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

3132. Subj: Successor to U Thant.

Summary. It is now accepted that U Thant is serious about his decision to retire and that even Sovs have come to this conclusion. It is also widely believed that even though Sovs have now accepted fact that their first choice is not available, they either have not decided on an alternative or if they have they are not prepared to discuss the matter with us at this stage. Jakobson of Finland remains the front runner. Chile is very active on behalf of Herrera and his candidacy is rapidly gaining support among Latin Americans. Jarring’s name frequently mentioned by some Arabs and some Africans. Other declared and non-declared candidacies are not prospering, although Waldheim remains ready move in if Jakobson collapses. End summary.
Based on discussions with a number of key dels, it is now widely accepted that Gromyko arrived with instructions to press U Thant hard to accept a third term. Firmness of SYG’s negative response appears to have taken Sovs aback. Presumably they will now begin to assess alternatives and will look about for successor who, in their view, would be most likely to fulfill their ideal, e.g., an administrative official who sees his role as limited to carrying out decisions of SC and [Page 401] GA and who is careful to avoid political initiatives. It is assumed Sovs will keep options open for immediate future but that they will be prepared to discuss successor with US prior to end of 26th GA Dec 21.
Jakobson remains front runner. He is generally regarded as most capable candidate under discussion, and he has public backing of Nordic countries as well as tacit support of UK. Sovs have not excluded possibility that they ultimately might acquiesce in his appointment. Arabs as a group have not taken a unified public decision against him, although several are known to oppose him because of his Jewish faith. Jakobson says he has reason to believe Peking supports him and further believes it would not be possible for Sovs to formally veto a Finn in SC.
Within last few days, Chile has launched a campaign on behalf of Herrera. Even some conservative (Nicaragua, for example) Latin Americans who could be expected to take a reserved attitude toward a candidate sponsored by Allende govt, are enthusiastic at thought a Latin American would succeed U Thant. LA group endorsement, once acquired, [for]Herrera could lead rapidly to support among other LDCs. Chilean campaign theme is that Afro-Asian bloc has “veto” of its own in GA and Bloc could and will “veto” Jakobson regardless favorable SC action. Assume Chileans will push this line vigorously at late Oct Ministerial level meeting of “77” (now nearly 100) non-aligned in Lima.
Some dels suspect Sovs may settle on Waldheim of Austria as man closest to their ideal. On other hand, Waldheim is generally regarded as lacking sufficient stature and drive to be taken seriously. Nevertheless, if Jakobson cannot make it, Sovs and others might turn to Waldheim.
Jarring remains most frequently discussed dark horse, usually in terms two-year interim appointment, because of his age. There no indication he seeking post or that Swedes’ support for Jakobson diminished by rumors of support for Jarring.
It is rumored that Peru is willing to sponsor its PermRep De Cuellar but at present he does not appear to be a formal candidate.
Amerasinghe of Ceylon apparently has taken himself out of race.
Makkonen of Ethiopia does not appear to have a chance of obtaining backing of Africans particularly now that Masmoudi of Tunisia has emerged as an additional if undeclared African candidate.
Until recently Mexico not interested in fielding a candidate although names of Carrillo Flores, Garcia Robles and Cuevas Cancino had been occasionally mentioned, especially Garcia Robles. Now appears Pres Echeverria may tout his predecessor during former’s upcoming UN visit.
Comment: We need to define our position quickly on Herrera. If for any reason we do not wish to see him chosen, we should take steps to prevent LA group endorsement, perhaps via Brazilian Govt. Once endorsed by entire group, we would not wish to pay price of offending our hemisphere neighbors by opposing their choice. We also cannot count on Sovs to bail us out. When asked if Sovs could conceivably take an LA, one key Sov official said probably not, unless he were Chilean or Mexican.
Many dels are looking over shoulders to Peking. Jakobson’s belief that PRC supports him is significant factor in his favor, but Peking may be more attracted by a Chilean with GOC support, adding further urgency for us to move.
French remain adamant on having SYG who speaks French. They are unlikely actually veto a candidate agreed upon by USSR and US, but they could cause problems and may have to be handled with care.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 302, Agency Files, USUN, Vol. VIII. Secret; Exdis.