1946: Creating the Postwar World

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Peter Kihss ’33

Writing for the New York Herald Tribune before his legendary tenure at the New York Times, Peter Kihss reported extensively on the first years of the United Nations, beginning with the search for a headquarters and proceeding to the founding of Israel and the high-stakes early stages of the Cold War.

The New York Herald Tribune – December 31, 1946
“U.N. Commission Adopts Baruch Atom Plan, 10-0; Russia, Poland Abstain; Report Includes Veto Ban but Gromyko Is Expected to Oppose It in Council; Russian Says Plan Violates Charter; Speaking In English, He Repeats Objection to Elimination of the Veto”

By Peter Kihss

LAKE SUCCESS, L.I., Dec. 30 – The United Nations Atomic Energy Commission adopted today its first report to the Security Council — a historic agreement on major principles for creation of an international agency of control and inspection, to insure that atomic energy be used for peaceful purposes. Included was a crucial recommendation, insisted on by Bernard M. Baruch, American representative, that no nation be allowed a veto over punishments for any violation.

The vote was ten to nothing, with the Soviet Union and Poland abstaining. And, although Andrei A. Gromyko, newly named Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister, voiced his nation’s continued objection to elimination of the great-power Security Council veto even in atomic sanctions, the Russian decision to abstain enabled the commission to complete this major chapter without the discordance of even one negative vote.

The veto over punishments was the only major item of divergence. But it was only one item, and the dozen nations represented, including the Soviet Union, were agreed on a far-reaching area of proposals that could have a fateful bearing on the world’s future history. Among the ten nations voting “yes” were the other four great powers — the United States, United Kingdom, France and China — and the representatives of a cross-section of the smaller nations: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Mexico and the Netherlands.

Goes to Council

From here the report goes to the Security Council, and there the indication was that the Soviet Union would renew its argument that the veto recommendation violates the United Nations Charter.

At 11 a.m. tomorrow the Security Council will take up here a new Soviet proposal by Mr. Gromyko to create a commission to formulate concrete disarmament proposals within three months. The United States viewpoint is that any such study should cover only non-atomic arms, and that the recent Assembly disarmament resolution made such a differentiation, leaving the Atomic Energy Commission to continue work in its field.

Whether Mr. Gromyko would argue that any armaments commission should also delve into the atomic field was not known, and he cryptically told reporters he considered his proposal to be clear. This morning he renewed his demand in the atomic body for an early convention to prohibit atomic and other mass-destruction weapons, but the adopted report said such a ban should be included in an all-embracing control treaty.

85-Page Document

The approved atomic report was a document whose main body numbered eighty-five pages, and whose political recommendations were only slightly modified from the American resolution introduced by Mr. Baruch on Dec. 5, when he began his now-triumphant showdown drive. Essential findings and recommendations were:

1. A scientific study had shown uranium and thorium played a unique role in any control, as the only substance from which man can now make nuclear fuel.

2. A technical study found controls must be exercised though an international control agency, operating by means of accounting, inspection, supervision, management and licensing at various stages in the atomic process. This agency will itself have to manage the crucial plants from which nuclear fuels — uranium-235 and plutonium and, in theory, uranium-233 — can be produced.

3. The control system must be set up in a comprehensive multilateral treaty, in which outlawry of national atomic weapons is essential, but is only one aspect. This treaty would specify violations, and insure swift and sure punishment by banning any veto to protect a willful violator.

4. Serious violations must be reported by the authority to the nations who joined in the treaty, to the United Nations General Assembly and to the Security Council, and a grave violation might also give rise to the right of self-defense recognized by the United Nations Charter.

5. The treaty should specify the steps in the transition to full control with the Atomic Energy Commission supervising it and determining when each stage is accomplished.

Gromyko Center of Action

As so often during the atomic deliberations, it was the thirty-seven-year-old Mr. Gromyko, only yesterday elevated to the rank of Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister, around whom the climactic proceedings swirled, in this culmination day of a showdown drive by Mr. Baruch for action.

Mr. Gromyko did not keep his colleagues waiting. Dr. Manuel Sandoval Vallarta, of Mexico, a world-renowned physicist, to whom fell the task of presiding as his country was just about to leave the commission at the year’s end, called for debate on the draft report, as agreed on in working committee last Friday.

