357. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson1


  • US Position on Article 19

Ambassador Stevenson and I have reviewed the Article 19 issue and recommend to you the course of action described below. If you [Page 772] agree, we would discuss it with key members of Congress and subsequently with our allies over the next few weeks. Our allies can in general be expected to react favorably.

Following is the course of action to be discussed with Congressional leaders:

Ambassador Stevenson would inform members of the Committee of 33 just before it reconvenes in early August that the US position is as follows:
If, when the Assembly reconvenes, the UN membership is not prepared at this stage in the UN’s development to require the major powers to pay assessments levied for major activities which they do not wish to support, we would note this conclusion and consider it applicable to the US. On this understanding, we would acquiesce in the Assembly resuming its normal business when it reconvenes in September.
We would oppose proposals to write off the Soviet and French debts, preferring to leave these on the books even though the GA is unlikely to enforce their collection.
The Assembly will still have the problem of restoring UN solvency, and we believe it should make every effort to raise sufficient funds, especially from those who have not contributed to UN peacekeeping operations.
We would also state in general terms our willingness to join with the membership in helping to strengthen the UN and to assist in future peacekeeping operations.
The integrity of the regular budget should be sustained.
We will continue to insist that the amortization of bonds is an obligation of the organization properly funded from the regular budget. Most members will agree with us on this point. But the USSR will probably continue to refuse to pay this portion of their regular budget assessment. As a result, repayment of the bonds may have to be made in part from the UN’s miscellaneous income. If this succeeds, it would have the effect of making the Soviets indirectly help pay off the bonds.
The procedural choices are: (a) a vote deciding not to apply Article 19; or (b) letting the GA simply go ahead with its normal business without a vote on the Article 19 issue. We conclude it would be disadvantageous to seek a vote since the more likely result would be a consensus which favored letting the Soviets and the French off the hook; we do not think the Assembly would be willing to say formally that failure to uphold the “loss of vote” sanction and its mandatory taxing power has weakened its Charter powers in this regard for the future. It is therefore preferable for us to draw and state our own conclusion and act accordingly in the future in light of the dictates of our national interests.

The above is recommended in light of some hard, unattractive facts. Both Adlai Stevenson and I are convinced that our position on Articles [Page 773] 17 and 19, which was supported by the World Court and an overwhelming majority, will now not be supported by the Assembly. Lester Pearson recently informed us that Canada can no longer support us on the application of Article 19. The U.K. has urged a course of action which even goes beyond the limited one described above by proposing, in effect, that the GA not apply strictly the past GA resolutions on financing the Congo and UNEF. This could mean Assembly exoneration of the delinquents.

The recommended course of action would help break the deadlock while cutting our losses in that the United States would draw the conclusion that the Assembly’s unwillingness to apply Article 19 means that we would not feel bound to pay for any future major activities voted by the UN to which we might have objection. This would make the above package palatable on the Hill and offer further protection for us against a possible ganging up by the Afro-Asian majority in the Assembly. It is also designed to shift the burden from ourselves to the Assembly for failing to apply Article 19, by making it clear that the decision is one for the membership at large. It would tend to desensationalize the issue by defusing it in a sub-organ of the UN during the summer doldrums; and would give us a “quid pro quo” by making clear that a double standard cannot be applied for major activities.

Dean Rusk
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Article 19, Vol. 2. Confidential.