12. Memorandum From the Representative to the United Nations (Yost) to President Nixon 1
With reference to our brief conversation at Camp David concerning the address which you might wish to deliver at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly next month,2 I am submitting herewith a list of themes with which, if you do make the speech, you might wish to deal.
The content of your remarks on each theme you select would presumably depend on the course of events and the development of policy on the relevant issues up to that time. The traditional date for the delivery of the US address is the first morning of the general debate (the third day of the session), which this year will be September 18.
I should very much hope that you would decide to make this address, first, because it has been traditional since 1945 for American Presidents to address the United Nations in the first year of their Administration and your absence would therefore be remarked, but more important, because the UN General Assembly would provide a unique sounding board for a statement of your goals and policies in the foreign field. If you should have new initiatives to announce appropriate to this forum, that would of course be particularly useful; President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” proposal to the UN had a great impact. However, even if there were no new initiatives which were relevant and which were ripe for announcement next month, your appearance would nevertheless be most desirable. Most speeches by heads of state or government in the general debate are devoted to setting forth their government’s policy on the main issues before the Assembly. President Eisenhower spoke to the Assembly along these lines three times after his initial appearance, and other Presidents have done likewise.[Page 18]
The following will be the principal issues before the Assembly, with some or all of which you might wish to deal:
- Disarmament This is the issue to which the Assembly traditionally devotes most attention. Discussion revolves around but is not confined to the report of the Geneva Disarmament Committee. This year that Committee will not have concrete recommendations to make and this failure will give rise to considerable criticism. Whatever you might be able to say either on matters that will be dealt with in the Committee’s report, such as control of biological and chemical warfare or of military uses of the seabed, or on our objectives in the SALT negotiations, or on any other arms control topics, will be very useful.
- UN Peacekeeping Negotiations are proceeding slowly but perceptibly to strengthen the capability of the UN to deal with international conflict, particularly in the Third World. We might indicate our support of this process in general terms or by expressing willingness to contribute, proportionately with others, to a “Peace Fund”, designed to finance the initial stage of such operations.
- Quality of the Environment This is a subject, as you know, of increasing international concern, about which you have already urged concerted action by our NATO allies. I made it the main theme of my speech to the UN Economic and Social Council in July (copy attached).3 An indication of your interest and support in the UN context would be particularly timely and welcome.
- Second Development Decade The question of the US contribution, through trade and aid, to development is a difficult and delicate one because of the increasingly reluctant attitude of the Congress and because some of the relevant policies of your Administration are still under review. However, you have proposed to the Congress increased appropriations for multilateral aid through the UN and your intentions in this respect will be heartening to this audience.
- Population You may wish to stress your conviction of the vital importance of dealing urgently with this problem, from the standpoint of development, environmental quality and the maintenance of peace.
- Middle East This will no doubt be a main theme of debate in the GA, as well as of negotiation behind the scenes. A reemphasis of your determination to exert the full influence of the US to bring about a settlement would be most timely.
- Southern Africa Our attitude toward human rights self-determination in this area is another very delicate one because Black African feeling is so strong and yet there is so little that can be realistically [Page 19]done. I would not recommend your dealing with this subject at length but it should be touched on.
- Vietnam This subject is not on the Assembly’s agenda and agitation about it has considerably declined as a result of the Paris negotiations and the policies you announced in your May 14 speech. Nevertheless, as the largest war in progress, it continues to cause deep concern at the UN and a brief restatement of your policies directed to the Assembly would be most helpful.
- Era of Negotiation A reiteration of the theme of your Inaugural Address would be eminently suited to the UN forum and could indeed most appropriately be the main thread running through your whole presentation.
I would suggest that the address be about forty-five minutes in length, though there is no fixed practice in this regard.4
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 296, Agency Files, USUN, Vol. II. Confidential.↩
- No record of this meeting was found. A May 16 memorandum from Yost to the President recommended that he address the UN General Assembly. (Ibid., Box 295, USUN, Vol. I) On August 23 Secretary Rogers informed Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs De Palma that the President was interested in addressing the General Assembly on September 18. Foreign Ministers attending the session would be encouraged to meet with either Rogers or Yost in New York rather than with the President in Washington. (Ibid.)↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- President Nixon addressed the 24th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 18, 1969. His address is printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1969, pp. 724–731.↩