209. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1

5381. Subj: Legal Aspects of 25 Percent. Ref: USUN 5267,2 USUN 5312.3

For a variety of reasons we think it wise to plan on a 2/3 majority being required in the plenary when our 25 percent resolution is put to the vote. These include the following:
The US has traditionally sought to apply as broadly as is reasonable the protecting provision in Charter Art. 18(2) requiring a 2/3 vote for “budgetary questions.” In 1962 the Department told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that scale of assessments questions must be approved by 2/3 vote in the plenary.
UN Legal Counsel Stavropoulos has consistently maintained that our 25 percent resolution requires such a majority. We must plan on his informing GA President Trepczynski who, in response to what seems an almost inevitable request by the USSR or Tanzania, will likely rule that this majority is required or put the matter to the Assembly for a decision.
Such friends as Austria, Australia and Japan have told us of their concern over the possible consequences of the GA proceeding on the basis that a simple majority suffices. They apparently fear a future effort to raise their assessed shares and believe a simple-majority ruling or determination in the 25 percent case could imperil their ability to argue that their assessments can be changed only with a 2/3 vote. They have remained worried even in the face of our explanation that cases can be distinguished and that a simple majority can be defended for our resolution since it expressly denies the possibility of raising any member state’s assessment.
Given the Trepczynski Presidency, the best we could hope for would be that when the procedural question were raised, he would put it to the GA for decision. In order to carry a simple-majority-only proposition, we would have had to have lobbied and lobbied hard. Not only would the result be unpredictable but such corridor work might well detract from our basic lobbying task of getting support on 25 percent.
We must recognize that certain of those who voted with us in Fifth Committee did so only because they were instructed to do so. They might welcome the development of any procedural dispute that might “create a new situation” in which they would change their votes adversely and take the risk of arguing with their foreign offices that a change was justified by unforeseen events.
Against this background we spoke to Under Secretaries Morse and Stavropoulos to say we would not object were Stavropoulos to inform Trepczynski of Stavropoulos’ opinion that under the better legal view, a 2/3 vote, is needed.4 Morse said he thought we could not count on winning a battle over simple-majority-only and are right to concentrate on the substance of the matter. Stavropoulos said he was gratified; he took our point that the optimum handling of the matter might be for Trepczynski to rule, if asked to do so, that 2/3 is required. He agreed to keep in touch on scenarios. (We also went over the same ground with Stavropoulos’ deputy, Sloan, who had earlier been very helpful on this issue.)
We are informing Amb Nakagawa in confidence that, in part because of strong Japanese views, we are prepared not to object to a 2/3 ruling. We are telling others, such as Saudi Arabia, that since a 2/3 vote “may be required,” we simply must have their support.
Since we fear that open US espousal of application of the 2/3 rule might dissuade Trepczynski from so ruling and instead put the matter to the GA, we are at this point continuing to tell our friends that 2/3 “may be required.” In a day or two we will tell them we have decided, in view of the many concerns involved, not to object to such a ruling.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 10–4. Confidential; Priority; Limdis.
  2. Document 207.
  3. Not printed. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 10–4)
  4. Stavropolous’ statement to the December 13 Plenary Session of the UN General Assembly before the vote was transmitted to the Department in airgram A–1802 from USUN, December 18. (Ibid.)