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The Red or the Black


Almost the victim of the Russian "troika" scheme, the United Nations now faces financial paralysis. Last week U Thant, the Secretary General, proposed floating a two-hundred million dollar bond issue in order to save the organization from complete collapse. This unusual proposal reflects a malady which has rapidly worsened during the Congo crisis: the failure of members to pay their assessments both for regular operating expenses and for special operations. The Soviet Bloc alone owes more than forty million dollars, including its share of the Congo expenses, which it absolutely refuses to pay. Nationalist China holds second place with a total delinquancy of over twelve million. The U.N., already deeply in debt, requires the bonds if it is to operate for even a short period of time. The United States has rightly offered to buy 50% of the bond issue.

Although the present situation results in part from the temporary negligence or financial straits of many members, the U.N. must face a brutal fact: no nation will contribute to an operation which it considers contrary to its national interest. The refusal to pay a penny of the Congo costs by the Soviet Union, France, Belgium and South Africa exemplifies this fact.

The Administration can perhaps persuade Great Britain and several other allies to pay their assessments, but such payment would be only a small step towards solving the present crisis. There are no ways to force recalcitrant members to contribute. Large offenders such as the Soviet Union or even France are out of reach; the with-holding of U.N. services such as the FAO from the smaller ones until they paid would be ineffective and unjust. Direct U.S. subsidy would not be advisable, leaving loans or a bond issue as the only viable alternatives.

Mr. Thant's proposal, even if accepted by the General Assembly and Congress, contains several difficulties. American financial buttressing would be expensive and would hardly encourage punctual contributions from other members. Both the U.N. and the United States would have to parry the accusation that the world organization was a tool of the U.S.

Yet the amount of money involved in purchasing the bonds would be only a small fraction of our foreign aid budget. The need for a forum of world opinion is apparent. Its decisions clearly effect the policy of the Soviet Union and other powers, providing a necessary softening of cold war frictions. Its subsidiary services have given invaluable aid to many underdeveloped countries. Most important, U.N. troops enforce a certain amount of peace and order where single power intervention would lead to large-scale war. Thus even at the cost of much inconvenience and expense, the United States must preserve the U.N. The purchase of the bonds is a necessary step towards this end.

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