435. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

6862. Subject: SYG’s Four-Power Proposal.

Bunche gave us informally foll ltr for comment prior to formal transmission from SYG to US, USSR, UK and France. Bunche assured us, SYG would not transmit ltr until he had received our comments. As Dept will note, SYG has in mind a four-power mtg as prelude to possible summit mtg in 1969. He suggests that agenda might deal in first instance with ways to strengthen UN, including finances and peacekeeping, and leaves open the possibility that discussion would include “reaffirmation of charter principles”, advice to Jarring, and certain aspects of disarmament. Dept should note penultimate para in particular where SYG says it may not be necessary “that the four Fon Mins should meet as a group.”
We will be studying ltr carefully and make recommendations to Dept on how to handle it.

Begin text.

My Dear Fon Minister/Secretary,

You will perhaps recall that in my introduction to the Annual Report2 in the work of the organization last year I advanced a suggestion that an attempt might be made to assess the value of holding periodic meetings of the Security Council at which its members might be represented by a member of the government or by some specially designated representative. It was actually my hope that such a meeting would be attended by the Foreign Ministers of the Member States concerned and that this would give an opportunity for a free-ranging discussion of major problems which have a bearing on international peace and security.

It may also be recalled that at an informal dinner I gave for the Foreign Ministers of the four major powers last year, I discussed some of the ideas which were at the back of my mind when I made this suggestion. Since I put forth this possibility last year the international situation has further deteriorated and the hopes for an East-West détente have been seriously set back. I feel that some special effort should now be made in spite of the present unfavourable atmosphere—or, indeed, because of it—to identify some important issues where a community of [Page 939] interest may facilitate big power agreement irrespective of the adverse circumstances.

It is with this thought in mind that, in my latest introduction to the Annual Report which was issued last month, I proposed that it might be useful to take advantage of the presence of the Foreign Ministers of France, USSR, United Kingdom and United States during the current session of the General Assembly so that they might meet and discuss some common problems. I felt that such a meeting would help to halt the growing feeling of insecurity in the world and provide some antidote to the feeling of pessimism about the future of international peace and security that is now so widespread.

Let me state, Mr. Foreign Minister, that I am well aware of some of the risks involved in organizing such a meeting. Amongst these may be mentioned the real risk that hopes may be raised which may not be realized. However, I believe that some concrete results might be achieved if an agenda could be agreed upon which would be realistic and not over-ambitious.

If the idea of such a meeting is acceptable, I shall be happy, if so desired, to prepare a draft agenda. I realize that at the present time spectacular results in regard to the serious developments in many parts of the world may not be achieved. However, I believe that a modest start could and should be made in an attempt to deal with the basic problem facing the organization, namely, how can the United Nations be enabled to develop into a really effective instrument for peace and progress as envisaged in the Charter. This, of course, is my main concern; but one cannot ignore the existence of other problems which also have a bearing on the effectiveness of the world organization. I may mention amongst these the financial solvency of the United Nations, and its peacekeeping and peacebuilding functions. These problems can be solved only if, to start with, the big powers could agree amongst themselves either on the general principles of their solution, or on a pragmatic approach which, without prejudice to the respective positions of principle, may allow the organization to function effectively. Another thought I have is the need to reaffirm the Charter principles and the accepted rules of international conduct. One could hope also that such a meeting might give attention to ways of more helpful collective guidance and support for Ambassador Jarring’s vital mission. It may also be opportune to discuss certain aspects of disarmament at such a meeting.

In the introduction to the Annual Report, I had stated that hopefully a meeting of the Foreign Ministers could lead to a meeting of the heads of state and government of the four major powers. I know it requires most careful preparation to arrange such a meeting. I also recognize that, in view of the current political situation in individual countries, such a summit meeting could hardly be envisaged until some time in 1969. I cannot help feeling very strongly that the mere fact of agreement [Page 940] in principle to hold such a summit meeting would shine as a ray of hope in the presently clouded sky and bring a sense of relief to human beings all over the world who are deeply concerned about the trend of international developments today.

Let me add that in my thinking it is not necessary that the four Foreign Ministers should meet as a group. It would be equally effective if they were to meet individually with each other, taking advantage of their presence at the current session of the General Assembly. Preliminary discussions now initiated could be followed up by subsequent meetings at a time and place which would be mutually convenient. In all such efforts I shall of course be happy to be of help, if so desired.

I feel that the ideas I had expressed, perhaps too tersely, in my introduction to the Annual Report, needed to be spelt out a little. It is with this thought in mind that I address this letter to you. I have no doubt that you will wish to give this suggestion your most earnest consideration. End text.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 11. Secret; Priority; Nodis.
  2. Annual Review of United Nations Affairs, 1967–1968 (Oceana Publications, Inc., Dobbs Ferry, NY, 1969), pp. 1–44. The ideas referred to here are in Section X, Other Questions.
  3. In an October 5 memorandum to the President transmitting both the text of this telegram and of the proposed State Department reply, Walt Rostow requested and received approval for a response “based on the proposition: We are not prepared at this time to in effect commit a new administration to a summit in 1969.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 11)