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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Nixon-Ford Administrations > Volume V
Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume V, United Nations, 1969-1972
Released by the Office of the Historian


During the Nixon Administration the foreign policy leadership, particularly President Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, did not place much confidence in the United Nations. Nixon and Kissinger considered themselves realists who stressed the importance of national self-interest and major power relationships and generally were inclined to leave the day-to-day direction of United Nations affairs to the diplomats at the Department of State. As realists, however, Nixon and Kissinger also recognized that the United Nations was too important and too visible a world organization to be fully ignored. They thus maintained an interest in the U.S. presence in the Security Council, General Assembly, and other UN forums, which allowed the U.S. representatives to express the Administration’s positions on a wide range of policy issues as well as on administrative, personnel, and financial matters affecting that body. When United Nations policy concerned some of Nixon and Kissinger's primary objectives—the question of Chinese representation in the United Nations especially after the Nixon Administration’s opening of contacts with the People’s Republic of China, or the high profile question of the selection of a new Secretary-General to succeed U Thant—they became quite involved in policy decisions as the documentation printed in this volume indicates.

The Department of State's role at the United Nations revolved around some key individuals: Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Samuel De Palma, and Permanent Representatives of the United States to the United Nations, Charles W. Yost (January 23, 1969–February 25, 1971) and George H.W. Bush, the former Representative from Texas (March 1, 1971–January 18, 1973). Key supporting figures in the U.S. Mission to the United Nations included Deputy Permanent Representative W. Tapley Bennett and Senior Adviser Seymour M. Finger. At the White House, members of the National Security Council Staff who most frequently dealt with UN affairs were Kissinger's closest aides Winston Lord and W. Marshall Wright.
The United Nations volume is organized according to six major subject areas with documentation on each subject presented chronologically. The main topics covered are: Chinese representation, the U.S. withdrawal from the Committee of 24 on Decolonization, special Security Council meetings, changes in senior UN personnel, reducing the U.S. financial assessment, and routine issues.

Chinese Representation. Since 1961, the United States had fought a successful diplomatic campaign to retain for the Republic of China its seat in the United Nations as the representative of China. By declaring Chinese representation to be an "important question" and requiring a two-thirds majority vote in the UN General Assembly, the United States was able to prevent the People's Republic of China (PRC) from assuming Taiwan's seat. By 1970 it was clear that the "important question" formula would not prevent the PRC from representing China. Memories of the Korean War faded and both Third World and Western European countries were intent on establishing diplomatic relations with the PRC. Nixon also sought to normalize relations with China. This volume documents U.S. efforts to hold the line on Chinese representation while developing a formula for dual representation of Mainland China and Taiwan in the General Assembly that would be acceptable to both the Republic of China and to a majority within the UN General Assembly. In the end, the General Assembly voted on October 25, 1971 to admit the PRC and to expel the Republic of China. The volume also includes assessments of the PRC delegation during its first year.

U.S. Withdrawal from the Committee of 24 on Decolonization. Although the Nixon Administration opposed colonialism and favored self-determination, it believed that efforts to promote self-determination "must conform to actions that are consistent with the Charter and enjoy broad support among members." Introducing political issues into the deliberations of specialized agencies would hamper their effectiveness and unduly politicize their role.
The United States had long been frustrated by the increasingly radical tone of the Committee, and had considered withdrawing from it since November 1968. Secretary of State Dean Rusk decided that leaving the Committee should not be the last act of an outgoing administration, The Nixon Administration decided to wait a year in the hope that the situation might change, but on January 11, 1971, the United States withdrew from the Committee. Great Britain, which was more intimately involved with its former colonies, did so on the same date. In keeping with its policy of opposing recolonization, during the 1972 session of the General Assembly, the United States unsuccessfully battled a proposal to grant observer status to representatives of liberation movements in southern Africa.

Special Security Council Meetings. In 1970, the United States cautiously endorsed a proposal by Finnish Permanent Representative Max Jakobson to hold periodic Security Council meetings under Article 28 of the UN Charter, which allowed Security Council meetings at places other than New York headquarters to "best facilitate its work." The first such periodic meeting was duly held at the foreign minister level on October 21, 1970, in New York to "review the international situation," but none was held thereafter during the first Nixon Administration. However, there was pressure from members to hold Security Council meetings overseas. The United States opposed holding meetings in "areas of tension;" the atmosphere would be unfavorable to orderly deliberation, and the United Nations could ill afford the financial expenses of holding a meeting far from its headquarters. But the United Nations went ahead and held a Security Council meeting at the Organization of African Unity’s headquarters in Addis Ababa from January 28–February 4, 1972, to draw attention to African issues.

