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Soviet retreat from the extravagant expectations regarding the third world. While Moscow need no longer fear the United Nations as an imperialist tool directed against the Soviet Union, the Organization offers the Soviet leaders scant prospect of assuming a commanding or controlling position. The result is a generally supportive but fairly modest and rigid Soviet estimate of the U.N.'s potential. Moscow has been winning more but enjoying it less.
The explicit Soviet approach to the U.N. is thoroughly conservative. Moscow seems more conscious than ever of its own status—as a major power, a part of the world establishment, possessor of the veto, achiever of strategic parity with the United States, model and mentor for one and all.1
The Soviet Union makes clear that the U.N. is a voluntary association of sovereign states; it cannot act as a kind of superstate. Hence Moscow rejects all arguments that point precisely to the lack of such authority as the source of the U.N.'s ineffectiveness. By the same token, it rejects all calls for revision of the United Nations Charter. It seeks to refute all criticism of the veto; it insists on the prerogatives of the Security Council as the sole body empowered to find threats to peace, to determine the appropriate action, and if needed to direct and control U.N. peacekeeping operations. This leaves the door open for any of the permanent members to veto such a decision, but this is presumably a necessary price to pay for the Soviet Union's assurance that it can estop any action if and when this is deemed important.?
EFFECT OF CHINESE PRESENCE ON SOVIET PARTICIPATION
Moscow sees the U.N. as variable in its effects—at times welcome, at times embarrassing, and at times frustrating to the U.S.S.R. A new factor which has complicated the Soviet posture is the Chinese presence. If in recent years there has been a general new civility and frequently a measure of restraint at United Nations gatherings the SinoSoviet exchanges at the U.N. have been marked by striking vituperation, unmitigated accusations and countercliarges. Moscow does not mind acknowledging that it finds the Chinese obstructive. It cannot respond to the challenge to demonstrate its revolutionary commitment before an assembly whose professed values are those of parliamentary give-and-take. It has also learned that it cannot afford to absent itself,
1 In most unrevolutionary fashion, Soviet statements stress not only the prerogatives of national sovereignty but also the fact that the U.N. "does not replace traditional forms of interstate contacts.” See, e.g., Anatoly Gromyko, "The United Nations : Ways To Increase Its Effectiveness,” in Edwin H. Fedder, ed., "The United Nations: Problems and Prospects" (St. Louis, 1971), pp. 1–3; and V. F. Petrovski, “Sovetskie uchenye o meste i roli OON V sovremennom mire," "Voprosy istorii," 1972, No. 5, pp. 79-80.
2 See, in addition, the authoritative collection, "OON: Itogi, tendentsii, perspektivy" (Moscow, 1970); Boris Prokofiev, “OON--25 let” (Moscow, 1970); G. K. Eîmoy, "Gen. eral'naia assambleia OON" (Moscow, 1969); V. Viktorov, “Worldwide Forum of Nations,'' "International Affairs" (Moscow), 1972, No. 10; N. Kapchenko, "World Developments and the United Nations," ibid., 1973, No. 12; V. Fedorov, "The U.N. Charter and International Security,” ibid., 1974, No. 9. The official Soviet position is contained in the letter from Foreign Minister Gromyko to the U.N. Secretary-General, July 4, 1972; reprinted in Ibid., 1972, No. 10, pp. 119–120.
Contrast, e.g;; with Francis Wilcox and Carl Marcy, “Proposals for Changes in the United Nations". (Washington, D.C., 1955); President's Commission for the
Observance of the 25th Anniversary of the United States (Lodge Commission), Report (Washington, D.C. 1971); United Nations Association U.S.A., "Controlling Conflicts in the 1970's" and "The United Nations in the 1970's" (New York, 1969, 1972) ; Richard N. Gardner, ed., "The United States and the United Nations: Can We Do Better ?" (New York, 1972); Charles W. Yost, “The Insecurity of Nations" (New York, 1968).
as it did from the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, lest it abandon the field to the Chinese. On occasion Soviet proposals seem calculated in large measure to show up the Chinese and their Albanian friends, to force them to take a public stand and thereby to isolate them from other member states.
OTHER FACTORS IN SOVIET VIEWS ON THE U.N.
It is another unspoken Soviet axiom that the U.N. must be kept out of all Soviet bloc affairs, internal as well as interstate. Hence a firm stand in defense of domestic jurisdiction—which, it is true, does not keep the U.S.S.R. from voting for the condemnation of apartheidits uncompromising opposition to all efforts to give greater stress to human rights within the U.N. framework; and insistence on controls, for example, over foreign satellite television transmissions to the U.S.S.R.
