IN the last few months a debate has been brewing concerning
expansion of the United Nations Security Council.
A number of countries have expressed interest in obtaining
permanent seats on the council, including Germany, Japan, Brazil,
India, and Nigeria. Supporters of expanding the number of permanent
seats contend that, in the newly evolving global arena, the
Security Council no longer adequately reflects the international
To justify the inclusion of Japan and Germany, arguments have
been put forth that economic influence should now be considered in
addition to political and military power. Those promoting permanent
seats for nations such as Brazil, India, and Nigeria stress that
developing countries must be given a greater role in deliberations
that affect them.
Broadening the Security Council's constituency would certainly
make it more democratic and more reflective of today's realities.
In determining who should be granted permanent seats, the focus
tends to be on whether a country is capable of carrying out the
responsibilities of a Security Council member. The council's
primary function is to maintain international peace and security
and to guard against chemical, biological, and nuclear
A nation's stance on the issue of nuclear nonproliferation would
be a key factor.
Currently, the five permanent members - France, Britain, China,
Russia, and the United States - represent the only overt
nuclear-weapons states in the international system that have made
it clear they plan to maintain their weapons status. With the
exception of the US, all became permanent members before they were
nuclear-weapons states. With the US, they are the only states in
which possession of nuclear weapons is deemed acceptable by virtue
of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
The NPT was signed 25 years ago, on July 1, 1968, entering into
force two years later, on March 5, 1970. With 157 current parties,
the treaty codifies the values, standards of behavior, and rules of
a nonproliferation regime. Based on an assumption that nuclear
proliferation poses a threat to international security, the treaty
sets three goals: limiting the lateral spread of nuclear weapons,
decreasing the numbers of nuclear weapons in the existing arsenals,
and promoting peaceful applications of atomic energy.
The fact that the only permanent members of the Security Council
are nuclear-weapons states is important in two respects:
First, it encourages perception among states that nuclear
weapons can confer status and political power.
Second, it allows these five states (which have particular
interests as nuclear-weapon powers), to act as the primary keepers
of a system trying to stem the spread and ultimately rid the world
of these very weapons. …