394. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1

Just to keep you up to date on the maneuvering in New York over U Thant’s resignation, you will note from the attached2 that support for our idea of a draft is far from unanimous.

Goldberg is seeing Fedorenko at 4 p.m. this afternoon, both to sound out Soviet views and to see how far Fedorenko is willing to go as this month’s President of the Security Council.

Although the Soviets have publicly supported U Thant for a second term, it looks as if they might be just as happy to see the UN in a period of turmoil and, therefore, may not want to push U Thant hard to stay on. The Russians with their constant efforts to hamstring the SYG and their failure [Page 860] to pay their debts have contributed more than their share to U Thant’s disillusionment. Their support for him now looks pretty hypocritical.

This increases my own fears about our getting too firmly tied to the idea of drafting U Thant for another term. We may have to fall back on this—at least for a partial term—if we can’t agree on a successor by November. However, I have the uneasy feeling that State has since April put too many eggs in the U Thant basket. They certainly got the President tied to U Thant in an exercise that didn’t pay off. I am wondering now whether we shouldn’t, at least for in-house talking purposes, argue with State that we should cut our losses and begin looking early for a successor.

Brom promised this morning to ask S/S to send over for the President a memorandum on State’s current succession thinking. He was going to say that the President is deeply interested in this problem and hint that the Secretary might want to volunteer something on the subject at next Tuesday’s lunch. If that conversation materializes, I tentatively suggest that you might take a pretty hard line against State’s current tack of pursuing U Thant to the end.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 4. Secret.
  2. Reference is to USUN 582, September 1, not attached. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, UN 8–3)