Encouraged by this example, Panama sought to host a Security Council meeting to draw attention to the Panama Canal question. The United States opposed it for similar reasons, noting also that there were few other Latin-American-related issues to discuss. A special session was also unlikely to help negotiations with Panama about the future status of the Canal. U.S. opposition had British support, but French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann’s endorsement of the Panamanian initiative ensured its success. The Security Council’s acceptance of Panama’s invitation and the meeting itself (March 15-21, 1973) fall outside the chronological scope of this volume, and will be dealt with in the UN Affairs volume for 1973–1976.

Changes in Senior Personnel. After Secretary-General U Thant announced his intention not to seek an additional term, the United States took a keen interest in who would succeed him. The candidate preferred by the United States was Finnish Permanent Representative Max Jakobson, but he faced opposition from the Soviet Union and the Arab Group. The United States was particularly active in defeating the candidacy of Felipe Herrera of Chile. In December 19__, the Permanent Members held a series of informal meetings to limit the field of candidates. In the course of these meetings, Kurt Waldheim of Austria emerged as the compromise candidate. The volume also documents how the Nixon Administration selected successors to Under Secretary-General of the United Nations Ralph Bunche and Paul Hoffman, Director of the UN Development Program.

Reducing the U.S. Financial Assessment. UN budget and financing were still critical issues with domestic political repercussions in the United States. Not only was the UN facing bankruptcy, but Congress was casting an increasingly cold eye on the U.S. share of its expenses. This volume covers U.S. efforts to promote financial restraint in various UN forums. In 1971, the President's Commission or the United Nations, headed by Henry Cabot Lodge, recommended that the United States seek to reduce its assessment from 30 to 25 percent while maintaining its overall level of contributions. New members, such as West Germany, might make such a proposal possible. In 1972, the United States conducted a successful campaign to reduce its assessment. One sidelight in UN financial affairs was the question of whether the People’s Republic of China would accept responsibility for the Republic of China’s financial obligations.

Other Issues. A variety of other issues, such as assessments of the key issues before each General Assembly session, appraisals of how they were handled, preparations for Presidential addresses to the General Assembly, U.S. funding of an expansion to the UN Headquarters, commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the UN in 1970, preparation of the report of the President’s Commission ("Lodge Commission") for the United Nations, meetings between the President and UN Secretaries-General, security of UN Missions, "universality" of membership, and UN visits to U.S. dependent territories, are covered in this volume. No single volume of Foreign Relations of the United States, could possibly cover all the key points at which U.S. foreign policy and the United nations intersected. Other volumes in the series will cover issues in the United Nations with which the United States had an interest that intersect with that particular volume. Volume I, Foundations of Foreign Policy covers the attitudes of the Nixon Administration toward international organizations in general and the United Nations. Publicly and officially, for example, Nixon and Kissinger were supportive of the United Nations on several issues, but in private conversations they sometimes expressed negative attitudes about the organization. The Global Issues volume will document U.S. involvement with UN initiatives concerning narcotics, space exploration, , and the environment. The volume on the Arab-Israeli Dispute will provide documentation on U.S. involvement in UN initiatives to promote a Middle East peace settlement. Volumes on sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Africa will cover UN initiatives on Africa in general and specifically on the campaign to end Portuguese colonialism in southern Africa, minority rule in Southern Rhodesia, and apartheid in South Africa. The South Asia volume will focus mainly on the India-Pakistan war, including documentation on UN initiatives to defuse the conflict.

While this volume on U.S. policy toward United Nations affairs concentrates primarily on UN organization and functional questions, the most dramatic of which was the change in Chinese representation, it also demonstrates the difficulties that U.S. diplomats faced at the United Nations. The United Nations increasingly became a forum for Third World nations whose interest in cold war confrontation was minimal, but whose desire to expurgate the last vestiges of colonialism was passionate. It was a United Nations in which the Nixon Administration did not always feel comfortable.

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