501.BC/6–2148: Telegram

The Acting United States Representative at the United Nations (Jessup) to the Secretar of State


798. Reurtel 384, June 11,1 concerning Article 43 agreements we suggest following for Department’s consideration in formulating policy regarding the political aspects of this problem.

UN Charter contemplated an organization equipped with armed forces adequate to enforce decisions of the SC in carrying out its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. This fact was widely advertised during and after the Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco Conferences as one of the most important characteristics of the new peace organization and as one of the most significant differences between it and the old League of Nations which had no forces at its disposal.
Three years having passed with no appreciable progress towards establishing these armed forces through conclusion of Article 43 agreements, [Page 351] there is now widespread public opinion (a) that failure to conclude these agreements is one of the most serious weaknesses of the UN and (b) that among other measures contemplated to strengthen the UN steps should be taken to provide contemplated armed forces with minimum of delay. This public opinion is reflected, for example, in the recent Senate (Vandenberg) resolution2 and the omnibus bill approved unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.3
The foregoing suggests that an effort should be made to strengthen the UN by establishing armed forces as contemplated in the Charter and to respond to public opinion in this regard. The objectives we have hitherto sought will be a fundamentally sound thesis in terms of establishing an effective international force as originally contemplated. Viewed in this light the creation of such a force would be designed to meet the double objective of contributing to an international sense of security and facilitating subsequent national limitation of armament.
It is not anticipated, however, that agreement will be reached with the Russians in any substantial way which would make possible the creation of such an effective international force in the immediately foreseeable future. On the contrary, as in the case of atomic energy, conventional armaments, and other matters, it is very doubtful if the Russians, despite their recent show of making concessions which are in fact not very substantial, would be willing to agree to the establishment of armed forces except on a basis falling short of what was contemplated in the Charter. An agreement on such basis, which might have plausible aspects, would be misleading and deceptive and thus give false assurances to the public.
Furthermore, given present status of Soviet relationships with the rest of the world, Department may have some doubts whether it would serve either our national interests or the interests of international peace and security to push forward to conclusion along lines hitherto followed the Article 43 agreements, thus raising the consequent risk of Soviet forces being used in certain areas of the world. Presumably, the US would not want to be in the position of using its veto to prevent the utilization of force in such areas because of an unwillingness to have Soviet forces participate.
Although, as indicated above, there is widespread public opinion feeling that some action should be taken to provide the UN with armed forces, there is not in our judgment at the present any indication of an [Page 352] unusual degree of public pressure for action along the specific lines we have followed in the past.
From the point of view of considering possible action in the SC or in the GA this year on this subject, it seems necessary to contemplate the possibility of Soviet initiative in raising this issue. If the issue were publicly raised either on Soviet or on any other initiative it is believed that the US is in a position to make a good case. Our case would not be as strong as it is in connection with the report of the AEC where we are able to point to our complete agreement with the powers other than Russia. However, we can build strongly on our basic thesis that we have throughout contended for the establishment of a really effective international force while the Russians have consistently attempted to establish a small force which would be clearly ineffective. It is possible also for us in any public discussion of the MSC considerations of overall strength to point to the fact that we are in very close agreement with the UK, France and China on most items and that throughout we have made considerable concessions, whereas the Soviet Union is out of line with the other four powers in most categories and has throughout made practically no concessions. In particular the US, UK, France and China are in agreement on the basic principles reported by the MSC to the SC last summer. As we see it, the only weakness in our position from the point of view of public argument is that our estimates of necessary air strength while reduced from our original estimates by a thousand planes is still out of line with the UK, France and China. Those three powers have increased their figures in an attempt to meet ours but the disparity is still great. On the other hand, the Soviet Union has made no variation in its overall estimates although it has made a show of concessions through a redistribution in the various categories. It would undoubtedly strengthen our position if it were possible for us to revise our air estimates still further downward if by that means we would come closer to agreement with the UK, France and China. If it is assumed as we believe it may properly be, that the establishment of an effective force is not likely, it can be argued that a variation from our position politically despite its fundamental soundness from the military point of view, would not be injurious. Accordingly, a revision downward of our air estimates could be balanced against the ensuing political advantage which would come from presenting a united front all along the line with the UK, France and China.
