Memorandum of Conversation, by the Special Assistant on United Nations Affairs, Bureau of European Affairs (Allen)


Subject: Relationships between UN–NATO:1 Work of Collective Measures Committee

Participants: Mr. W. D. Matthews, Minister, Canadian Embassy
Miss Marian MacPherson, Third Secretary, Canadian Embassy
Mr. Hickerson—UNA
Mr. Sanders2UNA
Mr. Allen—EUR

Mr. Matthews called on instructions to explore our thinking on the problem of UN–NATO relationships in the event of a general war.3 He stated that the Canadian Government is of course convinced that the UN would have a useful role to play in a general war but had not yet reached any firm conclusions as to what that role should be and had some question as to the extent to which the problem and the concomitant question of UN–NATO relationships should be discussed with non-NATO countries now, specifically in the CMC.

Mr. Hickerson stated that in our view in case of a general war with the U.S.S.R., the probable sequence of events would be as follows: (1) NATO and its members, which constitute the hard core of power in the free world, would act immediately, and (2) the UN SC or GA, meeting as soon as possible, would pass an appropriate resolution naming the aggressor, calling on all countries to assist and naming some appropriate organ of NATO as executive military authority to prosecute the war on behalf of the UN. To have such a UN umbrella over the operation would bring considerable political, psychological and military advantages. However, no UN operation should interfere in any way in the strategic direction of the war. In the economic field, we frankly do not know how far the UN should go. UN economic agencies could perform useful functions (1) in calling upon members to apply economic sanctions, and (2) in performing the sort of task which the AMC is now doing in relationship to the Korean embargo, but we have doubts as to the extent to which such agencies should become involved in operations (i.e., food allocations by FAO). In the final analysis, direction of economic warfare must be in the hands of [Page 655]those actually running the war, although UN Specialized Agencies might implement some of the decisions.

Mr. Matthews stated that in general Canadian thinking on the substance is similar to ours. The Canadian Government feels that the executive control of a general war should be in NATO and not in the UN. On the economic side, although the UN could help coordinate the economic policies of non-NATO countries with those of NATO, his Government would be somewhat reluctant to give it extensive functions. In general, they feel that during a general war the UN, and particularly its economic agencies, should not be drawn in so much as to cause the neutralists (India, Indonesia, and others) to withdraw. It is important that the UN agencies retain the largest possible membership as a nucleus around which the post-war international organizational structure could be rebuilt. They, therefore, feel that public discussion now of the extent to which the UN should be utilized in a general war and the exact nature of UN–NATO relationships would be undesirable in that (1) it would tend to arouse the concern of such States as India and lessen their cooperation and participation in UN work, and (2) would provide the USSR with further propaganda ammunition to charge that the UN is being converted into an anti-Soviet alliance and perhaps give them an excuse to withdraw.

Mr. Hickerson replied that we too appreciate these dangers and therefore feel that any discussion of this matter in the CMC should be in the most general terms. Pointing out that the GA asked the CMC in its work to take account of collective self-defense and regional arrangements, Mr. Hickerson sketched out the type of general statements we had in mind (as contained in WGCMC 28b)4 and asked Mr. Matthews whether the Canadians thought discussion in such broad terms would cause difficulty. Mr. Matthews felt that it would not. Mr. Allen pointed out that we did not contemplate submitting a separate paper on the problem. Moreover, the undesirable impact of any CMC discussion touching upon this problem is somewhat minimized by the fact that the CMC’s work is not focused on a general war situation as much as it is on a Korean-type or even Kashmir-type situation in the future.

Mr. Sanders mentioned that the probability of a strong Soviet attack on NATO in the GA might well involve us in some discussion of the problem there. Mr. Matthews agreed and remarked that this underscores the importance of a carefully thought out line.

In conclusion, Mr. Matthews expressed his appreciation for the discussion and stated that the foregoing covered all the points his Government had in mind.

  1. For additional material on this subject, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  2. William Sanders, Special Assistant and Planning Adviser, Bureau of United Nations Affairs.
  3. For documentation on United States discussions with the United Kingdom and Canada concerning the danger of general war with the Soviet Union, see pp. 802 ff.
  4. Document WGCMC D–28b “United States Position on the Nature of Relationships Between the United Nations and Collective Self-Defense Arrangements,” July 19, 1951, is not printed (320.2 AB/8–2751).