343. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2


  • 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 or force and the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons. They have made oral demarches to us and other UN members seeking support and have left the usual aide memoire. 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.

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 Sates 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):

  • — 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);
  • — 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:


By requesting cables for clearance:

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


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.

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: [Page 3]

Clear cables
Ask for SRG paper
Issue directive no

[Page 4]

Tab A
Telegram 173183 From the Department of State to the Missions to the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization


  • Soviet UN Initiative on Non-use of Force
USSR has requested addition to UNGA agenda of item “non-use of force in international relations and permanent prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons”. In call on Assistant Secretary De Palma, Soviet Embassy Minister Counselor Vorontsov said USSR wants UNGA to adopt res banning use of force and all types of weapons—conventional as well as nuclear. Moreover, according to [Page 5] Voronsov, Sovs envisage request for SC decision making UNGA res binding on all UN member states.
For USUN: In discussing USSR initiative with other UNGA dels, you should draw on guidance para 4 below as appropriate.
For USNATO: Septels reporting Vorontsov-De Palma conversation and text of Sov aide memoire on non-use of force initiative being repeated to you. Should subject be raised by NATO colleagues you may draw on both tels as well as guidelines in explaining US position.
Guidelines follow:
We do not see how proposed Sov res can add anything useful to what is already contained in UN Charter which draws distinction between use of force for individual and collective defense, which is legitimate, and for aggression, which, is not.
We see drawbacks in effort to restate Charter language in UN reses. If wording departs at all from Charter language, then it tends to detract from Charter. If it does not depart, then it adds nothing.
We have particularly strong reservations about calling on Security Council to make such UNGA declaration binding on all member states. This would pose serious constitutional problems under Charter. Under relevant Charter articles, Security Council has power to make binding decisions to maintain peace and security with respect to specific situations of threat or breach of peace; Council does not have the power to establish general rules of conduct binding on all members, much less to purport to revise Charter treaty obligations for all members.
Also, injection of this project into Security Council would likely result in acrimonious dispute and could thereby harm Council’s effectiveness.
We are particularly concerned about exception made by Gromyko in his explanation of proposed agenda item to effect that people of “oppressed colonial countries”, among others, could legitimately use all available means to carry on their struggle. This creates enormous loophole which would be dangerous and subject to misuse, for example by terrorist organizations.
We think way to make recourse to force less likely is to pursue genuine and constructive negotiations to concrete arms limitation measures. Efforts toward broad reformulation of existing Charter provisions would not help to solve specific problems.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 720, Country Files, Europe, USSR Vol. XXV. Secret. Sent for action. Rondon concurred with the memorandum. Option #2, “Ask for SRG paper,” is checked. The attached telegram at Tab A is published. It was repeated to Bonn, London, Moscow, Paris, Tokyo, and Geneva.
  2. Sonnenfeldt discussed options for responding to the Soviet proposal for a UN resolution on the non-use of force and asked Kissinger how he preferred to proceed.