In 1919, in recognition of the need to promote international co-operation and achieve peace and security after World War I, the League of Nations was established.
Although US president Woodrow Wilson was the main advocate for the League, the US, crucially, never joined.
Twenty or so years after World War 1, political crises and conflicts emerged again in Europe, but the experiences of World War I had left many American politicians with a strong desire for isolationism. This led to the introduction of the Neutrality Acts under which the US embargoed the shipment of warheads, and banned travel on ships belonging to belligerents.
In the 1930s, as the events in Europe and Asia that led to World War II unfolded, the League of Nations was found to be ineffective in preventing conflict and, in 1946, dissolved itself, and its services and mandates.
Despite the League’s failure, the international community remained ambitious for a fresh international body that could maintain international peace and security, uphold justice, and respect international treaties and laws.
In 1945, representatives from 50 countries gathered at the United Nations Conference on International Organisation in San Francisco to draw up the United Nations Charter. But even after the charter came into effect in 1945, nothing changed.
Power remained in the hands of the Big Five - China, France, the USSR, the UK and the US - but in the name of maintaining global peace and security, the UN Security Council was created.
The Big Five, which were also the nuclear states, became the Security Council’s permanent members, and kept the veto power - although the word "veto" is never actually used in the UN Charter.
Being a nuclear state was not a criterion for becoming a permanent Security Council member, but the Big Five justified their position on the grounds of their military might, and as the victorious powers of World War II.
The veto power has been highly controversial since the drafting of the UN Charter, and it’s unlikely the US and the USSR would have accepted the UN’s creation without the veto privilege.
In the “world’s largest democratic body”, a resolution on peace, security or any other international issue cannot be passed if it doesn’t suit just one of the Big Five.
Since the creation of the UN, Russia (and the former USSR) has used its veto 120 times; the US, 76; Britain, 32; France, 18; and China only five.
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