164. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1
New York, May 13, 1971, 2205Z.
1254. Subj: US Assessment Rate in UN. Ref: (A) State 073021, (B) USUN 887.2
- We appreciate consideration Department has given to USUN 887. As we understand it, Department wishes first of all to reduce US percentage in UN assessment scale. We, of course, agree with this objective, but believe it would be useful to clarify certain points so as to be sure we are on the same wave length.
- While we agree that capacity to pay should not be sole criterion and we might agree it should not be “overriding”—depending on how latter term is defined—it is important to recognize impossibility of convincing vast majority of member states that there is anything unjust or immoral in relating assessment percentages broadly to relative capacity to pay. As Department is aware, principle that assessments should be based “broadly” on relative capacity to pay as reflected in national income figure goes back to UN Preparatory Commission and was approved at first session of GA. Principle has been implemented flexibly and has not been considered an “overriding element” in establishing assessment rates. For example, there is ceiling principle, which protects US significantly from paying strictly on basis of relative capacity to pay, and inter alia there is floor principle, which does relate to element of “equality of membership” and requires many small member states to pay significantly more than their relative capacity to pay would call for.
- Over past 25 years the principles governing scale of assessments have evolved into delicately balanced structure, and we have been fighting very hard to prevent any serious tampering with these principles. Consequently, while we agree fully that US should take necessary action to get its fair share in any redistribution of financial responsibilities as new UN members with sizeable assessments come in (e.g., Federal Republic of Germany), we feel our strategy and tactics must be carefully planned and, indeed, include some advance consultation with UK, France and Soviets. This is particularly important because Big Four collaboration in New York in last few years has become one of our most effective instruments in restraining growth of UN budget and in maintaining ceiling on US assessment. If we play our [Page 305]cards right entry of two Germanies could bring US assessment down three points to about 28.5. Eventually this might decline even further as comparative changes in net national income and admission of other new members have their impact on scale. In our view, however, Department and Mission should avoid any endorsement of 25 percent target lest we build future serious problems for our relations with Congress.
- Suggested criteria of (A) “special responsibilities of permanent members of SC and (B) special advantages pertaining to host governments” might be useful in explanations to Congress and would have great appeal to Japan and Italy, whose national income puts them in same league with UK and France. But these criteria, especially (A), would be bitterly contested by UK, France and Soviets, thus threatening Big Four cooperation which has been so important in restraining budget and protecting US ceiling. Moreover, if US should give respectability to these new criteria and two Germanies are then admitted to UN, these criteria are likely to be used to argue against any further reduction in US percentage which we otherwise might have been able secure if ceiling principle alone were in picture.
- We assume Department agrees any effort to increase floor-percentage will be overwhelmingly defeated and will make more difficult our efforts in Security Council committee to restrain admission of microstates. Further, any effort to increase floor percentage, which in case of many states requires them pay more than their relative capacity to pay, will almost certainly be answered by attempt to remove present ceiling on US contribution percentage and might well result in a lower floor.