740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 255
Briefing Book Paper
top secret

Memorandum for the President

Subject: Possible discussion at meeting between the President, Churchill and Stalin of the selection of officers of the Preparatory Commission

I. background

In the brief initial meeting of the Preparatory Commission at San Francisco1 it was agreed that the choice of officers of the Preparatory Commission and of its Executive Committee would be left open for subsequent determination.

The evening before the initial meeting of the Preparatory Commission our representative for that particular meeting, Dr. Pasvolsky, met with Mr. Jebb, the British representative, and Ambassador Gromyko, the Soviet representative. Dr. Pasvolsky and Mr. Jebb expressed the opinion that the question of filling the post of Chairman of the Executive Committee and the post of Executive Secretary of the Commission should be settled at the forthcoming meeting of the President, Prime Minister Churchill and Marshal Stalin. Ambassador Gromyko appeared to agree with this opinion. In view of the fact that it is hoped that the Executive Committee can have its first meeting in London during the first week of August, it is desirable to have these two questions settled promptly and your forthcoming meeting with Churchill and Stalin seems to offer the best opportunity for a prompt settlement of the matter.

From statements made by Ambassador Gromyko at San Francisco, it would appear that the Soviet Government attaches considerable importance to the choice of Chairman of the Executive Committee. It appears likely that the Soviet position in this matter will be first to ask that its representative on the Executive Committee be the Chairman of the Committee and as a second choice to propose that, [Page 316] following the procedure adopted with respect to the presidency of the San Francisco Conference, the position of Chairman be held in rotation by the representatives of the Big Five (China, France, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the United States).

ii. recommendations

I believe that our own position in this matter should be as follows:

The Executive Secretary of the Commission should clearly be a British national in as much as effective discharge of the Secretariat’s functions will require ability to call upon the resources of the British Government and of various private British institutions.
I believe that we should oppose so far as possible the principle of rotation among the Big Five of the office of Chairman of the Executive Committee. We should be prepared to support the British Government if it desires to press for having the British representative as Chairman.
Our next choice, which may be unpalatable to the British, should be to let the Soviets have the Chairmanship, in order to avoid the principle of rotation. In this connection it should be noted that the Commission, acting through the Executive Committee, will almost certainly have to create a number of subcommittees or similar organs to specialize on various aspects of the Commission’s duties. The chairmanships of these subcommittees might perhaps be allocated among the members of the Big Five in such a way as to make more palatable the selection of the British or the Soviet representative as the Chairman of the Executive Committee without rotation.
If, as appears likely, the British do not make much of an effort to obtain the chairmanship and oppose the Soviet representative being chairman, they are likely to propose instead that this position be held in rotation by representatives of the Big Five. We should oppose this because of the aspect of great power domination which would be inevitable. Such a solution would be especially undesirable from the point of view of precedent as it will affect the choice of the President of the Security Council of the Organization. It would be preferable from our point of view for rotation to be among all fourteen members of the Executive Committee.

The question of the selection of the President of the Preparatory Commission as a whole will probably not arise at your meeting. It was agreed at San Francisco that this question could be left until the first business session of the full Commission, which will not occur for several months. My present feeling is that it might be wise to select a representative of one of the smaller powers for this position. You may wish to bear this possibility in mind in the discussions which are likely to arise with respect to the chairmanship of the Executive Committee.

  1. Held June 27, 1945. See The United Nations Conference on International Organization: Selected Documents, p. 987.