6. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Proposed UN Contribution to UN Building Expansion

We have learned that Secretary General U Thant may raise with you the question of a US contribution to a proposed UN building expansion in New York. John Ehrlichman is now studying this issue, but I thought it useful to give you a brief run-down on the facts if John has not raised the matter for your decision prior to your session with U Thant.

State has proposed that you request the Congress to authorize $15 million as the US Government’s share of a $60 million total package for the expansion of the UN Headquarters facilities in New York. Three other $15 million contributions would be provided each by the City of New York, US private philanthropies, and the UN itself. State argues that the contribution is justified on two main grounds:

  • —The UN is badly over-crowded in New York. And there is an increasing tendency, supported by the Soviets and Arabs, to shift the focus of UN activities away from the United States. In this case, offices of the UN Development Program and UNICEF would probably move to Europe. State contends that this acts to weaken our influence in these agencies.2
  • —There is the added argument that the departure of UN personnel from New York will deprive the City’s economy of the purchasing power of UN salaries.

I have reviewed these assertions from a foreign policy standpoint and find plausible counter-considerations. The physical location of UN offices is not the decisive factor in determining our influence over the Organization. The general thrust of our policy, and particularly our financial contributions, are likely to be the determining factors wherever the headquarters of the programs are located.

Furthermore, we would not necessarily lose money in a gross economic sense if we forego the contribution and UN personnel [Page 10]moved elsewhere. With regard to the economic sacrifice in lost purchasing power, it can be argued that a US outlay for the building expansion (almost 90% of the total when we count public and private sources as well as our major share of the UN budget) may be as great over time as the income which we would have gained in UN salaries spent here. This is particularly true since projected needs for UN Headquarters space in New York will involve another building expansion—and another US contribution—in the early 1970’s.

On balance, however, I advised John Ehrlichman that I found no overriding objection on policy grounds to State’s proposal, provided our Mission in New York be instructed to undertake hard negotiations to get the UN itself to shoulder a bigger share than the 25% contemplated. This issue has been complicated anew, however, by your order on a construction hold-back. I understand Bob Mayo feels that a US contribution for this construction could have adverse political effects in the Congress. Thus, John Ehrlichman is looking at the problem now in terms of its domestic implications.

If U Thant should raise the proposed contribution, and you have not yet reached a decision, I recommend you make the following reply:

  • —We fully appreciate the need for expansion of the UN facilities. We hope to have an answer very soon regarding a US contribution in order that the Secretary General may present his expansion plans to the General Assembly.
  • —But we have had to study this matter very carefully in light of the Administration’s new guidelines on federal financing of construction in an effort to combat inflation.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 296, Agency Files, USUN, Vol. II. No classification marking. Sent for information. The date is handwritten. A covering memorandum from Watts to Kissinger, dated September 17, bears a handwritten note in the left margin: “Memo handed by HAK to President on AF-1. 9/18/69.”
  2. In the left margin is the handwritten notation: “no—RN, 10–6–69.”