319. Memorandum of Conversation1



New York, December 1964


  • Article 19


  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Stevenson
    • Mr. Cleveland
    • Ambassador Yost
    • Ambassador Kohler
    • Mr. Tyler
    • Mr. Akalovsky
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Foreign Minister Gromyko
    • Deputy Foreign Minister Semenov
    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Ambassador Fedorenko
    • Mr. Smirnovskiy
    • Mr. Sukhodrev

The Secretary wondered whether Mr. Gromyko had any views on how we should proceed with respect to the UN problem. He believed, and he thought Mr. Gromyko was of a similar opinion, that the Secretary should take considerable part in discussions of problems related to peacekeeping operations, both past and future. We were interested in both those aspects and we would like to know what Mr. Gromyko’s views were on them.

Mr. Gromyko thought that there was agreement to continue consultations and inquired whether Ambassador Stevenson had any comments to make.

The Secretary commented that, as a general observation, he believed we would need quite detailed consultations in New York and that the Secretary General should be involved in them. As to the aspects of the problem relating to the future, we were interested in the Charter’s provision for “primary responsibility” of the Security Council for the maintenance of peace and international security. However, the Charter did not state that the Security Council had exclusive responsibility and we believed that the General Assembly had important powers in this respect. Those powers were perhaps residual inasmuch as they resulted from a situation where the Security Council may be unable to act. In any [Page 696] event, we believed that the Security Council was important and the United States and the Soviet Union, as members of the Security Council, were interested in its having primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and international security.

The Secretary then noted that the membership of the United Nations had considerably changed over the past years. For example, there were some members today who contributed as little as .04% of the total UN budget. Indeed, one could construct a hypothetical two-thirds majority in the General Assembly whose total contribution to the UN budget would amount to something like 5%. For these reasons, we believed that those who carried a larger financial burden should have a greater voice in financial decisions. Thus there were two points of interest to us: (a) the Security Council’s primary, but not exclusive, responsibility for the maintenance of peace and international security, and (b) that those who carry a heavier financial burden should have a greater voice in financial decisions.

Mr. Gromyko asserted that the question was not as the Secretary had formulated it. The question was not of the Security Council’s having primary and the General Assembly a non-primary responsibility. This was a quantitative rather than a qualitative approach, i.e. it was placing the question on the basis of the degree of responsibility. In fact, the point was that under the Charter the Security Council had authority to pass binding decisions whereas the General Assembly had no such authority. The General Assembly could take only consultative decisions, in other words, make recommendations. Thus the question should not be turned upside down. There was no point in breaking into an open door. The Soviet Union knew, and had so stated, that the General Assembly could discuss matters relating to the maintenance of peace and international security. No one had any objection to that. But the General Assembly could not take binding decisions whereas the Security Council could both discuss problems relating to the maintenance of peace and international security and take binding decisions on them. The Soviet Union had itself participated in the drafting of the relevant provisions of the Charter. Mr. Gromyko suggested that actions and decisions be based on the Charter and that everything be kept in perspective in the process of analyzing the situation.

Ambassador Stevenson recalled that, as Ambassador Fedorenko would probably remember, way back in March it had been agreed to discuss all questions arising from the past and also those related to new arrangements for the future. The question now was how, where, and with whom we should discuss peace-keeping operations and finances. As far as we were concerned, we were prepared to start from either end, from the past or from the future. As to the past, he understood that the Soviet Union was willing to make a voluntary contribution to some rescue [Page 697] fund. He wondered whether we should discuss that first or whether future arrangements should be taken up as a first order of business. He reiterated that the U.S. was willing to proceed either way. He noted that the duration of Mr. Gromyko’s stay in New York might be a factor in this respect. Regarding substance, Ambassador Stevenson said it was hard for him to say anything now and he thought that perhaps it would be better to settle procedure first.

Mr. Gromyko said there were two ways of proceeding: a) to discuss the past, which would be simpler, or b) to discuss the past, the present, and the future, i.e., all questions relating to peace-keeping, including finances. Obviously, the latter was a much more complex problem and apparently the range of differences in the positions on it was much greater. The Soviet Union was prepared to proceed either way, but the two of us and others as well should keep in mind that one method is simpler and the other more complex.

Regarding the question of contribution, the U.S. side had already been informed that the Soviet Union would be willing to discuss this matter either in a committee set up for the purpose of discussing all questions relating to peace-keeping, or on the basis of the Afghan proposal. The latter covered only the past and consequently it involved a narrower range of problems. The Soviet Union accepted the language of the Afghan proposal as a whole. That proposal stated that all UN members would voluntarily contribute to a fund, and obviously the Soviet Union was not excluded. As to the amount, the Soviet Union understood the term “voluntary contribution” to mean only one thing, namely, that the Soviet Union itself would determine the amount of its contribution, without anybody else’s diktat or even advice, to which the Soviet Union would never agree. If the Afghan proposal was accepted by common agreement, the Soviet Union would take part in such an arrangement. However, in such an event, it would be the Soviet Union’s understanding that the entire question of the Soviet contribution would be disposed of and no one would have any more claims in the future. He also noted that the question of the form of a contribution would have to be settled.

Governor Stevenson wondered whether we should discuss bilaterally the question of a voluntary contribution or the broader complex of questions, or whether those questions should be taken up with the Secretary General and other powers. In addition, of course, there was the Committee of 21 where these matters could be discussed. This was a procedural question, but he thought its solution would accelerate our work.

