500.CC(PC)/12–945: Telegram

The Acting United States Representative on the Preparatory Commission (Stevenson) to the Secretary of State

12922. Copre 522. Part I. In conversation Friday night Erwin Canham, managing editor of the Christian Science Monitor, told us that he was very much disturbed by (a) situation regarding location of headquarters as it has been developing over past few days and (b) position of the US Government in regard thereto. His views, which we feel accurately reflect common viewpoint of all American city representatives here, are summarized as follows:

First: The officially neutral position of the US Government vitiates the force of denials that we do not want site in US. In the absence of a positive, unequivocal statement that we do want the headquarters, damaging rumors continue to circulate.

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Second: It is becoming apparent that there may not be a two-thirds majority in favor of the US when vote is put on ExCom recommendation. This is because of the complete absence of any US leadership as contrasted with vigorous British leadership in Europe. According to Canham, many PreCo delegations are mystified at failure of US to take more positive attitude.

Third: If the vote goes against the US there will be the following results:

An adverse vote will provide ammunition to US nationalists and isolationists. It will be interpreted as an affront by Europe [to] “the US and will encourage trend to hemisphere isolationism in US.”
An adverse vote will be interpreted by US public opinion as a diplomatic defeat of considerable magnitude. All our friends, not only at home but among the other governments, will say and sincerely believe that an adverse vote is the fault of the State Department and US Government.
The effect of the foregoing will be a setback for the present US administration. Canham expressed some of these views in signed front page article in today’s Observer, headlined “UNO H.Q. In Europe Would Shock America”. He did not include criticism of US official attitude which he expressed to us but did say “the Truman administration also would receive a rebuff—not a good thing at all as President Truman and Secretary Byrnes seek to make up their minds on world policies. If President Roosevelt had been still alive there would have been no doubt at all on UNO’s home.”

The above views are reported because they are widely held here and I believe the Department should be aware of them. I do not suggest that the US should or could now formally abandon its position of not seeking a decision to come to the US, although welcoming such a decision if made without pressure or influence from US.

Part II. The vote at present appears to line up as follows:

For US: Latin American countries (with Costa Rica and El Salvador probably absent), China, Australia, Soviet Union, Ukraine, Byelo Russia, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Philippines, Liberia. Total 27 or 28 votes. For Europe: United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, Canada, South Africa, Greece, Poland, Turkey, and probably India. Total, 13 votes.

Uncertain: Arab League, Iran, New Zealand, Ethiopia.

Arab League now seems most likely to vote for Europe as a unit, although possibilities that it will split 3 to 2 for Europe, abstain entirely or even swing to US as a unit cannot be ruled out. Iran has instructions generally favorable to Europe but will probably abstain. New Zealand may either abstain or vote for Europe. Therefore, as things stand now a vote of about 28 to 18 or 19 with abstentions and absentees accounting for the balance would be somewhat more probable than a two-thirds majority for US.

Part III. Committee 8 is scheduled to meet this week on Monday and Tuesday and again on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. General debate on substance will probably continue Monday and Tuesday and discussion on voting procedure will probably begin on Thursday, [Page 1488] with vote by end of week.53 As indicated above, although majority of delegations clearly favor US, two-thirds vote may fail by narrow margin of 2 or 3 votes. Despite repeated informal denials of rumors that US does not want site in US and formal statement made in committee on Friday, rumors still recur. Rumor was current yesterday that my instructions authorizing me to make this denial were now obsolete, that US Government had again changed its position and now really wants site in Europe and that position has changed because US Government really wants an American as Secretary General (see also Spaak’s statement below). We had not heard Stettinius angle before. We shall deny this story vigorously in accordance with Preco 35954 just received, both as it applies to Stettinius and in general.

[Here follows Part IV, a summary of the meeting of Committee 8 on Saturday, December 8.]

  1. For discussion at these sessions, see Committee 8: General Questions, Summary Record of Meetings, pp. 22–52.
  2. Telegram 10635, December 7, 8 p.m., to London. It concerned a rumor which, the Department had been informed by private sources, was said to be “all over London”. Mr. Stettinius was said to wish to be Secretary General of the Organization, and for that reason the United States Government did not want the headquarters to be located in the United States, “as we obviously could not then have the Secretary General an American.” The Department advised that Mr. Stettinius “is definitely not interested in being Secretary General and that he so advised various people in London when the subject was casually raised with him.” The Department also stated that if it were questioned about the story, a statement in denial would be made, with the reminder that “the United States has consistently taken the position that the Secretary General of the Organization should not be a national of any of the major powers.” (500.CC(PC/12–745)