52. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Handling of Soviet Non-Use of Force Resolution in the UN

The Soviets have now completed the preliminaries for introducing a General Assembly Resolution on the renunciation of the use of force and the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons. They have made oral démarches to us and other UN members seeking support and have left the usual aide mémoire.2 Under normal circumstances, the Soviet item would go to the First Committee, where the debate will occur, as it did last year on their World Disarmament Conference item.3

Given the nature and intent of the Soviet proposal we can expect certain fireworks between the Chinese and the Soviets in the debate. The question is what position the United States should take.

Thus far the Department of State, without White House clearance, has, as expected, issued totally negative instructions with the following points (Tab A):4

—the proposed Soviet resolution will not add anything to the UN Charter;

—restating Charter language tends to detract from the Charter, if the language varies;

—we have strong reservations about calling on the Security Council to make GA Resolutions binding;

—injection of this issue into the Security Council is likely to result in an acrimonious debate and harm the Council’s effectiveness (sic);

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—we are “concerned” about Gromyko’s proposed exception to the effect that people of “oppressed colonial countries” could legitimately use all available means;

—we think the way to make recourse to force less likely is to pursue genuine and constructive negotiations.

These are standard debating points, but clearly negative. Presumably, this is the line we will take in any debates, but how we might vote is another matter. We would probably abstain, if there is no further guidance from the White House, and might support it if there is wide support in the GA.

The problem is that by taking a negative line we tend to range ourselves on the side of the opponents who, in addition to the Chinese, may be quite small in number and oppose a proposition that is certain to pass, at least in the GA.

On the other hand, it would be too cynical to support the Soviet proposal, which, though probably harmless as a UN resolution, accomplishes little and has some anti-Chinese overtones.

One way out may be to use the constitutional argument that the Security Council not be involved, and in the debate take the position that we support the idea and principle but see no need for further reiteration by the General Assembly. We could indicate that we will abstain, if the item proves contentious in debate.

In any case, we need guidance on how you want to handle it:

1. By requesting cables for clearance:

—this runs certain risks and is tiresome, but the most direct way of controlling the tactics.

2. By asking for a position paper and holding an SRG:

—this allows the establishment of control, through post SRG NSDM, etc., but takes some time and will probably yield no new ideas.

3. Issuing instructions now on how to deal with it along the lines described above (i.e., relative neutralism with the intention of abstaining).


That you indicate how you prefer to proceed:

1. Clear cables

2. Ask for SRG paper5

3. Issue directive now

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 720, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Vol. XXV. Secret. Sent for action. Concurred in by Fernando Rondon, NSC Staff member for African and UN Affairs. Haig wrote at the top of the memorandum, “thru Haig.”
  2. For Vorontsov’s oral démarche urging U.S. support for the Soviet draft resolution introduced in the General Assembly on September 26, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–2, Documents on Arms Control and Nonproliferation, 1969–1972, Documents 341 and 342. The text of the draft resolution is ibid., Document 344.
  3. In September 1971, the Soviet Union introduced a resolution seeking to place on the agenda of the UN General Assembly a proposal to convene a World Disarmament Conference. See ibid., Documents 336–340. General Assembly Resolution 2833 was adopted on December 16.
  4. Attached but not printed is telegram 173183 to USUN, September 20. For text, see ibid., Document 341.
  5. Kissinger checked his approval of the second option.