Mr. Gromyko was the first speaker. He spoke in English, instead of his usual Russian. His colleagues hung on his remarks, the first Soviet participation in debate since Dec. 17, when Mr. Gromyko figuratively walked out on discussions on the ground he needed more time for study. Then, in an unusual gesture in Soviet practice, a copy of his remarks was given each delegate.

He started by recalling that the Assembly had resolved the commission should submit without delay to the Security Council its proposals for control, including the prohibition of atomic and other major mass-destruction weapons. He said the American recommendations, embodied in the commission report, did not altogether conform with the Assembly disarmament resolution in that they spoke of control “within the framework of the United Nations organization,” instead of “within the framework of the Security Council.”

Soviet Objections Stand

Then he came to the veto issue, which other delegations had sought to soften by words which would attain the same end without using the noun. And it became clear that the Soviet Union had not relaxed its objections on this count — Mr. Gromyko said the American recommendation contradicted the principles of the U.N.

“The basis of effective activities of the Security Council, bearing the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace,” Mr. Gromyko said, “is undermined by these proposals, since they provide that the principle of unanimity of the five great powers (the principle of veto) should not be applicable when the Security Council takes decision in sanctions in cases when it is determined that the treaty is violated — to speak nothing of the fact that the above proposals in this respect are in contradiction with the Charter of the United Nations.”

Referring indirectly to Mr. Baruch’s declaration last Friday that only would-be violators wanted a veto right, Mr. Gromyko said such statements were “light-minded.” And he said his attitude did not involve only the matter of wording but the substance of the proposition. The veto clause in the report, he said, should be removed.

Mr. Gromyko agreed, however, that “it is indisputable that control organs and organs of inspection should carry out their control and inspection functions, acting on the basis of their own rules, which should provide for the adoption of decisions by majority in appropriate cases.” This elimination of veto over day-to-day operations had been indorsed by Soviet Foreign Minister Viacheslav M. Molotov during the recent Assembly debates.

Concluding, Mr. Gromyko said the Soviet government “proposes to consider the proposals of the United States representative, submitted on Dec. 5, 1946, concerning the control of atomic energy item by item, in order to include absolutely necessary corrections, and to proceed without delay with preparation of the international convention on the prohibition of the production and use of atomic and other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction, having in mind the draft convention submitted by the Soviet government on June 19, 1946.

Mr. Baruch tersely moved adoption of the draft report forwarded by the Working Committee, a document which had left the veto issue for full commission decision although approving all the other clauses. Australia and Brazil backed him up. Canada, though General Andrew G.L. McNaughton, who had worked hard for tactical as well as fundemental harmony, agreed, holding the present veto clauses represented the greatest possible measure of agreement.

Sir Alexander Cadogan, of Great Britain, regretted that the Soviet Union opposed even the principle of banning veto protection for violators, and therefore he supported the present report. Alexander Parodi, of France, stressed the achievements embodied in the report.

At 1:02 p.m., Mr. Gromyko said: “Mr. Chairman, it is obvious from my statement that I did not make any proposal to take a vote on my statement in this meeting.” China backed the present report. The Netherlands made one more effort to spotlight the area of agreement, suggesting the veto clauses be voted on separately, but then Beelaerts Van Blokland, Dutch representative, decided not to press this idea. Ambassador Oscar Lange, of Poland, expressed dismay at Big Five discord, and hoped for more conciliation.

The delegates took an hour out for lunch. When they convened Ambassador Lange suggested the chairman, in transmitting the report to the Security Council, might note reservations of some delegations, which could be conveyed to him by letter. Then he said Poland would abstain, because it felt some passages did not meet an essential requirement of Big Five agreement, but because it also recognized that “great work” had been done on basic issues.

Thus, the vote took place, at 3:27 p.m., on this motion by Mr. Baruch: “The Atomic Energy Commission resolves that the draft report (Document AEC/18) as forwarded to this commission by the Working Committee be adopted as the report of this commission to be submitted to the Security Council by 31 December, 1946.”

Today’s action was a triumph for the American plan, for its principles were those Mr. Baruch had battled for through months of political dispute and then the more productive stages of fact-finding.

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