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1945

Senate approves U.S. participation in United Nations

In an overwhelming vote of 65 to 7, the U.S. Senate approves full U.S. participation in the United Nations. The United Nations had officially came into existence on October 24, 1945, when its charter was ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and a majority of other signatories. Senate approval meant the U.S. could join most of the world’s nations in the international organization, which aimed to arbitrate differences between countries and stem military aggression.

In approving U.S. participation in the United Nations, the Senate argued fiercely on a number of issues. Some senators proposed a resolution designed to force the president to receive congressional consent before approving U.S. troops for any U.N. peacekeeping forces. This resolution was defeated. The Senate also defeated a proposal by Senator Robert Taft that the United States urge its U.N. representatives to seek “immediate action” on arms control and possible prohibition of weapons such as atomic bombs.

The Senate action marked a tremendous change in the U.S. attitude toward international organizations. In the post-World War I period, the Senate acted to block U.S. participation in the newly established League of Nations. With the horrors of World War II as a backdrop, however, the Senate and the American people seemed willing to place some degree of trust in an even more powerful organization, the United Nations.

The United Nations provided a forum for some of the most dramatic episodes in Cold War history. In 1950, the Security Council, prodded by the United States and with the Russian delegation absent, approved a peacekeeping force for Korea. This was the first time a UN peacekeeping force was committed to an armed conflict. The U.N. also allowed world leaders to observe each other as never before, as in the 1961 incident when Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev presented an unforgettable spectacle by taking off one of his shoes and pounding his table with it for emphasis during a U.N. debate.

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