IT WAS to be known as “The Peace Assembly.”That was what General Carlos Romulo of the Philippines predicted when he took the President’s chair on September 20, 1949, the opening day of the Fourth General Assembly. And there were those who shared his optimism, who thought back a year to Paris and the war scare and the black news of Count Bernadotte’s assassination. This year things were better: no Berlin crisis, Palestine quiet, the United Nations a year older and wiser.
On September 22, Dr. T. F. Tsiang of China accused the Soviet Union of having aided Mao Tsetung. The Russians, he claimed, had violated the Sino-Soviet treaty of friendship and threatened the peace of the Far East. The Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrei Vishinsky, in his reply drew heavily on the American Stale Department’s White Paper, which he described as a “magnificent document.” Later in the session, the Chinese Communist government repudiated Dr. Tsiang’s delegation as not representative of the Chinese people.
But if Dr. Tsiang’s speech disturbed the atmosphere of confidence and good will, its effect was nothing compared with that of President Truman’s announcement on September 23 that an atomic explosion had occurred in the Soviet Union. From then on, a mushroom cloud cast its shadow over the United Nations.
Atomic energy debates were nothing new in UN history. They had taken place in every previous Assembly. The Paris Assembly a year ago had endorsed the majority control-plan of the Atomic Energy Commission, which would place all atomic installations under international management and operation. The Russians had advanced their own plan for national ownership and international inspection as long ago as June 11, 1947, and refused the majority plan as an infringement on national sovereignty.
When the Fourth Assembly met, the six permanent members of the Atomic Commission were holding secret sessions every week, trying to find a common ground between the majority and Soviet points of view. The report that came out of the secret meetings of the Atomic Energy Commission showed that the stalemate was as firm as ever.
In spite of the failure of the six-nation talks, there were many delegates who hoped that Russia would seek to add to its prestige by making some gesture of conciliation on atomic control. The Russians’ experience in the production of nuclear fuel might have brought them to a recognition of the technical, as well as political, necessity of strong international control.
Mr. Vishinsky, in his speech before the Special Political Committee, blasted this wishful thinking. He condemned the Baruch Plan with the same old arguments but with enhanced eloquence. He boasted of Russia’s peacetime exploits in the utilization of atomic power: “We are razing mountains; we are irrigating deserts; we are cutting through the jungle and the tundras; we are spreading life, happiness, prosperity, and welfare in places where the human footstep has not been seen for a thousand years.”And for this mighty, peaceful effort the U.S.S.R. would account to no international control organ.
The atmosphere in the committee room was chilly after Mr. Vishinsky had spoken. Several resolutions before the committee called for a new deal in atomic planning. They were small-nation resolutions aimed at breaking the deadlock or finding a way around it. Now these seemed irrelevant. One resolution sponsored by Canada and France asked the six permanent members of the Atomic Energy Commission to try again to reach agreement, and called on all nations to rethink their conceptions of sovereignty in the interest of gaining a wider security. This resolution passed the same day that Mr. Vishinsky introduced his threepronged resolution on peace.
The Soviet peace plan
In view of the Soviet attitude on atomic control, it is not surprising that Mr. Vishinsky’s peace plan, 1949 model, was received with some skepticism. It condemned the war preparations of the United States and the United Kingdom, insisted on the Russian atomic control scheme, and called on the Security Council’s “Big Five” to sign a new pact of peace.
Speaking out of the bitter experience of his own country, the Yugoslav delegate branded the peace proposal as “a monstrous hypocrisy.” Paul Martin of Canada said: “We do not need any more signatures: we need some settlements.’ Jean Chauvel of France said that “treaties or pacts which do not reflect a will to agreement are useless.”
Mr. Vishinsky, who two years ago stunned the United Nations with his first big warmongering speech, seemed tired — tired even of the oft-repeated accusations and stereotyped abuse. The Western spokesmen, on the other hand, moved from the defensive to the offensive by giving a bold exposition of the international aims of free peoples. The debate revealed a growing community among those nations which, fearful of war, were willing to work together to build peace.
But as the Assembly moved into its final weeks, delegates began to ask themselves why the hopes of Soviet coöperation, which were moderately strong at the outset, had been dissipated. For undoubtedly tension, instead of lessening, had increased. The debates on the Balkan dispute, Korea, civil liberties in Hungary and Bulgaria, the work of the International Refugee Organization, were marked by vitriolic outbursts from the delegates of the Soviet Union and their Slav allies. There was a neurotic quality in the shrill denunciation that seemed to stem from fear and frustration. And perhaps one answer was Yugoslavia.
