316. Memorandum of Conversation1



New York, November 1964


  • Article 19


  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Stevenson
    • Ambassador Thompson
    • Mr. Cleveland
    • Mr. R.H. Davis
    • Mr. A. Akalovsky
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Mr. Gromyko
    • Mr. Semenov
    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Ambassador Fedorenko
    • Mr. Smirnovskiy
    • Mr. Sukhodrev

The Secretary referred to his private talk with Mr. Gromyko before lunch2 noting that no clear picture had emerged from it. He said he had explained to Mr. Gromyko the great difficulties which would arise if the Assembly did not adopt a procedure which would not prejudice the respective positions on the big issue before us, and emphasized that we did not relish confrontation on this question. We had considered the Soviet suggestion for a study group with the Secretary General’s active participation and we would be prepared to participate in such a group and to help find a solution to the problems involved in both present and future peace-keeping operations. But what the Assembly did in the interim was very important since it could not decide one of the key issues before agreement was reached on it. We could not determine how quickly such a group could reach agreement although, of course, the sooner the better. As soon as such a solution was found the Assembly could proceed with its work. We hoped that Mr. Gromyko, in his conversation with the Secretary General, would find a procedure which would not prejudice the central question. As soon as a solution was found which was acceptable not only to our two sides but also to other members, the General Assembly could get on with its regular business.

[Page 686]

Mr. Gromyko said that the course suggested in the US press and by the Secretary, namely, to postpone the General Assembly’s work on the most important political questions, was not acceptable because it would mean a unilateral interpretation of the situation in accordance with the US position. The same applied to the voting procedure as suggested in the US press and by US representatives. The Soviet Union believed, without prejudice to the position of either side, that it would be useful to create a committee to consider all questions relating to peace-keeping forces, such as their formation, command, complement, and finances, including expenditures already incurred. While such a committee was working the Assembly should proceed in a normal fashion without imposing any solution. However, this suggestion would not resolve the problem and there was another proposal advanced by the Afghan and some other Asian delegations. The Soviet Union had learned of the proposal only two days ago and was not quite clear who the other sponsors were. However, it believed that it might constitute a better solution. As the Soviet Union understood the proposal, it provided for the creation of a special fund to which all UN members would contribute. It had been said that this proposal merely stated the desirability of creating a fund, but the Soviet Union could accept a resolution specifically providing for the creation of a fund. It would be prepared to agree to such a resolution at any time and to regard it as an agreement. The Soviet Union was prepared to accept this solution in an effort to meet the US half way. The Soviet Union proceeded on the assumption that the US wanted a solution which would be mutually acceptable and not prejudicing the position of either side. If this assumption was wrong, then of course even the Afghan suggestion would not be acceptable to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union’s own position was known and it was in accord with the UN Charter.

Thus, Mr. Gromyko continued, there were two alternative courses: (a) to adopt the Soviet suggestion, and (b) to accept the suggestion advanced by the Afghan delegation. The latter would in fact resolve the main problem. But in any event, the work of the GA must not be crippled and the Assembly should proceed with its business in a normal fashion. Under either of these two courses neither side would have to state that it had abandoned its long-held views, and under either procedure the GA work would proceed in a normal manner. When the US said that no voting was possible, that was based on a unilateral interpretation of the situation but somehow the US did not seem to notice this.

Mr. Gromyko continued that obviously the GA President had to be elected and also some Vice Presidents in order to permit temporary absences of the President from the Chair. Committees would also have to be established. He did not know how all this could be accomplished and he did not wish to say that the committees would have to be established [Page 687] right away since in the past the committees had started their work usually at the end of the general debate. He pointed out, however, that he was not necessarily proposing this since the committees might, of course, start even before that. But the main point he wished to make was that all this should present no problem and that we should seek a mutually acceptable procedure which would not prejudice the position of either side or cripple the GA’s work. The Soviet Union did not want a confrontation. Mr. Gromyko said he would see the Secretary General later in the day. He did not know what he would hear from him but what the US press was attributing to him was based on a lopsided interpretation of the situation. What disturbed him was that there had been no denial of these press reports.

The Secretary commented that Mr. Gromyko appeared to feel that if we did not proceed with the voting in the GA while the committee was trying to work out a solution, that would mean a one-sided procedure. However, we for our part believed that if there was voting in spite of the advisory opinion of the International Court, that would be prejudicial to our position. An exception to this could be election of the President and perhaps Vice Presidents on a no objection basis. The Secretary General’s suggestion avoided prejudice to the position of either side while attempts were made to find a solution to the main problem. The Secretary then asked Ambassador Stevenson whether he thought anything could be done now, given the fact that Mr. Gromyko was to see the Secretary General very shortly.

Governor Stevenson referred to Mr. Gromyko’s assertion that the Secretary General’s suggestion, as he understood it, was one-sided. But as we saw the Soviet proposal, it appeared to be one-sided to us. We said that voting would prejudice our position, whereas the Soviet Union said that requirement for payment of debts was prejudicial since the Soviet Union regarded it as illegal. What we were doing now was to try to find a solution which would not be prejudicial to either side. The Secretary General was suggesting that there be no voting and that the matters requiring action be taken care of on a no objection basis. This should be easy to do since the selection of the GA President and admission of new members were in fact agreed-upon matters. Election of new Security Council members would have to be completed some time in December, but there was no particular hurry about this right now. The Secretary General’s suggestion envisaged the GA proceeding on this basis and then if no solution to the basic problem were found, the Assembly would recess until agreement was reached.

Mr. Gromyko inquired when the GA would resume its work.

The Secretary said that this would be as soon as possible, but perhaps one could state that it should not be later than, say, March 1. [Page 688] Governor Stevenson said he believed the Secretary General had been thinking in terms of February.

Mr. Gromyko wondered how in such a case the GA could be kept together.

The Secretary pointed out that tomorrow was December 1 so that we could have two or three weeks of general debate or of debate on the main question. Thus we would have two to three weeks of GA debate anyway. Perhaps a solution could be found in December, hopefully before Christmas; if not, the GA would recess until February or until a solution was found. The Secretary also pointed out that this year there was no contest for the GA Presidency and that consequently no voting was really needed on this point.

Mr. Gromyko wondered how other general political matters would be handled. If they were put aside this year’s GA would not be an assembly but a disassembly. The Secretary responded that the GA had never met as late as it had this year so it would be not abnormal to have the general debate in December and the rest of the GA’s work later. Mr. Gromyko reiterated that he did not wish to say that the committees should start their work right away. He concluded the discussion by saying that he was going to see the Secretary General and that he would also have another talk with the Secretary later in the week.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Memoranda of Conversation. Confidential. Drafted by Akalovsky on November 30 and approved in S on December 8. The memorandum is Part VI of VI. The meeting took place at the Secretary’s suite in the Waldorf Astoria during a luncheon.
  2. No record of this conversation was found.