Mr. Gromyko said he did not exclude bilateral discussions like the current one. Neither did he exclude discussions with the Secretary General; indeed, such discussions were desirable. Discussions could [Page 698] also be held in the various groups which had been formed recently, and all these discussions could proceed in parallel. Perhaps some special committee could be formed. Thus there was a whole series of fora, but he wished to point out that in those groups already in existence no socialist states were represented. Those groups included mostly representatives of the various blocs. Therefore, perhaps it would be better if a special, more representative committee were created. However, the Secretary General would be consulted in any event, and of course nothing ruled out U.S.-Soviet bilateral consultations. It went without saying that, whatever the forum, decisions would not be taken by a vote, but only on the basis of agreement.

The Secretary commented that the question of a fund was not a very suitable subject for bilateral discussions. The Soviet Union had never asked the U.S. for money, and the U.S. had never asked for money from the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the Secretary General asked both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. for money. Therefore, perhaps the Secretary General should take a more active role in this matter. He would surely want to consult the major powers—the U.S., the U.S.S.R., the U.K., and France—both as regards the fund and the problems of the future as related to the Charter. The Secretary said he wished to point out that the reason he had not mentioned China in this connection should in no way be interpreted as an indication of a change in the U.S. position.

Governor Stevenson also said the Secretary General should be in charge of the rescue operation. However, he believed that the U.S. and U.S.S.R. should inform the SYG of their bilateral discussions and of their intention to discuss the problems relating to the future.

Mr. Gromyko then raised the General Assembly’s order of business. He said the Soviet Union was firmly opposed to any indefinite postponement of the major political issues before the Assembly. He wanted to make clear that consultations should move promptly. Perhaps it would be simpler to take up the past first, because discussion of the broader range of questions might take more time and might go even into the next GA. As far as the Soviet Union was concerned, it hoped this would not be the case, and it wished agreement on all these questions as soon as possible. In any event, the broader complex of problems could be discussed in parallel with the discussion of the past.

Ambassador Stevenson noted there was an understanding not to have any voting until the general debate ended. If the fund question was resolved, the General Assembly would proceed with its normal business. The procedure suggested by the Secretary would take care of that. Governor Stevenson then summed up the suggested procedure, saying that the Secretary General would chair the discussions on the voluntary fund, for which there had been several proposals, including [Page 699] one by the four and another by the Afro-Asians-the so-called Pazhwak proposal.2 Thus, the Secretary General could convene a meeting with the U.S., the U.S.S.R., and with any other party as he deemed necessary. Meanwhile, whenever useful, bilateral discussions could take place regarding the future. Those discussions would cover such questions as the primacy of the Security Council, limitation on the General Assembly, etc.

Mr. Gromyko said we should not impede the work of the non-aligned delegations, because they wanted to help. Therefore, we should ask the Secretary General to consult with any delegations he wanted to invite, and he probably would not exclude the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Then, in a couple of days, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. could meet to review the situation.

Ambassador Fedorenko wondered whether there was any point in going far into the history of the various proposals. He thought it more useful to concentrate on what was before us today: (a) the Soviet suggestion for a committee to discuss all peace-keeping questions, and (b) the Pazhwak proposal. He said the Soviet Union had nothing to do with the Pazhwak proposal. It has been developed by twelve Afro-Asian delegations and advanced by Ambassador Pazhwak. The Soviet Union accepted the proposal in an effort to meet the U.S. halfway. It regarded the proposal as a mutually acceptable compromise solution of the UN’s financial difficulties. The proposal certainly did not reflect the Soviet position as it had been stated both in New York and Washington. Ambassador Fedorenko did not see any point in taking up those proposals which were already dead and which had never deserved serious consideration, let alone implementation. He would, therefore, wish to see the U.S. concentrate on the Pazhwak proposal, which he believed was feasible and which had been made in an effort to help out of the situation. He thought the U.S. and U.S.S.R. should be able to get together on its basis.

Ambassador Stevenson thought it was now agreed that the Secretary General should be informed that the two sides had had bilateral discussions and that they believed, subject to his approval, that he should take up with whoever he wanted the question of a fund.

Mr. Gromyko suggested that the two sides review the situation in a couple of days. Meanwhile, the Secretary General would consult with the various delegations, but not necessarily with all of them at the same time. We should not prescribe any procedure for the Secretary General.

Ambassador Stevenson agreed and then asked whether Mr. Gromyko could help him understand the proposal which the Soviet [Page 700] Union said it was willing to accept. Mr. Gromyko had said that the Soviet Union was prepared to agree to the creation of a fund. It would be very helpful if he could describe his conception of such a fund, the form of the contribution, and the purpose for which the money would be used.

Mr. Gromyko said the UN would be saved by contributions from all, not just the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union would not contribute for the operations in the Congo or in the Middle East, but rather to the UN as a whole. As to the size of the contribution, he reiterated that it would be strictly up to the Soviet Union to determine. The Soviet Union would contribute as much as it believed to be necessary. This was a matter of policy rather than money.

Ambassador Stevenson commented that since the contributions would be voluntary, somebody might not wish to contribute.

Ambassador Fedorenko quoted from the text of the Pazhwak proposal that contributions would be made by the entire UN membership. Ambassador Stevenson remarked that the more members contributed, the better.

The conversation ended at about 4:30 p.m.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Memoranda of Conversation, Vol. 1. Confidential. Drafted by Akalovsky on December 7. The memorandum is Part V of V. The meeting was held at the Soviet Mission.
  2. A non-aligned nations draft proposal being circulated by the representative from Afghanistan.