329. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Article 19


  • The Secretary
  • The Undersecretary
  • William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary, EUR
  • Ronald I. Spiers, EUR:RPM
  • Joseph Luns, Foreign Minister of The Netherlands
  • Ambassador Carl W.A. Schurmann, Dutch Ambassador to the U.S.

Foreign Minister Luns alluded to a New York Times report of this morning that U Thant intended today to issue an appeal for funds, propose that normal procedures (including voting) be reinstituted and that the subject be considered further in the light of the amount of money received.2

The Secretary said that we would be disappointed if this report were correct. Our position on this issue has not changed. Essentially we believe that the Soviets should come up with enough money by one means or another to avoid the voting problem. We do not see the outcome very clearly, and we do not know whether the Soviets, if they are outvoted, will stage a walkout. We do not believe, however, they would withdraw from UN membership.

Luns said that since his last talk with the Secretary the Dutch position had hardened. The Netherlands would not pay one dollar under any voluntary contributions formula. This would only serve to bail the Soviets out.

The Secretary noted that we and the Dutch had different assessments as to the outcome of a vote, and the Dutch and US delegations in New York were now comparing notes. He recalled that the US judgment was that the vote would be approximately 58–28–28. The Dutch estimate was less favorable.

Luns asked what the US position would be if a 2/3 vote were not achieved. The Secretary said that a severe view is taken of this issue, and [Page 719] at minimum support for the UN would become “voluntary” for everybody, including us. The General Assembly might be confronted with an amendment to the Charter explicitly removing the obligation in Article 17 and making an appropriate change in Article 19 in the event this question is unfavorably resolved.

Luns said that he had been giving this matter careful thought. He thought it would now be better for the UN to face a real test and that the Afro-Asians should feel the heat of this problem. This would be healthy for the organization in the long run. The Netherlands might elect, without reducing the amount it spends for technical assistance, to pay the same sums it now channels through the UN through other bodies. He asked what the US position would be if the Soviets, after winning a vote, paid their contribution voluntarily. The Secretary said the US would probably find some way to put proportionate amounts into a general fund, provided the Soviets “pay enough.” This might be accomplished in part by canceling some bills due. Luns said that the Netherlands would not follow this course. The Secretary said this was a very disagreeable problem. If the UN’s financial base is changed from a mandatory to a voluntary one, the result is certain to be resentment and uncertainty. Mr. Ball noted that the UN would have to be sustained by a succession of charity drives.

Luns noted that he disagreed with the point made by the Italian representative in the Western European group discussion in New York to the effect that a firm position could not be taken because of the French. The Secretary noted that the problem for France was only a matter of a million dollars, when possible refunds and reductions were considered.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Memoranda of Conversation, Vol. 1. Secret. Drafted by Spiers and approved in S on January 28. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office. The memorandum is Part I of III.
  2. The text of U Thant’s statement in the UN General Assembly, January 18, is in Public Papers of the Secretaries General of the United Nations, U Thant, 1965–1967, pp. 27–29.