The Soviet Union took an active role in the United Nations and other major international and regional organizations. At the behest of the United States, the Soviet Union took a role in the establishment of the UN in 1945. The Soviet Union insisted that there be veto rights in the Security Council and that alterations in the United Nations Charter be unanimously approved by the five permanent members.
The USSR initially protested the membership of India and the Philippines, whose independence was then largely theoretical (being basically colonies of the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively, in all but name). A demand by the Soviet Union that all fifteen Soviet Socialist Republics be recognized as member states in the UN was counter-demanded by the United States that all then forty-eight states be similarly recognized. Ultimately two Soviet Republics (Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR) were admitted as full members of the UN, so between 1945–1991 the Soviet Union was represented by three seats in the United Nations. The United States was also offered two additional seats, but due to political problems (regarding which two of the 48 states would be represented), it was never acted upon.
A major watershed in Soviet UN policy occurred in January 1950, when Soviet representatives boycotted UN functions in protest over the occupation of the seat of China by the Republic of China (which government had been relocated to Taipei in December 1949) and the corresponding exclusion of the newly declared People's Republic of China. In the absence of the Soviet representatives, the UN Security Council was able to vote for the intervention of UN military forces in what would become the Korean War. The Soviet Union subsequently returned to various UN bodies in August 1950. This return marked the beginning of a new policy of active participation in international and regional organizations.
For many years, the Western powers played a guiding role in UN deliberations, but by the 1960s many former colonies had been granted independence and had joined the UN. These states, which became the majority in the General Assembly and other bodies, were increasingly receptive to Soviet "anti-imperialist" appeals. By the 1970s, the UN deliberations had generally become increasingly hostile toward the West and toward the United States in particular, as evidenced by pro-Soviet and anti-United States voting trends in the General Assembly. Although the Soviet Union benefited from and encouraged these trends, it was not mainly responsible for them. Rather, the trends were largely a result of the growing debate over the redistribution of the world's wealth between the "have" and "have-not" states. The Soviet Union did not, however, achieve total support in the UN for its foreign policy positions. The Soviet Union and Third World states often agreed that "imperialism" caused and continued to maintain the disparities in the world distribution of wealth. They disagreed, however, on the proper level of Soviet aid to the Third World. Also, the Soviet Union encountered opposition to its occupation of Afghanistan and the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia and received little support (as evidenced by Third World abstentions) for its 1987 proposal on the creation of a "Comprehensive System of International Peace and Security."
The Soviet Union by the late 1980s belonged to most of the specialized agencies of the UN. During 1986 Western media reported that East European and Asian communist countries allied with the Soviet Union received more development aid from the UN than they and the Soviet Union contributed. This revelation belied communist states' rhetorical support in the UN for the establishment of a New International Economic Order for the transfer of wealth from the rich Northern Hemisphere to the poor Southern Hemisphere nations. Partly because of ongoing Third World criticism of the Soviet record of meager economic assistance to the Third World and of Soviet contributions to UN agencies, in September 1987 the Soviet Union announced that it would pay some portion of its arrears to the UN. This policy change also came at a time of financial hardship in the UN caused partly by the decision of the United States to withhold contributions pending cost-cutting efforts in the UN.
During the Gorbachev period, the Soviet Union made several suggestions for increasing UN involvement in the settlement of superpower and regional problems and conflicts, though these suggestions were not implemented, they constituted new initiatives in Soviet foreign policy and represented a break with the nature of past Soviet foreign policy.
When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, it formally "notified" the UN that it was designating Russia as its successor. The Russian Federation was then given the USSR's permanent seat on the Security Council.