303. Intelligence Note From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • The Soviet Letter of September 11, 1964 on UN Financing

The Soviet Legal Case Reiterated. Moscow’s letter to the UN Secretary General2 puts in one document the Soviet legal case on the UN financing issue. The arguments have all been presented by the Soviet Union before (i.e., that the UN operations in the Middle East and the Congo—UNEF and ONUC—were illegal; that even had they been legal, the Soviet Union was under no obligation to pay for them and is therefore not in arrears in its contributions to the UN; and that consequently Article 19, under which defaulters can be deprived of their vote in the General Assembly, cannot be applied to the USSR). The new document should be viewed as the legal companion piece to the Soviet memorandum of last July,3 in which Moscow presented its broad position that the Security Council has exclusive jurisdiction in peacekeeping matters and that as long as this principle is complied with the USSR is prepared to support UN peacekeeping operations.

Preparing for a Collision. The two Soviet documents and Moscow’s adamant defense of its position in propaganda and private conversations all indicate that the Soviets are preparing for a head-on confrontation on the financing issue at the coming General Assembly. They evidently calculate that a combination of sober legal arguments, expressions of interest in peacekeeping operations under the Security Council, and threats of dire consequences if Article 19 is applied will work to dissuade a substantial number of UN members from acting against the USSR.

Moscow may hope that by increasingly making the Article 19 issue a US-Soviet confrontation (the letter stresses the responsibility of the Western powers, “and especially the United States,” for alleged Charter violations), non-aligned states will wish to contract out of the dispute or seek compromises which accommodate Soviet views. Moscow might conceivably calculate that its legal argumentation will generate pressures [Page 654] in the UN to delay action under Article 19 pending renewed recourse to the International Court. It should be noted, however, that the question of whether Article 19 can be applied automatically or requires a two-thirds vote—an issue some countries might seek to refer to the Court—is not addressed at all in the Soviet letter.

Longer-Range Soviet Intentions. Since the entire Soviet position seems currently geared to a confrontation in November, little or nothing can be gleaned from Moscow’s latest statement regarding its ultimate intentions should its present tactics prove unsuccessful. Whether at that point Moscow would seek a face-saving way out or let Article 19 action take its course and leave at least the Assembly will depend significantly on the general international climate then prevailing, and we doubt whether the Soviets have reached a fixed decision. We continue to believe that the chances of getting the Soviets to relent are probably improved to the extent that the Soviets are convinced that their failure to relent will have results damaging to their interests.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Article 19, Vol. 1. Limited Official Use.
  2. UN doc. A/5729.
  3. UN doc. A/5721; see Documents 297 and 298.