There are evidently some areas of disagreement among Soviet observers and practitioners concerned with the U.N. A close reading of Soviet comments, for example, shows differences regarding the nonpolitical aspects of U.N. work. While some observers stress the socioeconomic and scientific technological programs and agencies, the traditional and still predominant Soviet view has been to insist that the principal aim of the U.N. is to strengthen peace and security; in this perspective, any effort to put more emphasis on or resources into other activities amounts to an attempt to sidetrack the political functions of the U.N. and must be resisted. It is likely that this disagreement relates to varying estimates of the Third World. The dominant Soviet view apparently no longer puts great stock in the U.N. as a bridge to the underdeveloped nations, whereas some observers do see benefits from such a linkage.1
In its public pronouncements the Soviet Union has in recent years made itself a champion of the U.N. There is reason to think that, given the multiple reservations it harbors, this is at least partly intended to dramatize the contrast between Soviet faith, optimism, and commitment, and the increasingly grudging and negative American stance. Soviet commentary has also stressed the adoption by the U.N. of various Soviet-sponsored declarations that amount to pious generalities, such as the condemnation of colonialism, the use of force, or the forcible seizure of territory—behavior already outlawed by the U.N. Charter or other sources of international law. Given the impossibility of enforcing such resolutions, such Soviet initiatives of purely declaratory pronouncements smack of grandstanding.
Leaving aside tactical and ideological differences, however, the Soviet Union, not unlike the United States, sees the U.N. as a desirable but distinctly limited, supplementary, or subordinate instrumentality in the pursuit of its national policies.
1 A Soviet discussion of foreign aid argues that "the socialist countries are in no position” fully to finance the development of certain African States, who consider such support essential. Forgetting about the traditional dogma that imperialist aid is ipso facto exploitative, Soviet writers now occasionally recommend that Western assistance be in fact stepped up,
as it were supplementing Communist aid programs. David Morison, "U.S.S.R. and Third World, III," "Mizan,” XII, 135; cited in Morton Schwartz, “The U.S.S.R. and Leftist Regimes in Less Developed Countries," "Survey” (London), No. 87.(spring, 1973). The same point is made in Y. Tomilin, “The United Nations and International Détente.' "International Affairs” (Moscow), 1974, No. 3, p. 36.
THE UNITED STATES AND THE U.S.S.R. IN THE UNITED NATIONS
There has been a qualitative improvement in Soviet-American relations over the last several years. If one searches for reasons to explain this development, a variety of factors suggest themselves: The substantial growth in Soviet economic and strategic power; the change in outlook and priorities of the Soviet leadership; the Sino-Soviet conflict, with all its implications for Soviet security, ideology, and perception of friend and foe, and the opportunities for Sino-American rapprochement; a keener Soviet recognition of economic, technological, and managerial shortcomings, some of which may be remediable by increased intercourse with the West; a shared awareness of the common interest in reducing the risks of war and stabilizing the international environment; the increasing self-isolation of the United States from its erstwhile friends and allies, and the effects of the Vietnam war. This list could be elaborated and extended; the point is merely to suggest that none of the relevant variables includes the United Nations. It is difficult to envisage scenarios in which the U.N. would play a major part in influencing the superpowers' relationship.
Soviet insistence on strict construction of the charter, too, makes virtually certain that the U.N. will not significantly aid in the resolution of conflicts involving either or both superpowers. What is likely to be recognized as functional and desirable by both sides is the role of the U.N. as a forum for the airing of positions; as a locus of formal and informal meetings, explorations, and contacts—including those made through third parties
and as an impartial outsider whenever both parties to a conflict see such a face-saving out. In all these cases the U.N. serves as an agency facilitating solution, agreement, or negotiation; in none does it make significant autonomous input affecting either the Soviet Union or the United States.1
PARALLEL U.S. AND U.S.S.R. POSITIONS
There is one area, however, in which the experience of the United Nations has come to exert an influence of its own, and to do so asymmetrically--far more on the U.S.S.R. than on the United States. It is one which neither side planned and which the Soviet delegates would in fact be likely to deny. This is the growing frequency with which the United States and the Soviet Union take similar or parallel positions on particular issues, or even jointly sponsor new programs or resolutions, or intuitively tend to respond to new situations in similar fashion.
The phenomenon has been particularly striking whenever large numbers of member states have lined up on the other side of the argument. And perhaps even to a greater extent than the facts warrant, some observers--earlier, the Yugoslavs; more recently, the Chineseprofess to see all manner of collusion or at least covergence between the two global rivals. As a Yugoslav observer reported on a General Assembly session, for instance, a few years ago : :
A series of proposals were advanced concerning ways of promoting the role of the United Nations. * * * Almost as a rule, the superpowers unanimously opposed all such proposals. *** The latest General Assembly session has clearly outlined the contours of a new type of constellation in the present phase of activity of the U.N., with the superpowers on one side and all the remaining world on the other,
1 The relative importance of informal contacts at the U.N. may in fact decrease over time, as (1) the détente makes for more direct contacts between the principals, and (2) other bilateral and multilateral institutions and conferences proliferating outside the United Nations make communication between the superpowers easier, regardless of the U.N.
The New China News Agency routinely reports on the superpowers' “collusion,” and the small and medium-sized countries” which condemn the two superpowers.
