The Atlantic Report on the World Today: The United Nations

ON August 1, 1950, Jacob Malik, chief delegate of the Soviet Union to the United Nations, returned to assume the presidency of the Security Council. While the eager newcomers watched for some sign that Mr. Malik had been softened and cheered by his long vacation, the old-timers were more concerned about his future plans.

It was assumed that he would try to seat the representative of the new government of China. It was also assumed that in this attempt he would be defeated. Would he then walk out or would he stay? If he walked out, the big build-up in connection with his return would have served merely to give prominent play to one more protest against the continued presence of the Chinese “usurper.” If he stayed, it could be interpreted as a basic shift in Soviet policy.

The drill went off according to schedule. President Malik ruled that the representative of the Chinese People’s Republic should be seated. He was challenged by Ambassador Austin of the United States. After some procedural jockeying, the ruling was put to vote and defeated. The President, after unsuccessfully trying to convince the Council that the vote was “seven to three — plus the vote of the representative of the Kuomintang group,” stated that the overruling of the chair was illegal. This, according to the old rules, would have been a prelude to a walkout. Instead, however, Mr. Malik announced that the Council would proceed to the next item on the agenda.

The Soviet shift had taken place. Many believed that it meant a confession of error and the beginning of an attempt to repair the damage that had been done by Russia’s previous boycotting of the UN. Russia’s absence had enabled the Council to brand North Korea the aggressor, entrust full command of the United Nations military operations to General MacArthur, authorize the flying of the blue and white UN flag alongside those of the coöperating armies, and rally the support of no fewer than 53 of the 59 member nations.

The Soviet Union could have prevented this situation by its presence on the Council. Now it discovered itself an outlaw, defending a nation judged by the United Nations to be an aggressor, and facing the hostile opinion of most nations of the world. In such a position, Russia’s role as chief partisan of peace could hardly be convincing.

There is another factor which may have entered into the change in Russia’s position. The direct effect of the Korean war was the beginning of allout military mobilization for the United States and the Western democracies. Rightly or wrongly the Korean attack was interpreted as telegraphing a much more powerful Communist punch. To meet this greater blow, full-scale mobilization was being undertaken. Almost certainly, full-scale mobilization of the West pointed to that final military showdown which, if at all possible, the Soviet Union wished to avoid. It is conceivable that Mr. Malik‘s return had something to do with a desire to head off the big war. And in this respect perhaps Mr. Malik‘s long-run aim may not have differed essentially from those of many of his colleagues around the horseshoe table, even if in those August weeks his obstructionism did little to persuade the Western nations of the pacific aims of his government.

The pilgrimage of Mr. Lie

One man had viewed the continuing boycott by the Russians as a major disaster. Trygve Lie, the massive Norwegian who occupies the post of Secretary General, lost his accustomed geniality during those seven months. Mr. Lie is something more than the most senior international civil servant. Under the Charter, he has the right and duty to call the attention of the member nutions to what he considers to be threats to the peace. On several occasions he has suggested that, the greatest handicap to the effective functioning of the world organization is the incapacity of the great powers to get along together.

During the Russian vacation Mr. Lie had come to the conclusion that something perhaps a little unorthodox had to be done. If Moscow would not come to Lake Success, he would go to Moscow. And he would go by way of Washington, London, and Paris and come back by way of Paris, London, and Washington.

It is hard to say at this point what was accomplished by Mr. Lie’s pilgrimage. He saw Mr. Truman and Mr. Acheson. He saw Mr. Attlee and Mr. Bevin. He saw Mr. Schuman. He saw Mr. Stalin. What was said in those conversations was not reported. He presented to each a memorandum setting forth a ten-point, twenty-year program for peace. He said in his memorandum that The considered that the Chinese question had to be settled before the program could begot under way.

Lie’s program for peace

Mr. Lie’s peace program began by suggesting that if would be a good thing to have— almost at once — a special meeting of the Security Council as provided in the Charter, a meeting attended by the heads of states or foreign secretaries. One weakness of the United Nations has arisen from the low rank of most delegates. It would be a healthy change to see secretaries of state seated around the Security Council table. Mr. Lie does not expect miracles from such meetings. But they would let the world know that negotiations were being resumed and that some serious effort wits being made to reach limited agreement on a few subjects.

Mr. Lie went on to suggest that a new and serious effort could be made to reach some agreement on atomic and conventional arms control and on the establishment of Lin international force. Then came a plea for the principle of universality: keeping a nation out of the world organization solves no problem. There are bound to be differences of political and economic philosophies among member nations. But they should be discussed or tolerated uithin the organization and not be used as a basis of exclusion.

The Secretary General stressed the importance of technical and economic aid of the promotion of human rights, of special regard for the political and economic aspirations of peoples in non-self-governing countries. And he urged that more attention be paid to the extension of the rule of law throughout the world. It was a valid program and quite within the reach of fulfillment, granted the initial will among nations to coöperate.

