia economically and culturally, and there’s a good argument that Britain has greater diplomatic influence in more places. Moreover, demographic trends in Russia are disastrous, suggesting that its wealth and influence will decline sharply over the coming decades. Add it up and leaving the EU is no reason at all to deprive the U.K. of its seat on the Security Council. In fact, it strengthens the U.K.’s claim to a seat because it will no longer in any sense be representing the EU; France alone will have that job.

Bringing the U.K. seat into doubt is meant as revenge for the outrageous audacity of the British in voting for Brexit. The United States should reject that idea coldly, and welcome the fact that — once out of the EU — our closest ally will have greater independence to speak its mind at the U.N.

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow in Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former deputy national-security adviser.


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