330. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Sisco) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Session with Ambassador Stevenson on Article 19, 3:00 p.m. January 19th

We are in a difficult bind. If we press the confrontation and succeed in denying the vote to the Soviets, this would satisfy American public opinion. Moreover, perhaps this sort of a defeat of the Soviets might force them to make a contribution of a more substantial character than presently seems contemplated. The Moroccan Foreign Minister, for example, said to me yesterday that the Indonesian withdrawal2 has placed the USSR in a much more vulnerable position regarding the UN in relationship to Communist China. He contends that there is now more pressure on the Soviets to accommodate itself to the UN and to stay within it rather than to find itself ostracized and thereby give added ammunition to the Chinese Communist vilification of the UN and possible future moves to set up some rival mechanism.

On the other hand, the more likely situation is that once the Soviets have been denied the vote, the Assembly will be paralyzed by at least a walk-out, there will probably be appeals for the Soviets to return, there would probably not be any kind of a Soviet contribution, and the onus and the pressure will in considerable measure be on us. Of equal importance, Article 19 and the principle of collective financial responsibility will have been confirmed but without making progress on future arrangements to increase the role of the Security Council in peacekeeping and to set into train procedures designed not to deny the residual power of the Assembly but to promote the more responsible exercise of that power.

If we press the confrontation and lose the vote, in the words of Senator Frank Church, we will have the worst of both worlds and there will be a sharp diminution of support in this country for the UN. More important, the Johnson Administration will have taken a licking on a fundamental foreign policy issue just a few days after the Inaugural.

Our tentative voting estimate is 58 in favor of application of Article 19, 28 against, and 28 abstaining. USUN is making a final check of the accuracy of this estimate. This is too close and uncertain for us to be [Page 721] confident of winning the vote. Equally relevant is the question of whether we have the simple majority required to insist that a vote on the application of Article 19 be taken, even if we wanted confrontation now. USUN is not sure we have this simple majority, believing the pressure will be strong for postponement.

In these circumstances, I believe we should:

Continue to maintain the posture in favor of applying Article 19; and
Be prepared to acquiesce in an unprejudicial postponement, preferably until June, if a majority desires.

During the period of postponement we would then have to make a major effort in linking the past debts with future arrangements, even though prospects for an Agreement are admittedly very slim.

If it is agreed that we should proceed along the above lines, we should give advance notice to key members of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees.

Before arriving at the above judgment, we have explored the following other options singly or in combination and found them wanting one way or another.

1. Future Peacekeeping Operations by Voluntary Payments.

Ambassador Thompson has suggested we might promote or sponsor a General Assembly consensus or resolution which would declare that any future peacekeeping operations to which the major powers have not given their assent or acquiescence would be financed by voluntary means. Such a proposal could be given quietly to the Secretary General for negotiation or announced by Ambassador Stevenson in a general debate speech. This would get the Assembly as well as the American people focusing on future arrangements and help to get us away from the present “no-pay no-vote” straight-jacket we are in. Such an Assembly decision has the obvious advantage that we would be in no danger in the future of being assessed for a UN Force in the South Africa, the Portuguese Territories, or Cuba if established by a 2/3rds GA vote contrary to our wishes.

The difficulty is that this proposal is unlikely to work. It meets the Soviets only part way and therefore is not likely to result in a contribution to meet the Article 19 minimal limit. More important, it might well cause a crisis of confidence among our closest European and Latin American allies who, while not precluding such a proposal as the ultimate outcome of negotiations, would see this as a sharp reversal of our position in favor of Articles 19, 17 and collective financial responsibility and a move of weakness. Finally, it is unlikely that the Assembly would be willing to adopt this proposal, since a good many small countries [Page 722] would not distinguish between this proposal (which seeks to separate out the financial aspects) from the kind of proposals the Soviets have made intended to negate entirely the future power of the General Assembly in the peacekeeping field.

2. Amendments to the UN Charter.

If the Assembly gives us the wrong answer on Article 19 we could submit an amendment to the Charter designed to formalize the result-ant reinterpretation of Articles 19 and 17. A discussion of the pros and cons of this proposal as well as the form such amendments might take are attached (Tab A).3 In short, we feel that if the Assembly has failed to sustain Article 19, a preferable alternative would be for the United States to announce we would no longer consider Article 17 binding and that no Charter amendment would be necessary to make this position stick. It is doubtful whether such Charter amendments would in fact be approved by enough UN members to enter into force. Finally, the adoption of such Charter amendments would remove an element of flexibility for the future which it might not be in our interest to discard.

3. Provisional Voting.

I have previously sent you a brief memorandum regarding this possibility (Tab B). While some awkward circumstances would result, it is technically feasible. Its weakness is that it would be a further retrogression from the position we have taken on Article 19 without any real prospect that this would in fact bring forward the required financial contribution from the USSR.

4. Substantial Soviet Payment Combined with Reduction in Soviet Arrears.

In order to avoid Article 19, the amount of payment required from the USSR was $26.5 million—$17 million for peacekeeping expenses and $9.5 million on the regular budget. In the last two weeks, the USSR has paid $4.9 million on the regular budget, which leaves a required payment of $21.6 million in order to escape Article 19. The UN Comptroller has been examining the availability of ONUC and UNEF surpluses, made up of the excess of these assessments over the actual obligations incurred, with the thought that the surpluses might be applied in some form to all UN members. Our estimate is that this could reduce the overall Soviet arrearage by a minimum of $2.2 million. If the Soviets were willing to make a substantial payment of about $20 million (which is still below the minimal figure it now owes in order to escape Article 19) it could contend that its contribution was not related to the [Page 723] removal in principle of the application of Article 19. The $2.2 million reduction could them be applied subsequently and thereby eliminate the Article 19 problem without the Soviets having made the minimal payment directly. While I see no objection to having the Secretariat explore this proposal, provided it is clearly understood it is not a US suggestion, my judgment is that it is unlikely the Soviets would be willing to make such a substantial contribution and lend itself to this kind of a bookkeeping device.

  1. Source: Department of State, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Subject Files, Reel 142, Frames 506–509. Confidential. Drafted by Sisco on January 18.
  2. On January 2 President Sukarno announced in a speech that his nation was withdrawing from the United Nations.
  3. None of the tabs is printed.