Unless as a considered policy decision it is determined to make some rather significant move in the field of the creation of a UN force along the lines originally contemplated, or unless such a decision is required for reasons of public policy, it would-seem to be possible to [Page 353] avoid any deviation from the present line of approach unless the matter is forced by the Soviet Union. If for any of the above reasons some action becomes necessary, it would be possible to resume in the SC the discussion of the basic principles, but in our opinion it would then be impossible to avoid a discussion of the estimates of overall strength. If it becomes necessary to discuss this matter, the US is in a fundamentally sound position from the point of view of public relations and discussions in the UN but could greatly strengthen that position if the air estimates could be reduced.
Holding to our original line of approach in this matter, as indicated in the preceding paragraph, may well not be adequate in the light of our own public opinion and opinion in the GA. For reasons indicated above, it would seem neither feasible nor realistic to deviate substantially from the objectives we have hitherto sought if we are seeking the creation of Article 43 forces as originally contemplated. However, in order to be in a position to deal in a positive and affirmative manner with this question in the GA should the necessity arise, we feel that it is important to develop positions with regard to the two alternatives set forth in the following paragraphs, namely, a UN token force and UN armed guards or a combination of both.
If a basic policy decision were reached that the participation of the Soviet Union in an international token force would not necessarily lead to undesirable consequences, or if an irresistible public opinion: seemed to require some action even at the cost of undesirable Russian participation in certain areas, consideration might then be given to the possibility of the creation of a small symbolic force. Such a force would not be conceived or presented as one capable of really effective military action in many situations which might be conceived. Such a force, however, might, from the general point of view of support for SC action, be useful as, e.g., in supporting economic sanctions under Articles 41 and 42 or through providing sea and air patrols in support of blockade measures. The development of such an idea would need clearly to be based upon political rather than military considerations. From the technical point of view, agreement might conceivably be reached upon the establishment of such a symbolic force through the contribution of a very small number of naval vessels including one or more from each of a number of the middle or smaller powers. A danger of experimentation with such an approach would be that it might play into the hands of the Soviet contention in favor of a small international force and might block eventual development of a substantial effective force. The danger would also have to be considered of creating a false sense of security and of involving a token force in situation which would require subsequent reinforcement which would not be available, [Page 354] thus injuring rather than supporting the prestige of the UN. On balance, we think this plan merits full exploration.
It is probable that there is very little distinction in the public mind between the Article 43 agreements and the question of UN guards.4 Although we agree fully with our understanding of the Department’s position, namely, that the question of UN guards be kept quite separate and distinct from the question of Article 43 agreements nevertheless it is not unlikely that the development of the UN guard idea which has already received considerable public support may provide a sufficient answer for the time being to public agitation for some action. It is doubtful whether contingents furnished under Article 43 agreements should ever be used merely for guarding UN personnel or property in connection with UN commissions in the field. Certainly such a function is not their primary responsibility. On the other hand, it is clear that UN Commission may need guard forces as in Palestine at present. Moreover, it would not seem to strain the spirit of the Charter to contemplate that UN guards might be used in the carrying out of UN decision for the performance of police functions of the law and order variety in contrast with the enforcement function requiring armed force under Article 42.

We believe that support should be given to the general concept behind the SYG’s Harvard speech on this subject,5 although any endorsement of this should make clear the distinction between the guard function designed for the protection of personnel and property together with the performance of ordinary police functions on the one hand, and on the other hand forces supplied under Article 43 agreements which are primarily designed to take enforcement action against states.

  1. Telegram 384, not printed, requested the opinion of the United States Mission as to whether some action with respect to provision of forces for use by the Security Council should be taken in the Security Council prior to the next session of the General Assembly (501.BC/6–1148).
  2. Senate Resolution 239, 80th Cong.; for text, see A Decade of American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1941–1949, p. 197.
  3. Reference is to H.R. 6802, 80th Cong., “A Bill to Strengthen the United Nations and Promote International Cooperation for Peace”; for a description of this legislation and action thereon, see footnote 1, p. 8.
  4. The reference is to a proposal by Trygve Lie, the Secretary General of the United Nations, that a UN security guard be established. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 311 ff.
  5. Reference is to the Secretary Generara address before the Harvard Alumni Association, Cambridge, Mass., June 10, 1948, released as a press release by the Department of Public Information of the United Nations the same day.