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

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Assurances of Contribution Toward UN Headquarters Building

Secretary Rogers has come to the President with an urgent request concerning the issue of expansion of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. His memorandum is at Tab B.2 You will recall that we were prepared last summer to recommend authorization of $15 million as the U.S. government’s contribution toward this expansion, but that in light of the President’s order for a 75% cutback on federal building expenditures in September the authorization was denied on domestic political grounds.

Secretary Rogers now asks that our UN delegation be authorized to state in New York that the U.S. government strongly supports construction of the proposed additional UN headquarters building and will request Congressional authorization and appropriation in its fiscal year 1971 budget for a U.S. contribution not to exceed $20 million. [Page 13]This $5 million increase results from an updated architectural and engineering survey of the contemplated construction. Secretary Rogers believes that such an assurance now is the minimum necessary to counter pressure to shift the focus of UN activities from New York to Geneva or some other European location.

My judgment remains that there is no reason to oppose State’s request on foreign policy grounds.

I do question the contention that we will lose a great deal of influence in the UN if some of its organs leave New York. Our policies and financial contributions are much more important than the physical location of UN offices. I also question the net revenue impact of some movement of UN bodies and personnel from this country. Our balance of payments position and New York City would clearly suffer, but these factors must be weighed against our budget outlays for this building expansion and possible future ones. However, I think it is desirable on general prestige and political grounds to keep the center of UN activities in this country. And there does appear to be the real probability of at least the economic and social functions of the UN moving to Europe if we refuse our contribution and the expansion project therefore collapses. I believe significant UN slippage away from New York for want of a U.S. contribution would entail some political costs.

Budget Director Mayo recommends approval of Secretary Rogers’ request. At Tab A is a memorandum from Mr. Mayo to the President which states BOB’s position, outlines the financing details of the headquarters expansion and points out the relationship to the federal construction freeze. Mr. Mayo enclosed a proposed Presidential memorandum to the Secretary of State approving his request.3 If we do decide to go ahead, I support the terms of this proposed Presidential memorandum. It is important that the UN Delegation should be instructed to seek maximum contributions from private sources and to make it clear that the special U.S. contribution will in no case exceed $20 million.

While there are therefore no international or budgetary problems with Secretary Rogers’ request, the federal construction holdback continues to raise domestic political considerations. An essential judgment is whether a U.S. commitment now to earmark funds in the FY 71 budget (which would not be turned over to the UN for about 18 months) would still cause significant domestic problems in light of the construction freeze and the continuing issue of inflation. Domestic political reaction to the prospect of slippage of the UN from New York would appear to be another consideration.

[Page 14]

In light of these domestic factors I would appreciate your carrying this through for Presidential decision. This is urgent because of the need for a U.S. position at the UN as soon as possible and the indispensable requirement that State sound out selected Congressional leaders before instructing our Delegation in New York.

If you would let us know the President’s decision we will follow up with State.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 296, Agency Files, USUN, Vol. II. Confidential. Sent for action. Drafted by Winston Lord on November 14.
  2. Document 8.
  3. Attached but not printed.