Staunton, Dec. 16 – Since Vladimir Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine, an action in violation of the UN Charter and international law more generally, many people around the world have been calling for the Russian Federation to be expelled from the UN or at least to be stripped of its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council where it has a veto.
The most recent of these and one certain to intensify discussions of this possibility is a resolution that has been introduced in the US Congress calling for Russia to be removed from the UN (cohen.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congressmen-cohen-and-wilson-introduce-resolution-remove-russia-united).
Many governments are certain to view such an idea as impossible, but there is an important precedent, the anniversary of which occurs this week. On December 14, 1939, the League of Nations expelled the USSR. It took this action after Stalin’s forces bombed Helsinki on November 30 of that year and not after Stalin, working with Hitler, occupied Poland.
There is another parallel between that situation and the one the world finds itself in today. Ten days before the League took action, Vyacheslav Molotov, claimed that the USSR was “not in a state of war with Finland and did not threaten the Finnish people” because it had included a treaty of friendship with the alternative Finnish regime it had established.
One can imagine that Putin and his supporters in Russia and the West will give just such a response to any UN move to expel Moscow for its criminal behavior in Ukraine. The failures of the League of Nations are numerous and often cited. Its successes far fewer, but this is one of them. It deserves to be remembered.