BREAKINGVIEWS - India more deserving of U.N. Council than Russia

Wed Nov 10, 2010 9:19pm IST

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a Summit in Mumbai November 6, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a Summit in Mumbai November 6, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed/Files

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-- The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

By Martin Hutchinson

WASHINGTON (Reuters Breakingviews) - President Barack Obama's support for India's permanent membership to the United Nations Security Council raises the question of which of the current five members must make way. Britain and France are normally regarded as the likely candidates. But economically, Russia is a better case to lose the game of musical chairs, particularly if that would teach a lesson that kleptocracy doesn't pay.

Theoretically, India's ascent to permanent membership could be accommodated by expanding the roster of permanent members. However, with Germany, Japan and Brazil all having decent cases for membership, Security Council expansion from five to nine permanent members is thought likely to make the institution unwieldy. That's why the proposal is frequently made that any expansion should be accompanied by modifications in the existing roster to reflect geopolitical changes since 1945.

That line of logic normally favors the expulsion of Britain and France, or possibly their replacement buy a single European Union member. While the latter change would meet with euphoria in Brussels it would be greeted by fury in Paris and resigned despair in the English Home Counties. The U.N. is generally opposed to such cruelty.

However there's another alternative. Economically, the smallest of the five Security Council members is Russia, not Britain or France, with a GDP of around $1.2 trillion in 2009 compared with Britain's $2.2 trillion and France's $2.6 trillion. Russophiles will complain that using purchasing power parity to measure GDP would produce a different result. But that comparison mostly reflects bargain-price haircuts in Novosibirsk, not internationally significant economic output. Russia does have a larger population than France or Britain, but by that argument, where are Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria?

In 1991, Russia had a well-educated population and abundant natural resources. Had it respected property rights and civil liberties, allowing politically independent-minded entrepreneurs like Yukos Oil's Mikhail Khodorkovsky to flourish, it would over two decades have raised its living standards to European levels. That would have made it unquestionably more economically important than Britain or France. Russia's expulsion from the Security Council, in favor of India, would reward its rulers appropriately for their failings.

CONTEXT NEWS

-- President Obama on Nov. 8 endorsed India's demand for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Currently the five permanent members are the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom.

-- In current dollars, according to World Bank figures, the United States' Gross Domestic Product was $14,256 billion in 2009, China's $4,985 billion, France's $2,649 billion, the United Kingdom's $2,175 billion, and the Russian Federation's $1,231 billion. Japan's GDP was $5,068 billion, Germany's $3,347 billion, India's $1,310 billion and Brazil's $1,572 billion.

(Editing by Rob Cox and Emily Plucinak)

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