4. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the President’s Counsel (Ehrlichman)1


  • Proposed US Contribution for UN Building Expansion

You asked for my comments on a State Department recommendation that the President propose a $15 million Congressional authorization as the US share in paying for proposed expansion of the UN Headquarters facility in New York. State documents are at Tab A.2

We have been trying for some time, with little success, to get some straight answers from State on the arguments for requesting the $15 million. The State memo, it seems to me, is based on some questionable propositions, and I am frankly concerned that they have played fast and loose with giving the President free choice in this matter. The main State arguments for the $15 million, and counter considerations, are as follows:


The new building strengthens the Headquarters operation of the Secretary General, and will enable the US to maximize its UN influence [Page 6]in the face of Soviet and Arab efforts to move the UN out of New York.

What we are really talking about here is staff people for the UN Development Program, UNICEF, and some incidental offices of the Secretariat. Without a new building in New York, these organizations or the Economic and Social Affairs Department will probably move to Geneva. But it is hard to see how even that move would seriously hurt our “influence” over all the UN. We are the biggest contributor to the UN Development Program, have the Chairmanship by tradition, and will call the shots wherever it is located simply because we hold the purse strings. Our role in UNICEF and Economic and Social Affairs is marginal despite our present location in New York, and thus we cannot lose much if these organizations go to Switzerland.

It is true that a shift overseas of UN agencies does cut into the recruiting of Americans for UN jobs, and to that degree we lose something. But the basic policy orientation in any of these agencies will still be determined by the financial and political weight we pull in the UN at large regardless of physical location of facilities.


State argues that a special contribution by the host country is customary when an international organization wants a building.

Again, the facts here are mixed. In some cases—such as Austria—the UN is either given a building or charged a token rent. But the Swiss, for example, do no more than provide favorable loans, and the French charge UNESCO the going commercial rate with a loan on its building in Paris. What has been “customary,” of course, is that the US has always paid a chunk—almost in toto—for any of the UN facilities in this country. In this proposal, the US share, public and private, would be almost 90 percent of the cost of the building. We should be under no illusions that we are driving a hard bargain.


State also argues that moving facilities from New York will cost our economy millions in UN salaries now spent in this country.

This is a more valid argument. Our research turns up a figure of $14 million per year loss if UNDP and UNICEF personnel shift to Geneva. But this should be weighed against the fact that the $15 million contribution from the USG and the $15 million contribution from the City of New York will, under present estimates, only purchase enough space for projected UN needs through 1976. So sometime over the next four or five years we will be confronted again with a major building expansion program to accommodate needs beyond 1976. We have to assume that that cost will be considerably higher, and over time the arithmetic is such that the US could end up spending as much on new buildings as we lose in purchasing power of UN salaries.

But beyond these points, there is, in my view, a more serious question about State’s prior commitment to both the UN and the City of [Page 7]New York on the $15 million figure before they got Presidential approval. State and USUN argue that we walked into the $15 million with the UN, and any lesser grant would require a “renegotiation” with Mayor Lindsay. I am simply not competent to judge the domestic political implications of all this. It is clear that the City of New York would like to have the expansion for economic reasons. But the present proposal leaves precious little room for the US to do any bargaining to get a larger contribution from the UN itself.

On balance, there is probably no reason to make a major issue out of this. But if we go ahead, it should be with the instruction that we take a much more independent line than we have planned in bargaining our contribution. I do not believe the President should pretend to the Congress or the United Nations that the presence of a UN staff in New York is a blessing for which we will pay without question.


I would support a Presidential request for these funds on the understanding that our Mission in New York would be instructed to undertake some hard negotiations to get the UN itself to shoulder a larger share of the $60 million total than the 25 percent now contemplated for the UN in State’s proposal.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 291, Agency Files, USUN. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 2 and footnote 2 thereto.