The P5+1 refers to the UN Security Council's five permanent members (the P5); namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany.

Here on Wikipedia it says that these are the five permanent members and Germany, but who defines which countries are permanent members? What factors is the UNSC composition based on?

Why is not Germany a permanent member?

  • 2
    Why Germany isn't a member is almost equivalent to why India isn't a member, the reason of which is beautifully explained in the answer of that question. Sep 16, 2021 at 17:57
  • 12
    Note P5+1 is not a formal concept of the UN, it is the group that got together to negotiate JCPOA with Iran. So, "plus Germany" doesn't mean anything, UN-wise. Sep 16, 2021 at 18:23

6 Answers 6


What defines which countries are permanent members

This is defined in section one of article 23 of the UN Charter, which says:

The Security Council shall consist of fifteen Members of the United Nations. The Republic of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America shall be permanent members of the Security Council. The General Assembly shall elect ten other Members of the United Nations to be non-permanent members of the Security Council, due regard being specially paid, in the first instance to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization, and also to equitable geographical distribution.

So, for a country to become a permanent member of the UNSC, the UN charter would have to be changed. According to article 108 of the UN Charter, this requires

Amendments to the present Charter shall come into force for all Members of the United Nations when they have been adopted by a vote of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.

So, that is what is required to be a part of the UNSC.

All of my linked articles and quotes up till this point are from the official UN site.

Why Germany isn’t a permanent member:

This is partially explained in an answer by James K which says that stability is the basis of the security council, and adding more members undermines this. In addition, adding more members weakens the existing members.

The reason Germany wasn’t initially added to the UNSC was because positions on the UNSC were mainly awarded to the winners of WW2, and Germany lost. In addition, since the UN was created right after WW2, and Germany was not a country at that time

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    One could note two changes occured. The seat of the Republic of China was given to the People's Republic of China after much dispute over who represented China, and the ROC being ultimately kicked out of representation at the UN altogether in 71. The USSR's seat was transfered to the Russian Federation as its undisputed successor state. Sep 17, 2021 at 8:18
  • The original UN charter gives China's seat to the "Republic of China." Doesn't it therefore break the UN charter to give the PRC Taiwan's seat?
    – moonman239
    Sep 17, 2021 at 15:39
  • @moonman239 see this, it’s about Russia, but essentially the same principal. Sep 17, 2021 at 15:40
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    @moonman239, international Chinese politics, simplified: everyone pretends that mainland China and Taiwan are part of the same country. Under that theory, what happened in 1971 was that the international community decided to recognize the government in Beijing rather than the government in Taipei as the legitimate government of China.
    – Mark
    Sep 17, 2021 at 20:21
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    I'm surprised that correlation between the security council to the "Nuclear Club" (i.e., the recognized nuclear weapons states doesn't regularly come up. Of course, the UNSC permanent members was were selected before some successfully developed nuclear weapons technology; it seems clear that NPT didn't take effect before the permanent security council members caught up with a demonstrated nuclear capability. Sep 18, 2021 at 1:21

Reform of the United Nations Security Council

Any reform of the Security Council would require the agreement of at least two-thirds of UN member states in a vote in the General Assembly and must be ratified by two-thirds of Member States. All of the permanent members of the UNSC (which have veto rights) must also agree.

Germany? Why? 2 out 5 members are already European nations (3 if you count Russia). If enlargement was to take place, most of the world would probably like to see more diversity.

Historically, the 5 Permanents match the main WW2 allies and winners with China being more complicated.

P.S. Given the level of competition amongst its current members, any new member acceptable to one or more of the 5 would likely be perceived as a threat by another, hence a veto. China or Russia would veto Germany. And that's even leaving aside the lack of incentive for a member of the club to dilute its exclusivity.

  • "2 out 5 members are already European nations". The UK is no longer part of the European Union. ;) Sep 18, 2021 at 21:21
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    @DanielWiddis I think this is about the geographical and cultural area, not any of the many organisations of states that has the continent in its name.
    – Jan
    Sep 22, 2021 at 11:54
  • @Jan My comment was half in jest. But in all seriousness, the UN is a political body and it makes more sense for "The EU" to have a seat given the current arrangement than 2 seats to France and Germany. And this would not impact the UK. Sep 22, 2021 at 15:12
  • @DanielWiddis "UK is no longer part of the European Union" I once told my brother that England may not be playing in the Euros due to Brexit... Nov 1, 2021 at 16:22
  • ...His reply was "What about Turkey?" Nov 1, 2021 at 16:22

According to wikipedia,

The five permanent members of the Security Council were the victorious powers in World War II

Permanent members of the United Nations Security Council

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    It's a bit short for an answer, but it still answers the question. One thing that is missing is that WW2 was a long time ago, so there would have been time to change the makeup of the UNSC. Maybe take a look at Italian Philosophers 4 Monica's answer to reason why the makeup still hasn't changed and then it's clear why Germany hasn't become a permanent member since. In any case, my earlier comment was just to point out that answers, even partial ones shouldn't be put in the comments. It doesn't allow others to vote on them and the may discourage others from raising the same point in an answer.
    – JJJ
    Sep 16, 2021 at 17:59
  • @JJJ small correction, you can vote on comments, just not downwards :P. Also, IMO the biggest problem with answers in comments is that it makes the answer harder to find. Sep 16, 2021 at 18:15

While the institutional lineage of the modern UN is different, the political origin of the UN is when, During World War II, the allies started calling their coalition "the United Nations". It obviously did not include Germany at all, much less as a prominent member.

When the UN was set up in its current form in 1945, it was a political continuation of that coalition and thus enshrined the position of the main allied nations (where "main" means "having the most military power". How France got in is slightly more complicated).

Germany was a political pariah at the time and was allowed to join the UN only in 1973.


You really only need to consider when the UN Charter was signed - 26 June 1945. That was one month after the end of the war in Europe.

The permananet members were the then major victorious powers.

The only subsequent hiccup in the list has concerned China. In 1945, China had a nationalist government, allied with the West under Chiang Kai-Shek. After the 1948 revolution led by Mao Tse-Tung, the UN permanent membership went with Chiang to Taiwan, which became the Republic of China. It was returned to the mainland Peoples Republic of China by treaty in 1971 - just prior to Nixon's visit to the country.


What factors is the UNSC composition based on?

From a Realpolitik standpoint its currently composed of nations capable of large scale disruption of the global economy if they ever decided to use their nuclear arsenal. All other nations either don't have any nuclear weapons or haven't demonstrated the capacity to cause nuclear winter (India, Pakistan, Israel). The opinion of nations incapable of starting a nuclear winter is a lot less relevant in the global arena. Of course, nuclear winter is a disputed concept but its nevertheless a real worry in people's heads. Mutual assured destruction is the foundation of prosperity and peace in the modern world.

If South Africa or Peru disagree with a UN Security Council decision, their only option is to start a conventional war which is easy to overcome with the combined might of the 5 nuclear nations. If Russia disagrees with a decision, they always have the option of killing a few hundred million people with targeted ICBM launches. Hence Russia has a veto in the Council while Peru and South Africa don't. The Council can of course by side-stepped (as routinely done by Russia, US and China) but overall the five nuclear powers are still wary of provoking each other too much.

Why isn't Germany a permanent member?

Because they don't any nuclear weapons. If they manage to reach a stage where they have hundreds of proven nuclear warheads deployed and ready to strike any of the other nuclear-possessing nations territories, they will likewise be invited to join the Permanent Security Council.

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