4. Editorial Note

On January 13, the White House released the text of a letter from President Eisenhower to Soviet Council of Ministers Chairman Bulganin. Dated the previous day, Eisenhower’s letter responded to a December 10, 1957, communication from Bulganin. (See footnote 2, Document 2)

Eisenhower noted that Bulganin’s letter seemed to address three items: the need for peace; the idea that collective self-defense efforts of free world nations endangered peace; and Bulganin’s specific proposals. The President offered his own suggestions for enhancing international stability. The first concerned strengthening the United Nations by rededicating “ourselves to the United Nations, its Principles and Purposes and to our Charter obligations.”

The President continued:

“I propose that we should make it the policy of our two governments at least not to use veto power to prevent the Security Council from proposing methods for the pacific settlement of disputes pursuant to Chapter VI.

“Nothing, I am convinced, would give the world more justifiable hope than the conviction that both of our governments are genuinely determined to make the United Nations the effective instrument of peace and justice that was the original design.”

He then addressed the problems of Germany and arms control. Eisenhower closed his letter with the statement that he would be willing to meet with Soviet leaders, provided adequate preparations were made in advance of the meeting and leaders of other nations with responsibilities in the areas to be considered attended. For the full text of his letter, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1958, pages 75–84.

In his February 1 reply, Bulganin commented on Eisenhower’s suggestions for strengthening the United Nations:

“The U.N. Charter provides that this organization must be a center for coordinating the actions of nations and for working our mutually acceptable decisions. These ends are also served by the rule of unanimity of the great powers. The abolition of this rule would lead to abuses, to the violation of the interests of the minority, and to attempts to use this organization to the advantage of some one power [Page 6] or group of powers. Is it possible to forget that states which are members of the U.N. are sovereign and independent states and cannot permit themselves to be saddled with decisions which are incompatible with their sovereignty?”

For full text of this letter, see Department of State Bulletin, March 10, 1958, pages 376–380.

Eisenhower addressed Bulganin’s reactions to his proposals for the United Nations in his February 15 response:

“That proposal you reject, alleging that it would give to the Security Council a power to ‘adopt decisions that would be binding on all States’ and make it in effect a ‘world government.’ That argument is directed to a misrepresentation of my proposal. I suggested that our two nations should, as a matter of policy, avoid vetoing Security Council recommendations as to how nations might proceed toward the peaceful solution of their disputes. Surely authority to recommend, and that only as to procedures, is not to impose binding decisions. Already, the General Assembly can, free of veto, recommend procedures for peaceful settlement. Would it really be catastrophic for the Security Council to exercise that same facility?”

For full text of the letter, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1958, pages 153–160.

Bulganin’s March 3 response commented again on Soviet opposition to restricting the use of the veto in the U.N. Security Council:

“We cannot agree at all with the claim that the only thing in question is the procedural aspect of the matter, although, as is well known, this aspect also has important significance in settling great political problems. We are firmly convinced that the implementation of measures proposed by you would in practice lead to the use of the Security Council in the interests of one or several powers to the detriment of the interests of other states, to undermining the various principles of unanimity of the great powers which have the basic responsibility for maintaining international peace, that principle on which the U.N. is founded and which represents the basic guarantee for the normal activity and the very existence of the U.N.”

For full text of Bulganin’s letter, see Department of State Bulletin, April 21, 1958, pages 648–652.

Discussions regarding a summit meeting continued into the summer. The Soviet Union, however, consistently omitted any items on the United Nations from its agenda proposals. On June 16, in response to an announcement that the Soviet Government intended to publish previously unreleased documentation on the proposed meeting, the Department of State released three documents pertaining to it. One was a May 28 memorandum listing the Western agenda proposals. It contained the following item:

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“9. Means of strengthening the United Nations

“The peoples of the world look upon the UN organization and the pledges of its members embodied in its Charter as man’s best hope for peace and justice. Thus, the Western governments cannot but welcome the recent assertion of the Soviet Union that it believes in the importance of the United Nations and its role in the maintenance of peace and security as well as in the peaceful settlement of international issues. Like the USSR, they deem that efforts should be made to strengthen the United Nations by every means, so that it should be able to fulfill its tasks more effectively. One practical way in which this can be done now is through an undertaking by the Governments of the US, UK, France and USSR that they will, as a matter of policy, avoid vetoing Security Council recommendations as to how nations might proceed toward the peaceful solution of their disputes.”

For full text of the memorandum, see ibid., July 7, 1958, pages 12–16.