361. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations1

160. Ref: USUN’s 182.2 Subject: Proposed British Comments on SYG Peacekeeping Guidelines.

We find proposed text of UK letter to SYG in response SYG’s request for comments on “guidelines” excellent, except in one important respect. Request you indicate to UKUN our strong reservations concerning second sentence in fourth para, which we suggest be deleted in its entirety. We believe it would be most undesirable for UK to suggest that GA’s authority cannot embrace operations “of coercion of any state” and is limited to measures “to preserve international peace while settlement of a dispute is being sought,” for three reasons:

  • First, we think it not in predominant interest of West that GA’s authority be so limited. E.g., if Indonesia should attack Malaysia, and USSR should veto SC measures, GA should have authority to recommend—not order, but recommend—collective measures to restore international peace and security. Such measures would not be limited to “preserving international peace while settlement of the dispute is being sought.” Rather, they would involve exercise of collective security character, in defense against Indonesian aggression, which clearly would call for use of coercion against aggressor. Dept recognizes that there are risks in this approach, such as misuse by GA of recommendatory authority in, e.g., Rhodesia or South Africa. But we think we should assume this risk, on ground that two-thirds voting requirement in GA, and West’s political and financial leverage, should be enough to prevent GA recommending coercive operations which West opposes. If we do not assume risk, it follows that UN’s capacity to undertake resistance to aggression is subject to veto in SC.
  • Second, UK line conflicts with plain intent of Uniting for Peace res. Res. 377(V),3 “Recognizing that discharge by GA of its responsibilities… calls for … the existence of armed forces which could be used collectively; and for the possibility of timely recommendation by GA to Members UN for collective action… ,” provides that GA “Resolves that [Page 786] if SC … fails to exercise its primary responsibility… where there appears to be a threat to peace, breach of peace, or act of aggression, GA shall consider matter immediately with view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of breach of the peace or act of aggression the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.” Res further describes itself as concerned with “collective security arrangements against breaches of international peace and acts of aggression.” It is clear that GA’s recommendations for collective measures, including use of armed force to deal with aggression, embrace measures of coercion against aggressor, and are not limited to peacekeeping measures of UNEF-ONUC character.

    While, as first sentence of fourth para UK draft rightly states, only SC may undertake enforcement measures, this is properly understood to mean measures which are binding on Members, not measures of merely coercive character. As ICJ pointed out in Expenses Case, “… it is SC which is given a power to impose an explicit obligation of compliance if, for example, it issues an order or command to an aggressor under Chapter VII. It is only SC which can require enforcement by coercive action against an aggressor.” However, while GA cannot require enforcement by coercive action against an aggressor, it certainly can recommend coercive action. (Should be noted that, even if GA measures were limited to “preserving international peace while settlement of dispute is being sought,” they would imply possibility of coercive action against a state to whatever extent its actions might be in breach of peace.)

    We would suggest UK could meet this point either by deleting fourth para or by deleting second sentence of fourth para and inserting in first sentence after “Council” phrase “and are of a binding character.”

  • Third, we see no point in West bidding against itself in negotiations with delinquents. USSR and even France have shown almost no interest in reasonable, procedural limitations on GA action. Why should West propose to make concessions of GA’s authority with no quid pro quo? While, in any event, we would think it undesirable to surrender GA’s authority to recommend collective security operations to resist aggression, and believe attempt to surrender such without Charter amendment would be of dubious effect, we see no point in offering such concessions to Soviet view at this juncture.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Article 19, Vol. 4. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Stephen Schwebel (L), cleared in L and UNP, and approved by Cleveland. Repeated to London.
  2. Dated July 23; it forwarded the text of a British note regarding peacekeeping. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 27–4 UN)
  3. Dated November 3, 1950; for text see American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1950–1955, vol. I, pp. 187–192.