327. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

2647. Article 19—Conversation with SYG. Stevenson, Plimpton and Noyes called on SYG, Bunche was present.

SYG said Amb Bouattoura (Algeria), on Dec 30, had presented him with text of draft statement which he said had been unanimously agreed to by AA group,2 and suggested that SYG, if such a statement could be agreed on, should make it to the Assembly on Jan 18. If there were no agreement on this statement, AA group [Page 713] would table a reso along same lines. SYG had received a different story from Amb Barrington (Burma) who told him AA group had not agreed that it would table any reso and that many delegations had indicated they needed instructions. In any case SYG had circulated this paper and was awaiting reactions.
SYG understood US did not agree to second para of statement and Russians did not like last para. There were 21 speakers remaining in general debate which should take up first week of resumed session. This would allow time for further discussions if necessary. SYG understood from Suslov (UN) there was no change in Soviet position, but was seeing Fedorenko in few minutes and would then find out.3
SYG understood US position to be if Fedorenko would pledge privately to SYG the payment of sufficient amount to clear Art 19, and SYG would pass this privately to US, we might be able to get over present difficulties. Stevenson responded that it was not necessary for SYG to pass details of Soviet position to us but only to advise us that he personally was satisfied that amount was sufficient and there were no unacceptable conditions attached to the pledge. Stevenson said we could find way to resume voting as soon as USSR gave him private pledge in satisfactory amount and form.4
SYG said his hunch was USSR would pledge less than $25.2 mil which was necessary. He didn’t know how much less. Stevenson said if SYG was not satisfied, there would then be no bais for settlement, to which the SYG agreed.
Stevenson indicated our view that a simple appeal by the SYG would be a better procedure than a statement based on Algerian text. He thought SYG was probably right in estimating that USSR was not prepared to contribute enough to satisfy Art 19. SYG indicated there was also the problem of the French. In this connection he said they had instructions not to participate in any discussions or negotiations. If there were a system for whispering pledges, he felt it would have to apply to all the states subject to Art 19, since they would all have to be treated alike, to which Stevenson agreed.
Stevenson asked what we could do in present situation if there were no agreement. SYG replied that we would presumably have a showdown although there was talk of a postponement. Quaison-Sackey (GA Pres) was strongly opposed to postponement because it gave a picture of UN as a paralyzed, futile organization in the jaws of death. As a [Page 714] practical matter SYG thought there were many difficulties in working out a postponement until the next session on a no objection basis, and said there were ten important items which had to be dealt with, including assessments to the regular budget and UNEF, UN Institute, International School, ECOSOC elections, UNCTAD and UNWRA. SYG also pointed out a single state could destroy the whole plan by objecting to one or more of these actions being taken.
Stevenson said that postponement was not a wise course. We felt it would discredit the UN by indicating that it was unwilling to face the issue and to apply the Charter. It could also mean that we would have to get along without the Assembly in case of an emergency requiring UN peacekeeping activities. We had deferred confrontation since Dec 1 and now were in the same situation we were in then. We did not see any point to further delay. He understood full well that a confrontation was serious and might do damage to UN but we felt that postponement would also damage UN. Bunche interjected it seemed to be six of one and half dozen of another.
There was discussion of motives for USSR position. Stevenson indicated we thought their face could be saved by going along with any one of the proposed plans which had been put forward. Bunche expressed the view that issue was fundamental and was the same one that arose in the troika fight, i.e., whether the UN should be an action organization or not. Stevenson agreed and speculated that the USSR preferred to fight not on the question of future procedures where they were opposed by the majority, rather than on the question of Art 19 where they had some support from the AAs. Those AAs who supported the Pazhwak plan did not understand what was at stake. If Art 19 were not applied, all assessments would be put on a voluntary basis where everyone would pick and choose what he wished to support. Peacekeeping of UN would be seriously diminished, the organization would be discredited, and the implications were very serious.
Stevenson asked SYG his personal views as to what course should be followed. SYG said if arrangements could be made to dispose of the 10 essential items of business, he would personally prefer a postponement to a confrontation. He did not plan to press this position on others, however. There was a discussion whether a postponement to June 1 or to the fall would be preferable from this point of view. He agreed that the June 1 date would enable GA to proceed without a new budget, ECOSOC elections, UNWRA and perhaps other items. Stevenson said that while some might favor postponement to one of the other dates and it was arguable that smaller countries needed time to realize the full implications of the issue we faced, we felt it was better to go to a confrontation which we expected to win.
SYG indicated he preferred to talk to Fedorenko before recommending a course of action. He said the Russians had paid $3.5 mil more [Page 715] towards their 1964 regular budget assessments. It was agreed that this left about $21.7 mil which needed to be paid to satisfy Art 19. SYG said Turner (UN Controller) had asked him whether he would accept a pledge of payment over a two-year period if the amount was satisfactory. Stevenson said Soviet credit was good and if the payment was to be made in days or weeks this would be one thing if over a period of years, it would be more difficult. He thought it would be for SYG to decide. Plimpton pointed out that this would involve next year’s assessment and that in interim before payment by SYG’s books would show arrears beyond Art 19. It would take a GA decision to get any assessments off the books.
Stevenson said he was concerned that the USSR really wanted a showdown rather than that they were simply trying to save their face. He thought they hoped they might win on the issue and having won would produce a situation in which all assessments were voluntary and peacekeeping activities would have been eliminated except for those approved by the SC. They had been talking about voluntary contributions primarily to minimize AA reaction. SYG felt this was possible. Stevenson said if this was true state of affairs we faced a major crisis in which further documents and paper work would be useless. We had to face this crisis and we thought we could get a two-thirds vote. If we won we would have saved the structure of the organization. We could then be magnanimous about reaching a solution. If we lost the confrontation, the structure of the UN would be undermined. We had recognized in our proposal to the Russians that we needed new procedures for the future which did not involve enforcing peacekeeping assessments against major powers. We ought to be able to solve these problems if we could get over the immediate issue. He thought the AAs would also be willing to negotiate new arrangements for the future along the same lines.
Discussion returned to the Pazhwak plan. Plimpton indicated that we had been told that there was a firm understanding that contributions would be substantial. He had also been told by some members of the Comite of 12 it was part of their plan that private assurances would be given to the SYG as to the amounts and nature of the payments to be made by the states in arrears. SYG indicated he had never been informed of this fact.
Plimpton suggested that if no agreement could be reached on the Pazhwak plan, the SYG should make an appeal anyway on 18th. SYG said Fedorenko had earlier objected to his making an appeal unless it was in same terms as Pazhwak plan. Stevenson said he thought it would be difficult for USSR to disregard an honest plea from SYG. SYG did not commit himself but said he would get in touch after his discussion with Fedorenko.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Article 19, Vol. 2. Confidential; Priority.
  2. The informal proposal was being circulated by the African-Asian group.
  3. In a handwritten note on the telegram, Belk commented, “Still no report of this meeting. SB”
  4. In an attached January 14 memorandum to Bundy, Belk commented: “The critical paragraph is number 3 where Stevenson badly erred. The Department (Sisco) quite rightly has told him that we cannot buy his position as stated for all the obvious reasons. The Department’s position has been and continues to be that the amount contributed by each country must be made public.”