Updated on 31 August 2020
Chapter 6: VOTING
Section 1: Substantive decisions and the veto
Veto statistics adjusted to show votes on issues of international peace and security
Since 2000, there has been a marked resurgence in the use of the veto. A total of 39 draft resolutions relating to international peace and security have not been adopted owing to the veto, in connection with the following situations:
Middle East (Syria): 16 draft resolutions vetoed (16 vetoes by Russian Federation; 10 by China)
Middle East, including the Palestinian question: 12 draft resolutions vetoed (United States)
Ukraine: 2 draft resolutions vetoed (Russian Federation)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: 2 draft resolutions vetoed (1 vetoed by United States, 1 vetoed by Russian Federation)
Foreign terrorist fighters: 1 draft resolution vetoed (United States)
Venezuela: 1 draft resolution vetoed (China, Russian Federation)
Middle East (Yemen): 1 draft resolution vetoed (by the Russian Federation)
Cyprus: 1 draft resolution vetoed (Russian Federation)
Myanmar: 1 draft resolution vetoed (China; Russian Federation)
Zimbabwe: 1 draft resolution vetoed (China; Russian Federation)
Georgia: 1 draft resolution vetoed (Russian Federation)
The table below provides veto statistics adjusted to show votes on issues of international peace and security. Please refer to Table 4 on pages 300-310 in the book, and the Table 4 update on this website, to see the subjects of all draft resolutions which have been vetoed from 1946 to present.
An article in The Moscow Times by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, published on 25 February 2015, states that
“Russia has used its veto power more than any of the other permanent members of the council,
having blocked 101 resolutions since the UN's establishment in 1945. By way of comparison, the
United States blocked 79 resolutions during the same period.”
An abuse of the veto by any Permanent Member is to be regretted. However, the aggregate statistics for the number of vetoes cast over the history of the United Nations need to be adjusted in order to gain an accurate view of the number of times a Permanent Member has blocked action by the Council on issues of international peace and security.
As of 10 July 2020, the Soviet Union/Russian Federation has cast a total of 142 vetoes; the United States, 87; the United Kingdom, 30; China, 18; and France, 18, for a total of 295 vetoes on 244 different proposals (242 of these vetoes being official and 2, unofficial).
However, 59 of those vetoes were cast by the Soviet Union, the United States or China to block the admission of a country to UN membership. The majority of vetoes against applicants were cast from 1946 to 1961 by the Soviet Union, in response to what it saw as an effort by Western States unfairly to bar Eastern European socialist States from UN membership. Moreover, in some cases applicants for UN membership, once rejected, repeatedly resubmitted their applications, such that in some instances, the Soviet Union vetoed the same applicants several times.
Of the 59 applications for UN membership which were vetoed, 51 of those vetoes were cast by the Soviet Union, six by the United States, and two by China. The Soviet Union voted against UN membership for Austria, Cambodia, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Finland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Mauritania, Nepal, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Spain and Vietnam. The United States voted against UN membership for Angola, the Republic of South Vietnam, and the Democratic/Socialist Republic of Vietnam. China voted against UN membership for Bangladesh and Mongolia; this latter veto being cast by the Republic of China prior to the People's Republic of China taking up China's seat on the Council.
In addition, the Soviet Union and the United States stated publicly that they each cast one veto against a candidate for Secretary-General as recorded, without attribution, in a Council communiqué (see book, page 310, note a).
As shown in the attached table, if all vetoes cast against applicants for UN membership and all recorded vetoes against candidates for Secretary-General are set aside, the Soviet Union/Russian Federation has cast 90 vetoes, and the United States has cast 80, on issues of international peace and security.