501.BC/1–2448: Telegram

The United States Representative at the United Nations (Austin) to the Secretary of State


86. Following is a memorandum containing USUN’s suggestions regarding the US position on the veto.

The purpose of this paper is to outline a suggested US position on the veto over the next six months or so—both in the GA and the IC, and in the SC and its Committee of Experts. It seems essential that our position in those two separate forums should be integrated and that we should have before us not only definite aims but a general understanding of the procedures we propose to support in these two separate forums.

I. US Substantive Objective.

Our substantive objective is to attain as much as possible of the following program for the liberalization of the voting procedure in the SC.

Decisions under chapter VI and under article 52, paragraph 3, of the Charter should be taken by a procedural rather than a substantive vote.
Decisions on new members should be taken by a procedural rather than a substantive vote.
The categories of decisions listed in the proposed rule as submitted by the US to the Committee of Experts should be taken by a procedural rather than by a substantive vote.
A procedure ensuring compulsory abstention by a party to a dispute should be put into effect, preferably by making the preliminary decision on this question a procedural rather than a substantive matter.
Part 2 of the Four Power statement should be eliminated by making the preliminary decision a procedural matter, or should be restricted by some other device.
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II. Procedure for Attaining US Objective.

There are a number of procedures which might be followed, alone or in combination, in seeking to attain our objective. The question of the choice of procedure is most difficult and most important. It is clear that the procedures adopted in the two separate forums in the SC should be integrated into a single program.

It is suggested that the following general program might be adopted:

The US is willing to consider the attainment of its objectives by the process of amendment of the Charter, if this is necessary, and if it appears practicable. Since at the moment it does not appear practicable because of the opposition of the Russians and the lack of support from the other members of the Big Five, the US should, in the IC and the GA, emphasize that all other methods of attaining our objective should be attempted first before amendment of the Charter should be attempted.
The most practicable method of attaining the US objectives would seem to be action by the GA and the SC to liberalize the veto procedure to the fullest possible extent consistent with the provisions of the Charter. The US should propose or support a proposal that the UN should decide to place in the category of procedural decisions requiring only seven votes in the SC, all those categories of decisions listed in paragraph 1 above provided that such action may be taken without violation of the legal obligations imposed by the Charter and is consistent with the Charter. The question of the legal validity of such action under the Charter should be submitted by the GA to the ICJ for an advisory opinion. The action of the US to accomplish this purpose should be a recommendation of the GA, consistent with the opinion of the IC, directed to the SO and put into effect by the SC through the adoption of rules of procedure.
This program calls for action both in the GA and in the SC. The US might support the following action in each of these forums.


We should proceed with our present program in the SC and press our proposals to the Committee of Experts to a decision taking a majority recommendation to the SC at the earliest possible opportunity. We should not attempt to determine now how far to press these rules in the SC prior to action in the IC and the GA. We should keep definitely in mind the advantages of establishing a precedent or at least public support of a majority of the SC for the proposition that rules of procedure regarding voting may be adopted by the SC by a procedural vote. We should also be prepared to propose that any seriously disputed legal points should be put by the SO to the ICJ for an advisory opinion. If the request for an advisory opinion were blocked by a Soviet veto, it might be undesirable to press to a conclusion the argument that the making of such a request is itself a procedural question, but the resulting situation would help us in our program in the GA.

GA program.

We should place before the IC, after consultation among the five, a proposal along the following lines: the IC should examine all possible categories of decisions which the Council may make under the Charter and should recommend to the GA which of these categories of decisions [Page 223] should be taken by a procedural vote and which should be taken by a substantive vote. The IC should recommend that the Assembly, if it accepts these recommendations, should recommend to the SC that it adopt rules of procedure putting these recommendations into effect. The IC should, however, also recommend to the GA that since the question has arisen as to certain of the categories involved as to whether it is legally permissible to interpret the Charter in such a way that such categories of decisions may be taken by the SC by a procedural vote, the GA should request an advisory opinion on this subject from the ICJ before making any recommendation to the SC.

The US proposal might indicate a list of categories which should be considered as procedural rather than substantive. This list should include all those categories which are included in the Committee of Experts report to the SC, as well as any others which we desire to include.

The US proposal might also deal with the problem of opening up the expanded activity of the GA in connection with political questions whenever the SC is prevented by an exercise of the veto from taking action. Such a proposal might bear particularly on the immediate future during the period when long-range adjustments are in process of development. In this connection, it might be proposed that the IC could recommend to the GA that the GA adopt a resolution requesting the SC to remove from its agenda any question in regard to which it was unable to take effective steps because of the exercise of the veto, in order that the bar presented by paragraph 1 of article 12 might be removed and that the GA might be in a position to deal with the question.

The US position regarding the Four Power statement would be that specified by Mr. Dulles in his opening speech to Committee 1 in the GA. It would be clear from the content of the US list of proposed procedural decisions that it was prepared to abandon the positions taken in the Four Power statement. It would probably be useful to explain that the US would continue to abide by the present practice of the SC until after the GA and the SC had acted to revise it.

It is suggested that we should aim to complete the discussions in the Committee of Experts and to present a majority report to the SC and to have at least preliminary discussions in the SC before the US has submitted its proposal to the IC.

The ideal situation would be that the SC have an opportunity to tackle the Committee of Experts report and reach a deadlock with the Soviet Union on this, perhaps making an effort to get an advisory opinion from the court before consideration of the US proposal in the IC commenced. If this timetable should be delayed, however, it would not present any serious difficulties. The US proposals to the IC are such that they could be put forward even though the Committee of Experts report had not been finalized. If the Russian position is absolutely rigid on this issue this would provide adequate basis for moving ahead in the IC.

The outcome of such a program, assuming it was carried through the IC to the GA, would be that the UN through the Assembly would pronounce itself on how far it wished and felt it legitimate to go in liberalizing the veto within the confines of the Charter. During the [Page 224] year following the next regular session of the GA, two courses of action could be followed: the first would be that the SC should proceed to adopt rules of procedure, by majority voting if necessary, as to any items which had not been submitted to the court for an opinion, the United Nations would probably have to wait for an additional year before effective action could be taken to put into effect the opinion of the court. During this entire period it would be open to the UN, if they so desired, to proceed with efforts to amend the Charter or with efforts to attain agreement among the five powers either for revision of the Four Power statement or for some similar agreement waiving the veto in certain cases. It would also be open to the UN, if they so desired, to make increasing use of the GA following the pattern of the action in the Greek case. In this connection our position might be that the philosophy of the Charter was that resort to the SC rather than to the GA was preferable where subsequent enforcement action under chapter VII might be required. Where the use of the veto precludes the possibility of action under chapter VII, the GA or a permanent “interim committee” can do as much as the SC can do, as, for example in appointing a commission of inquiry. Thus the GA would have had the power to do in the Indonesian case, and first phase of the Indian-Pakistan case, precisely what was done by the SC.

The above program is conceived with the purpose of progressing as far as possible in the direction of liberalizing the veto over the objections of the Soviet Union. Given this aim, one of its principal advantages is that it proceeds slowly and carefully and affords the Soviet Union as little excuse as possible to claim that the Charter is being violated and consequently to boycott the SC or take some other similarly drastic action.