The stumbling block of China remained. Seven votes were needed to unseat the representative of Nationalist China. Five on the Council had recognized the new regime. On the strength of the White Paper on China, the United States government should have been one of those, but the effect of the external attacks from the Russians and the internal attacks from Senator McCarthy was to paralyze the Administration and prevent any overt shift in its Far East policy. The American representative promised that he would not apply a veto if seven votes said that Dr. T. F. Tsiang must go; but two votes were still lacking and Dr. Tsiang sat firmly in his somewhat, uncomfortable chair.

The impact of Korea

Korea achieved two of the purposes sought by the Secretary General: it restored the United Nations’ prestige and it brought back the Russians. Friends of the United Nations had become used to apologizing for the vetobound Security Council and defensively making out a good case for the UN’s role as a conciliator instead of as a wielder of punitive power.

The surprising response of the Security Council and of fifty-three nations changed the status of the United Nations in the eyes of the world. Here was a new historical precedent, perhaps the first beginnings of the rule of law in the world society: a nation was charged with aggression and placed not only under censure but under military sanctions by a world organization.

There was more than added prestige coming out of Korea. There was greatly increased danger arising from the fact that the war in Korea was generally regarded in the West as but one aspect of the world struggle of democracy versus Communism. Russia’s return to the Council and its violent attacks on “aggressive American imperialism” emphasized this larger conflict. It. required a fairly high degree of political sophistication to keep separate the battle reports of a limited war in Korea from the global ideological clashes at Lake Success.

But for the sober ones this was precisely what had to be done. If now the United Nations were transformed into an enlarged Atlantic Alliance it was doomed. The single great force for peace in the world would have been destroyed. For a Western United Nations would call into being an Eastern United Nations built up around the Soviet Union and China.

Of the nations around the Council table India was most alive to this danger. Pandit Nehru had already attempted exploratory negotiations with Premier Stalin in the interest of ending the Korean war. By the third week in August he was in touch with the Peking government with a similar end in view; while at Lake Success, Sir Benegal Rau, India‘s able representative, was proposing that the nonpermanent members of the Council constitute a committee to formulate United Nations peace objectives which would best serve the interests of the Korean people.

Trygve Lie approached the matter bluntly in the introduction to his fifth annual report to the General Assembly when he said: “I believe it will take nothing less than a bold and enlightened act of statesmanship to bring about a resumption of negotiations and to halt further deterioration towards another World War. “ ”

Asia’s rising voice

The Fifth Assembly is meeting in the shadow of the Korean war. Its lengthy agenda reflects the ever broadening activities of the world organization as it concerns itself with the housekeeping details of the emergent world society — important details of sponsoring economic coöperation, supervising trust territories, promoting a higher regard for human rights, conducting mediation and conciliation efforts, Kashmir, Libya, Somaliland, Indians in South Africa, Jerusalem.

Much of this agenda must be treated as of secondary importance. What the world is faced with is peace or war. What the United Nations is faced with is survival or extinction. The issues concerning the immediate crisis of our time must be given top priority.

Observers at recent Assemblies of the United Nations have noted the rising voice of the peoples of Asia, the increasing influence which their delegates exert in the decisions of the whole body. For this reason the issue of Chinese representation must reach a satisfactory solution.

It has become increasingly absurd that 400 million Chinese people are represented in the United Nations by a government which has lost all authority on the mainland of China. In the opinion of a number of delegations, including that of India, which can certainly not be suspected of any Communist, leanings, it is by no means certain that the new government of China will form a close alliance with Moscow or behave as a faithful Stalinist stooge. In fact, many say that the chances are good that, given the opportunity, it will gravitate towards close association with India and that these two countries, with three quarters of a billion population between them, will constitute a third force in Asia, non-Communist, non-Western.

It is commonly held at Lake Success that in order to prevent such a development the Soviet Union has been making it as difficult as possible for the West to accept new China as a United Nations member. Kept out of the club for too long, China is almost bound to regard its most vociferous sponsor as its best friend. Bold statesmanship is called for to seat, the new Chinese representatives in the Security Council and the General Assembly.

Gestures are not enough

The problems of Asia that this Assembly is facing go beyond Korea and the settlement of Chinese representation. The demand for emancipation and equal partnership on the part of the awakening peoples of Asia requires abandonment of colonial concepts.

Fortunately the United Nations, under the pressure of smaller nations and certain Asian delegations, but with increasing support from the United States, has been revealing a more active concern in fostering free political institutions, promoting human rights, and providing the economic and technical means to improve standards of living. High on the Assembly‘s agenda is the United Nations technical aid program, miserably inadequate in its present dimensions, but a beginning. However, with the Western world gearing itself for war and already burdened with war expenditures, it will take the highest imagination and the boldest statesmanship to give such a program of economic assistance equal priority with a program of military preparedness. The technical aid program in its present form is a mere gesture. Today, in Asia, gestures are not enough.