287. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson 1


  • Ambassador Stevenson’s Talks with Soviets on Future of United Nations Peacekeeping

To carry forward the momentum of your January 18 letter to Khrushchev,2 I recommend that you authorize Ambassador Stevenson to open discussions in New York with the Soviet Ambassador on the financial-peacekeeping problem of the U.N.

Ambassador Stevenson would make it clear that any future arrangements on peacekeeping, such as those foreshadowed in your letter, must presuppose settlement of Soviet arrears. Unless they settle they face a showdown. The Soviets are subject to loss of their General Assembly vote under Article 19 of the Charter at the first meeting of the Assembly in 1964.

Our strategy and discussions would proceed on two parallel lines:

On Article 19,3 we believe the Soviets will be moved, if at all, by our determination to apply Article 19 strictly to all defaulters and by our ability to marshall the necessary General Assembly majority to back a ruling that their vote is suspended. Our strategy is to mount a major effort with other UN members to muster support for such an outcome—and to convince the Soviets that we have the votes. We believe our persuasiveness with third countries will be helped if we make a serious effort to reach an accommodation with the Soviets on practical and reasonable arrangements for future peacekeeping.

On arrangements for future costly UN peacekeeping operations, we would initially explore Soviet reaction to the two features mentioned in your letter: [Page 618]

  • —to strengthen the role of the Security Council in peacekeeping. We might suggest that all major peacekeeping operations be considered first by the Security Council. The General Assembly would undertake them only if the Security Council had been unable to take action;
  • —to take account of the special responsibilities and contributions of the larger countries (particularly the Permanent Members of the Security Council) in meeting the United Nations’ financial problems. This might be done by establishing a new peacekeeping financing committee of the General Assembly, weighted in favor of the larger contributors, to determine the most suitable financing plan in each situation and to apportion expenses.

Under such an arrangement, the General Assembly would need to adopt a rule of procedure that it would pass no financing plan for the more costly peacekeeping operations without the prior approval of two-thirds of this committee.

There are two other interrelated elements of importance.

A UN Working Group of 21 members is scheduled to meet this spring and will almost certainly recommend a special scale of assessment under which big contributors would pay more than the regular scale for expensive peacekeeping operations. The “special scale” would be available to the peacekeeping finance committee as one of the alternative financing plans. The preferred formula from our viewpoint would be that the special scale apply only after the first $5 to $10 million needed for peacekeeping operations in any given year had been assessed at the regular scale. We would seek to hold our share on the special scale to less than 40%. A change by Congress in the present legislative ceiling of 33–1/3% for our assessed contributions to UN peacekeeping would be required before we could accept a General Assembly resolution applying the special scale to a particular operation.

We plan also to discuss with the Soviets a formula permitting selective assessment. Under the arrangement we have in mind, the General Assembly (or the peacekeeping finance committee) could decide to apportion expenses among members in such a way as to exclude from assessment under the special scale a permanent member that has fundamental political objections to a UN peacekeeping operation. The Soviets may insist on a formula which would, in effect, give the permanent members a right to “opt out” rather than to leave this decision to a two-thirds majority of the peacekeeping finance committee or the General Assembly.

[Alternative I. I recommend that we consider such a formula if it proves to be essential to reaching an agreement with the Soviets on a package that includes payment of its arrears.]4

[Alternative II. I recommend that Governor Stevenson be authorized to discuss such a procedure with the Soviets if in his judgment it is a [Page 619]necessary part of reaching an agreement with the Soviets on a package that includes paying up its arrears.]

If you approve of our exploring the above approach with the Soviets, we would plan to consult with appropriate Congressional committees to outline our proposals and to explain why we believe they are in our national interest.

If the Soviets do not settle their arrears before the next General Assembly session (we might be faced with a special session at any time) we would press for a ruling on suspension of the Soviet vote if we are confident of the votes to support a favorable ruling. If not, as a means of building greater support, we would consider having the General Assembly refer to the International Court of Justice the question of whether suspension of vote under Article 19 is automatic and mandatory.

Dean Rusk 5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Miscellaneous. Confidential. Drafted by Nathan Pelcovits and Elmore Jackson (IO) on January 31 and cleared by Tyler and Meeker (L).
  2. A copy is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence, USSR-Khrushchev. Also printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–1964, Book I, pp. 153–155.
  3. Article 19 of the UN Charter states: “A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of the arrear equals or exceeds the amount of the contribution from it for the preceding two full years. The General Assembly may, nevertheless permit such a Member to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the member.” For text of the United Nations Charter, signed in San Francisco, June 26, 1945, see 59 Stat. 103.
  4. All brackets in the source text.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.