UNA Files: Lot 428

Memorandum by Mr. John C. Ross, Deputy to the United States Representative at the united Nations (Austin)1


[Here follows discussion of recent correspondence with the Department of State on policy with respect to implementation of Article 43 of the United Nations Charter.]

5. It does not seem to me that a pressure campaign to get something done about the Article 43 Agreements (which, as indicated above, I doubt would be successful in any event) is very relevant to effective dealing with the principal political problems confronting us. These may be divided into two categories as follows:

With regard to the major problems confronting us, Berlin, for example, I do not see that Article 43 forces would be of any use to us in the present situation even if we had them. I cannot envisage any set of circumstances involving major political problems between the Soviet [Page 366] Union and the so-called western democracies with regard to which it would make the slightest difference whether or not we had the Article 43 forces.
With regard to other international political problems, e.g., Palestine, Kashmir, Indonesia, Greece, Korea, these are on the whole all being dealt with with reasonable effectiveness by the United Nations, and I do not think it likely that we could deal with these questions with any greater effectiveness if we had the Article 43 forces. In the present state of political relationships, it is virtually certain that either we or the Russians would prevent the employment of Article 43 forces if we had them in the settlement of these secondary political issues.

6. With regard to the stage which has been reached in the development of the United Nations, I do not feel that pressure for the Article 43 Agreements is in tune for the following reasons:

It has seemed to me for some time past that there is an inescapable correlation between the international control of atomic energy, the reduction of conventional armaments, and creation of Article 43 forces. Without developing this point in further detail, it seems to me that we should not follow a policy with regard to any one of these which is inconsistent with our policy with regard to the other two. We do not expect and we are not pressing for any substantial accomplishment in the atomic energy and conventional armaments field, the primary reason being the present state of relations between the Soviet Union and the western democracies. It seems to me, therefore, that we should key our Article 43 policy with our policy on the other two instead of, to mix the metaphor, taking off on a different tack.
From the political viewpoint, the United Nations has just barely readied in the Palestine case the stage of Chapter VII action.2 This first step into Chapter VII has been taken very gingerly; quite apart from the views of the Members on the merits of the Palestine issue, a number of Members of the Council were noticeably reluctant to move into Chapter VII. This political diffidence, I am sure, will continue for some time and its continuance will be in large measure dependent upon the continuance of strained relations between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world. Given the Palestine precedent, it is conceivable that in other cases (Kashmir, Indonesia) the Security Council might the more readily again take Chapter VII action limited to a finding of a threat to the peace and the issuance of orders to the parties appropriate to the circumstances. I have very great doubt, however, whether the Council or the governments composing the Council are likely in the predictable future to be at all prepared to move very far beyond such action. In brief, therefore, I do not see what we have to gain at the moment politically from pressing to make the Article 43 forces available.

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7. From the domestic political viewpoint we should, of course, pay due regard to the expressed views of the Congress. On the other hand, we should bear in mind that the Congress which expressed those views, will no longer be with us next January. It would seem to me to involve less domestic political confusion if we bide our time on the Article 43 question until next January when we will have to work certainly with a new Congress and possibly with a new Administration.

8. It seems to me that the wise course to follow is a simple one aimed at initiating a policy enunciated in general terms at the Assembly this fall and carefully prepared and built up during the course of the ensuing year with the New Congress, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, in the Military Staff Committee and the Security Council. I would certainly feel that in the Secretary’s initial speech at the Assembly he should deal in two or three paragraphs in very strong terms with the question of armed forces, fixing the blame on the Russians’ failure to accomplish more in this field.3

9. A practical and progressive step we might take this fall would, be to take over Trygve Lie’s armed guard idea4 and press it through. It is clear to me that we have reached the stage in the political development of the United Nations where a UN guard, if available, could perform a very useful service. I do not mean to imply that we should, in any way let it be assumed that we feel that a UN armed guard would be a substitute for the Article 43 forces. We should rather make very clear the distinction between the two. The creation of such a guard [Page 368] would, however, in my opinion, represent a step towards the strengthening of the United Nations by providing a type of police force which, although not specifically contemplated in the Charter, experience has demonstrated there is a need for. It is very clear to me also that such action by the United Nations, pursuant to leadership by the United States, would be strongly supported publicly.

  1. This memorandum was directed to Philip C. Jessup, Deputy Chief, United States Mission to the United Nations, and to Charles P. Noyes, Adviser on Security Council Affairs.
  2. Reference is to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter (Articles 39–51), “Action With Respect To Threats To The Peace, Breaches Of The Peace, And Acts Of Aggression.” Documentation on the Palestine question is scheduled for publication in volume v.
  3. On June 23, 1948, the Military Staff Committee had completed its consideration of the report of its Subcommittee on Overall Strength (which had been submitted on December 23, 1947), but failed to achieve unanimity with respect to it. On July 2, the Chairman of the MSC had transmitted a letter to the President of the Security Council informing him that the MSC was unable to undertake final review of the question of overall strength and composition of armed forces until the Council had reached agreement on the general principles contained in the Report of the Committee to the Council of April 30, 1947; for text of the latter, see Department of State Bulletin, August 15, 1948, p. 195.

    Subsequently, the Committee was unable to agree on the course of its future work. On August 6, the United States, United Kingdom, French and Chinese Delegations submitted a letter to the President of the Security Council reiterating the view that the MSC could not proceed until the Security Council took action with respect to general principles. On August 16, however, in a similar letter, the Soviet Delegation expressed the opinion that the MSC could continue its work by consecutive examination of the questions set out in its program of work. For texts of the two letters, see ibid., August 29, 1948, pp. 263–265.

    The Military Staff Committee continued to meet as a matter of course during the remainder of the year, but no further substantive discussion occurred on the subject of forces to be provided under Article 43 of the Charter. No other organ of the United Nations concerned itself with the question during the second half of 1948. Secretary Marshall’s address during the general debate phase of the first part of the Third Session of the General Assembly, September 23, mentioned Article 43 forces only in passing.

  4. For documentation on United States policy with respect to the Secretary-General’s proposal for the creation of a United Nations armed guard force, see pp. 311 ff.