In the perception of the “Third World” nations, it is particularly in connection with economic development programs that both Russia and America—whatever the differences between them—have shown rather identical reluctance to provide the kinds and quantities of assistance these nations demand. Both have sought to minimize or deny the political leverage and the economic claims of developing countries. The Secretary General has remarked on the contrast in the positions of the more developed and the less developed countries. It is often said that the global cleavage is no longer between East and West but rather between North and South; if so, then to the many have-nots the two superpowers symbolize the "have's”.
This attitude is at times reciprocated, too. There is more symbolism than may be at first apparent in the anecdote which Lincoln P. Bloomfield relates. He recalls sitting in the U.N. delegates' lounge with a senior Soviet delegate. “As the noise got louder and the crowd thicker, he suddenly looked up and burst out: 'We simply cannot do business in this place." 2
One area in which common Soviet and American positions have invited comment and at times bitter criticism from other
member states is arms control. In two instances in particular—the drafts of the NonProliferation Treaty and of the Seabed Treaty--the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. faced the U.N. membership with a joint proposal, worked out directly between them, and then requiring considerable renegotiation, bargaining, and amendment to secure the support of other interested parties.
The Soviet Union has been especially sensitive to charges of collusion with the archimperialists. It has gone out of its way to denounce and dispell them. But one cannot escape the impression that in fact, over recent years, a modus operandi has evolved in which, despite their profound divergencies, Soviet and American U.N. representatives have come to know how to deal with each other, have, over some 10 years, sought to avoid exacerbating verbal bouts, have in fact at times worked out compromises behind
the scenes, and have probably quite unwittingly come to share certain likes and dislikes, as well as some general perceptions of the international scene.
Some observers might go further and argue that both delegations have given evidence of a sort of acculturation or adaptive behavior. They might point, for example, to an abstention from voting in the Security Council rather than have a negative vote recorded as a veto; recourse to consensus procedure under which no formal vote is taken; and informal understandings not to speak on a given issue before the Security Council or the General Assembly. Such instances do illustrate the acceptance of tacit or explicit rules of the game by adversary participants. There is, however, no evidence that the styles of interaction at the U.N. have any tangible impact on Soviet or American policymakers back home.
1 M. Barisic, "The United Nations and the Superpowers,” “Review of International Affairs" (Belgrade), No. 450 (Jan. 5, 1969) ; cited in Brinkley, p. 121.
2 Lincoln P. Bloomfield, in "Problems of Communism” (Washington, D.C.), March-April 1973, p. 64.
A recent Soviet article recognizes that some nonalined countries have expressed the fear that an understanding between the two powers, United States and U.S.S.R., could be detrimental to the interests of the third world. Their efforts, in effect, to monitor United StatesSoviet talks "cannot be considered as constructive." (Tomilin, loc. cit., p. 35.)
CURRENT PRIORITIES AND TRENDS
The current priorities of both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are, in different ways, being contested at home; and future reversals of their policies cannot be ruled out. Nonetheless, one may assume that in broad features a continuation of present trends is likely. If so, one may hazard the
that the United Nations is unlikely to have any major influence on the relationship of the two major powers; and that they are unlikely to rely on the U.N. in the development of their mutual relations.
In this fundamental regard, then, the situation remains unchanged. What has changed, in addition to the balance of power is the diminution of ideological elements in Soviet conduct. It is true that the Soviet approach to the U.N. is still officially justified in orthodox Leninist terms as a way of continuing the worldwide class struggle by other means. But there is a remarkable hiatus between doctrinal rationalizations and revolutionary rhetoric, on the one hand, and Soviet insistence on the plenitude of national sovereignty and on various conventions of bourgeois diplomacy, on the other. Especially in the past decade, traditional Communist categories such as the "two-camp” view of the world, so thoroughly at odds with the one-world conception of the U.N. have been further confounded and empirically contradicted most dramatically, by the Sino-Soviet split. The assumption of a reasonably pragmatic approach is increasingly likely to provide a realistic guide to Soviet behavior in the U.N. This is not to suggest that the Soviet Union is likely to acknowledge such a trend; nor that there do not remain serious preconceptions and blinders impeding a fuller understanding.
The U.S. outlook has similarly lost some of its phobic qualities, with the Kissinger diplomacy in regard to both Moscow and Peking; the termination of the Vietnam war; the recognition of Soviet-American strategic parity; the perception of mutual benefit from various joint endeavors with the U.S.S.R.; and Soviet rejection of the trade bill stipulating conditions for the award of most-favored-nation status to the U.S.S.R.
There are some elements of symmetry in the two powers' view of the United Nations. Both have sought to use, or refrain from using, the U.N. when it suited their purposes. Both have adapted their conduct and policies to the changing mood and membership of the U.N., but both have been frustrated by the numerical preponderance of small and underdeveloped nations. Both have viewed the United Nations as an instrument of limited utility. Authoritative texts on both sides ignore the U.N. as a significant agency for peace. Both have displayed mixed attitudes containing elements of self-righteousness as well as assertions of idealism. Both are dubious of the U.N.'s ability to solve serious crises. Both have sought to keep down U.N. budgets, programs, and staffs. And both believe that things would be worse if there were no U.N.