Yugoslav happy talk
The Yugoslav contingent, led by Foreign Minister Edvard Kardelj, was obviously out to make friends and influence delegates. Whereas in previous Assemblies the Yugoslav delegates had been taciturn, this time they were affable, talkative, confiding. They frequently voted with the West. They chided the Soviet Union on its big-stick policy in the Balkans. And they let it be known early that they were in the running for the seat on the Security Council that was being vacated by the Ukraine. It was this last fact that drew the sharpest issue with the Russians, for the choice of the Sov iet Union was Czechoslovakia.
Mr. Vishinsky should probably be given the credit for assuring Yugoslavia’s election. For on the eve of the voting he called a large press conference, warned that Yugoslavia’s election would be a serious breach of a “gentlemen’s agreement,” and asserted that the Soviet Union would refuse to recognize its legality. In the United Nations, small countries increasingly resent being bossed around. Yugoslavia was elected with not one vote to spare.
It may well be, therefore, that the menace of Titoism accounted for some of Russia’s nervous intransigence at this Assembly. It almost certainly smashed the conciliation efforts in the Balkan dispute, which were begun auspiciously under the direction of President Romulo. With Yugoslavia
showing a willingness to come to terms with Greece, the Soviet Union stiffened the resistance of Albania and Bulgaria to any proposed plan for settlement.
The UN makes progress
Despite its failure to establish a world security system — a failure arising from the persistence of East-West conflict —the United Nations was able to mark up some substantial achievements during the Fourth Assembly. In the past year, two mediation efforts had met with success. The Palestine armistice, brought about chiefly through the efforts of Dr. Ralph Bunche, held. And the agreement reached at The Hague on the establishment of the United States of Indonesia was made possible through United Nations mediation.
The Assembly itself took the initiative in launching the vast program of technical aid to underdeveloped countries, although the full realization of the program had to wait on the voting of financial aid by the American Congress. And the Assembly took decisive action to hasten the march towards independence of peoples that are not yet self-governing. The initiative came from Asian, Near Eastern, and Latin American countries, many of which had only recently emerged from colonial status. Over the bitter opposition of the colonial powers the Assembly demanded a more exact accounting, not only of their trusteeships, but of their colonial administrations, which do not come under immediate United Nations supervision. In several important decisions, the United States voted with the majority against the United Kingdom and other colonial powers.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of the Assembly was the settlement concerning Italy’s former colonies. Last May, when the question came before the United Nations, crosscurrents of interest were so fierce that no decision was possible. A strong Latin American bloc pressed Italy’s claims in North Africa. The United Kingdom, France, and the United States held firmly to strategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Arab states, with strong backing from the Asian group and the Soviet Union, urged the rights of the native populations in the territories. The Bevin-Sforza deal, which reconciled the British and Latin American points of view, was defeated by a stouthearted minority that controlled just over one third of the votes.
This time the situation was different. Italy had abandoned any claims to a trusteeship over Tripolilania, one of the three territories comprising Libya. The United Kingdom, though still wishing guarantees for its strategic interests in Cyrenaica, was prepared to consider a plan for a united and independent Libya. And it was independence that was the main concern of the Arab-Asian-Soviet alliance. The Assembly eventually passed a plan for Libyan independence within two years, with a United Nations High Commissioner and advisory council to help the people of the territory work out a satisfactory form of government.
Somaliland proved a more complex problem. Italy, backed by its Latin American friends, wanted to be named as the administering power in a United Nations trusteeship. But the suggestion of Italy’s return to Africa in whatever form met with vigorous resistance from the inhabitants of the territory and their allies among the Arab states.
The final resolution approved by the Assembly provided that Somaliland be placed for ten years under the international trusteeship system, with Italy as the administering authority, aided by an advisory council. At the end of that period, Somaliland is to be granted independence.
Eritrea turned out to be too difficult a problem for the Assembly. Consequently it was decided to defer settlement for a year and in the meantime send out a United Nations investigating commission to discover the wishes of the people of the territory.
New lights in the East
The non-Communist nations of the East played a leading role in the Assembly’s decisions. Ever since the New Delhi conference, which exerted a powerful influence on the Indonesian decision, the Asia coalition has had portentous significance.
The anchor state in the coalition has been India. Its size and geographically strategic position explain its key importance in future developments in the East. It has also consistently sent to the United Nations representatives of such high caliber as Sir B. N. Rau, Mr. Shiva Rau, and Father J. D’Souza.
General Carlos Romulo of the Philippines, who was unanimously chosen President of the Assembly, was a distinguished chairman and an effective mediator. And study of the records of debates brings to the fore the names of Sir Zafrullah Khan of Pakistan, Nasrollah Entezam of Iran, and Charles Malik of Lebanon.
The new influence of the nations of the East has destroyed the “automatic majority" that has been the bêle noire of the Russians. At present, the power balance of the world may be determined by the industrial and military might of the United States and the Soviet Union. But, in the assembly of the nations, there are signs that Pandit Nehru’s dream of the East as a third force in world affairs may soon become a reality.