299. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) and Samuel Belk of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Soviet Memorandum on UN Peacekeeping

Soviet Ambassador Fedorenko on July 7 handed Governor Stevenson a memorandum on UN peacekeeping2 which clearly brings us into the next stage of negotiations involving the use of UN forces, financing and the application of Article 19 (the denial of a vote in the General Assembly to members which do not pay their dues on time).

The Soviet memorandum was in response to proposals of our own which Governor Stevenson, with the UK, made to the Russians in March.3 At that time, we pressed for greater use of the Security Council in authorizing the use of UN forces and in controlling UN finances. Both we and the Russians feel that the General Assembly has been playing too strong a role in these areas at the expense of the Council. We outlined to the Russians specific ways the Security Council might be strengthened, but we always maintained that, in the event the Security Council could not act, there should be recourse to the General Assembly. We also outlined a formula for a special scale of assessments for major peacekeeping operations which would be fairer than the way operations have been financed in the past. We suggested, also, that it might be fruitful to examine the possibility of not assessing a Permanent Member of the Council if it strongly objected to a specific operation.

However, in proposing these new approaches to the Russians we made it clear that our agreement to any new arrangements for the future would depend upon the payment of Soviet financial arrearages. We have told the Russians and other UN members that unless arrearages are paid, the Soviet Union—or any other member in the same situation—must lose its vote in the General Assembly when it convenes next November.

The Soviet memorandum just received—which is very reasonable in tone—is by no means a full response to our March proposals. It especially makes the following points: [Page 646]

(a)
It mentions future financing, but Ambassador Fedorenko told Governor Stevenson that the USSR had not altered its position of refusal to pay its past debts.
(b)
It reiterates Moscow’s long-standing view that the Security Council has exclusive jurisdiction over UN peacekeeping, including financing, thus precluding any recourse to the General Assembly. (There is not the slightest chance that the UN membership will buy such a proposal.)
(c)
It implies that the Russians are more willing to accept some sort of peacekeeping role for the UN than they have been in the past.

The major significance of the memorandum is that it opens the door just far enough to make possible a further exchange of views on these long-standing problems. The next step is to find out exactly what the language of the memorandum means and, if it means what it seems to mean, then to see how far the Russians are willing to fall back—if at all—from their stated position. Peacekeeping, financing and Article 19 all are hard problems and they are interconnected in such a way that if you negotiate on one, you have to negotiate on all three.

On the assumption that talks with the Russians will begin soon, Governor Stevenson may have some hard probing—and perhaps negotiating—to do in the coming weeks. We are fortunate in having the UK solidly with us on these issues. The first reaction to the Soviet memorandum from other non-bloc UN members has been very near our own, although it is still too early to get a dependable reading.

You will be seeing U Thant on August 6 when he will report to you the results of his trip (London, Moscow, Paris, Geneva and Cairo) and these are some of the problems you may wish to discuss with him at that time.

  • McG B.
  • SEB
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Article 19, Vol. 1. Confidential. A note on the memorandum reads: “For Information Only.”
  2. See footnote 2, Document 298.
  3. See Document 291.