313. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1

1796. Article 19. Stevenson and Plimpton had informal conf with Fedorenko and Fedoseev (USSR). No others present.

Stevenson made earnest statement as to two ships being on collision course and necessity taking steps to avoid collision. Pointed out in mutual interest of two countries to reduce tensions and have rapprochement, to enable progress on really important matter such as Germany, China, disarmament, nuclear proliferation, etc.
Sovs had suggested postponing whole Art 19 problem and appointment of a comite to consider future. However, they had suggested that future be considered only on their terms. US felt future should be considered, that Sov suggestions should be carefully weighed, but that our March 6 suggestions and any other suggestions should likewise be considered. US, too, would have difficulties as regards a peacekeeping operation of which we disapproved.
However, Sovs had said they would not pay, which caused the trouble. The challenge to both of us was to find a way in which money could be forthcoming, reserving the legal positions of both the Sovs and the US, and involving no defeat for the Sovs or the US and no demoralization of the UN itself. Once this was done, we would look toward the future. There must be some way to do it.
The informal comite of four had proposed a rescue fund which had seemed to us a real possibility.2 Pending working out the details, we could not agree to making a contribution but certainly would consider it. Of course we could not pay Sov arrears.
Furthermore, the Sovs could stipulate that their contribution could not be used for the payment of UNEF or ONUC indebtedness, but only for general purposes of the organization.
A solution along these lines could make it much easier for both of us to move forward in other areas. An indication from the Sovs that new directions are encouraged would help.
Fedorenko said he had closely followed Stevenson’s statement and that he thought the tune was better than the last time, and that he was glad the manner was different. Had, however, expected a more constructive approach to the problem.
There had been too many sharp exchanges and pressures, too many ultimatums, and bad atmosphere. This had not been created by Sovs. He could understand this during our election, but it existed even now.
Under such pressure and in such atmosphere, it is difficult to have negotiations, and Sovs certainly cannot accept dictates and demands. Quiet was necessary.
He shared our ideas as to the necessity of improving relations, both bilaterally and generally, and his govt had made this clear in Wash and in Moscow.
It was important to agree with US as to future peacekeeping operations. It was a key point in the mind of the Sov Govt. It was for this reason they had suggested a comite to look into the future. However, they do not separate the present and the future. They had suggested a postponement of everything to the 20th GA Session, but possibly it could be concluded at the end of 19th Sess. That was still their stand; nobody loses by a postponement. We should proceed in a good spirit to the common task and they were quite sincere, but would not yield to pressure.
Any covering of their arrears in part or in full would amount to a concession that the GA can adopt obligatory decisions as to financings and this they cannot agree to.
Their proposed comite would examine all ideas, those presented by US and by several states. They could then be presented to the GA at end of this session. This is best that their side could produce. Comment: This is a definite change from their last attitude which insisted negotiations be based on their July 10 memorandum.3
Stevenson said he had no trouble with the comite considering all ideas; there might be a discussion as to the make-up, but the problem was not insuperable. Perhaps the comite of 21 would be appropriate or perhaps a small comite. It ought to be able to report by end of this sess. This was exactly what we hoped to do with them bilaterally and why we had started our proposals in March.
However, our problem was how to get over Art 19 question at opening of GA. How could one avoid the collision? A payment was necessary so that there would be nobody in arrears and the issue would never arise. Conditions of payment should be divided which would not prejudice anyone.
Fedorenko said it would be impossible to get rid of problem of the arrears or the debts and to contribute for any such purpose would be impossible.
Stevenson asked even if the contribution provided that it could not be used for UNEF or ONUC indebtedness?
Fedorenko said that would be same thing, that it would be just a cover prepared by diplomats; Sov people would know the origin of so-called arrears and debts which created by illegal decisions. The Kremlin does not control public opinion; the Sov Govt cannot say one thing and do another. Why should not one postpone the conflict? Why is that not acceptable?
Stevenson said trouble was that Art 19 says that they shall have no vote and that cannot be postponed.
Fedorenko said that might be so if there were no controversy, but that here there was a controversy as to whether there were arrears or not. The ICJ advisory opinion was not unanimous, and was not binding nor was GA acceptance.
Stevenson said even if one could postpone some now and work out future arrangements, what about the Art 19 problem at the end of the road? What good would a postponement do in that regard?
Fedorenko said they would earnestly try to overcome all difficulties. He had formerly been pessimistic but now he sensed some progress.
Plimpton said if Sovs made free will offering to solve UN financial problem, universal applause from UN members and everyone else should certainly please Sov public opinion. Fedorenko said this would make no difference.
Fedorenko asked what would happen if all of the members wanted a postponement of the Art 19 issue.
Stevenson said that possibly could be done without any voting, with some general debate and perhaps adoption of budget and election of SC and ECOSOC by acclamation which would take GA into Christmas. Second half of assembly might take place in March or so which would give two or three months for talks but then issue would have to be faced. Perhaps the whole GA could be postponed although probably members would not like this.
Fedoseev said one might hold a symbolic GA and then go ahead with negotiations.
Plimpton wondered how one could get along without voting. Fedoseev said anything was possible under heaven. Comment: Sov attitude seemed at least a little interested in possibility of proceeding without vote.
Stevenson said public opinion should not be the master and that it was task of statesmanship to guide public opinion and that public opinion should not stand in way of a proper policy—witness the US administration’s determination to abandon 95 mil establishments.
Fedorenko said what should he consider was conclusion.
Stevenson said there were many major problems ahead as to which we hoped for progress and a rapprochement, and that we should avoid aggravating our difficulties by the present issue. Our interests were identical as to the preservation of the UN. The comite of four suggestion as to a rescue fund was in principle a good one; they could stipulate that their contribution was not to be used for purposes they considered illegal. There would no report from the SYG as to any arrears and Art 19 issue would not arise. In meantime we could agree on talks, bilateral or other, as to future. We too had many objections to present situation, and we ought to be able to reconcile our view for a livable future. Neither would have to support an operation which was against its interest.
Fedorenko made no reply and meeting broke up amicably, with no reference to future getting together.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, Administrative Histories, Department of State During the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, Vol. 2, Part 5. Secret. Repeated to Moscow. Another copy is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, UN 10–4.
  2. Reference is to an informal group of representatives of four member states, Nigeria, Venezuela, Norway, and Afghanistan, who had suggested the creation of an “emergency fund” to redress the financial difficulties of the United Nations.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 298.