CNN reports that USA expelled 12 russian diplomats assigned to the UN.

This (at least to a layman's POV) implies that the USA government can dictate who can and who can not work with the UN, and leads to the conclusion that the USA government can exert control over the UN if only by controlling who is working there or not.

Can the USA government expel foreign diplomats working for the UN?

2 Answers 2


Yes and No

Yes, they can expel them from the USA.

No, they cannot be prevented by USA from working in the UN. But they can be prevented from commuting to work at UN building located in USA, or being inside UN NY headquarters (which does not AFAIK offer immunity under Article 22 of Vienna convention, unlike an embassy).

They just can't be present in the United States as a sovereign country. E.g., they can telecommute to work. As far as I know, they can even live inside the embassy as it's a sovereign territory of Russia. As long as they never exit the embassy.

  • 10
    Embassies are not sovereign territory of the sending state. They have certain immunities, but they remain the territory of the receiving state.
    – cpast
    Mar 27, 2018 at 19:03
  • @cpast - ah. You're correct, thanks! The high level point is unchanged, as the effective result is the same under Vienna Convention article 22 as if it was truly sovrereign; but I edited the fact in.
    – user4012
    Mar 27, 2018 at 19:12
  • "which does not AFAIK offer immunity under Article 22 of Vienna convention, unlike an embassy": the UN headquarters agreement grants the UN headquarters complex a status that is at least comparable to the status of embassies under the Vienna convention, if not more protected. The US even has a transit visa for people whom the US will not recognize as diplomats to allow them to travel to the UN headquarters.
    – phoog
    Jun 13, 2022 at 14:51
  • The status of representatives to the UN is also governed by UN treaties, not the Vienna convention. They are immune under those treaties and subject to expulsion by the US under those treaties. If they are expelled, they retain immunity until they leave.
    – phoog
    Jun 13, 2022 at 14:59

The people here were not working for the UN but for Russia, representing Russia at the UN.

The US can expel such people as if they were diplomats accredited to the US. This provision is found at Article III, section 13(b)(3) of the UN Headquarters Agreement:

Persons who are entitled to diplomatic privileges and immunities under Section 15 or under the General Convention shall not be required to leave the United States otherwise than in accordance with the customary procedure applicable to diplomatic envoys accredited to the United States.

People who work for the UN are subject to the same section of the headquarters agreement (and, if I recall correctly, a different section of the general convention), but are less susceptible to being used for political pressure. A Russian director of a UN agency is not an attractive target for expulsion in a dispute with Russia, because that expulsion is detrimental more to the agency than to Russia. Furthermore, a UN officer's duties do not include representing Russia's foreign policy positions. By contrast, that is the primary duty of a Russian diplomat.

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