July 23, 1986 | Backgrounder on Russia
"By Breaking the Rules, Moscow Keeps a Tight Grip on the U.K."
(Archived document, may contain errors)
526 July 23, 198 6 BY BREAKING THE RULES MOSCOW KEEPS A TIGHT GRIP
ON THE U.N Charles M. Lichenstein Senior Fellow INTRODUCTION
MOSCOW~S exploitation of the United Nations is, by now, well
documented and increasingly widely recognized. Yet one of the least
understood mean s by which the Soviets abuse U.N. rules and the
Charter itself is their skillful use of fwsecondment.tw This word
is four-bit bureaucratese for temporary duty assignment I or, as it
is 'widely known in the U.S., TDY. In any civil senrice, it .is
commo n practice to assign some staff to special or "temporary11
duty, generally for brief (often fixed) terms. and to make
effective use of a relatively unusual expertise in short supply.
Nixon virtually abolished the practice in.the early 1970s, a good
part o f the White House staff was ttsecondedtf from other
executive departments and agencies. That way, the staff could be
expanded while the official Executive Office budget was kept lean
and trim Until Richard Within the United Nations Secretariat staff,
the S oviets and their East European satellites systematically have
turned secondment on its head. For Moscow, however, neither best
use of experts nor budgetary flim-flam is the objective Rather, it
i's to keep key Secretariat posts solidly in Soviet bloc hand s .
Secondment, for instance, enforces continuity of Soviet policy
control of such major Secretariat components as Political and
Security Council Affairs i I I I public information, panslation and
documentation, personnel, and conference services I In effec t,
secondment is an elaborate game of musical chairs One Soviet (or
Czech orHungarian or East German) leaves the I Secretariat, another
takes over, and the game goes on. From 35 to 50 I percent of these
Ilinternational civil servants
are in fact agents of the KGB or GRU (the major Soviet intelligence
services) or their Soviet bloc counterparts. Either way, key posts
in the U.N.
Secretariat are permanently occupied by individuals whose only
loyalty is to Soviet or bloc regimes. For good measure, they are
kept on the short leash of fixed-term contracts, revocable without
notice by Moscow or its allies MOSCOW
S use of secondment at the U.N. flagrantly violatgs the U.N.
s own rules. The U.N. Charter specifically states that all
staff-members are Ilinternatio nal officials responsible only to
the Organization that is, to the U.N. itself. The U.S. scrupulously
abides by this prime rule. So do the Western and other democracies
and almost all other U.N. members--but not the Soviet Union and its
satellites conscio u s connivance of U.N. Secretary-Generals--and
condoned by a succession of U.S. administrations. Any U.N reform a
matter that is becoming an increasingly popular cause, must include
measures to ensure that the rules insulating U'.N staff from
improper influ ence by their
governments are rigorously enforced. There is. no reason why the
U.S. should be paying 25 percent (or any share at all) of the
salaries of putative U.N. staffers who actually still work'for
Soviet bloc governments MOSCOW
S exploitation of secondment has been made possible by the HOW THE
SYSTEM WORKS The U.N. Charter is unambiguous about establishing an
international civil service whose members are neutral and are loyal
only to the U.N. Article 100 of the U.N. Charter stat e s 1) In the
performance of their duties the Secretary-General and the staff
shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from
any other authority external to the [U.N 1. See Heritage Foundation
Backerounders No. 307 Moscow's U.N. Outpost" (November 22 1983),
No. 349, "The Many Ways the U.N. Serves the USSR May 3, 1984), No.
487, "The United Nations, Library: Putting Soviet Disinformation
into Circulation" (February 18 1986). and No. 518, "MOSCOW'S
Bastion in Manhattan: The U.N. Department o f Conference Services"
(June 20, 1986 2Organization. They shall refrain from any action
which might reflect on their position as international officials
responsible only to the Organization 2) Each Member of the United
Nations undertakes to respect the ex clusively international
character of the...staff and not to seek to influence them in the
discharge of their responsibilities.
By these Charter provisions, the U.N. specifically bans the common
Soviet practice of treating Soviet nationals on the U.N. staff as
in effect, Soviet amaratchiks-which of course they are.
Article 101, meanwhile, requires that U.N. employees be qualified
professionally for their posts. The Article states The paramount
consideration in the employment of the staff...shall be securing
the highest standards lof efficiency, competence, and integrity
Article 101 adds that the Secretariat staff is to be recruited By
the word "wide on as wide a geographical basis as possible the
Article means staff recruitment from'all or nearly all U.N me m
ber-states. The Charter was drafted in 1945 when the U.N consisted
of 51 members. By 1980, during the 35th General Assembly with 159
members, the demand for top positions in the U.N. Secret,ariat had
become much more intense, and much harder to satisfy. T h e Soviets
were able to exploit this new situation by adding a.new wrinkle to
the game of secondment The Omnibus Resolution of 1980 In a landmark
comprehensive resolution on U.N. personnel practices (35/210,
December 17, 1980), the 35th General Assembly lr e affirmed'l by
consensus that the principle of professionalism cited in Article
101 of the Charter "is compatible with the principle of equitable
geographical di~tribution In essence; this Resolution transformed
"wide1' into ''equitable. I' The purp.ose, o stensibly, was to
provide all U.N. members with slots on the U.N. staff,
and'especially with top professional slots.
Secretary-General Itto raise the levels of personnel recruited from
i unrepresented and under-represented countries and countries below
the midpoint of their desirable ranse to the extent possible
towards this midpoint The General Assembly. requested the The
underlined words are crucial. The key to the new situation in
professional staffing, and to the increased Soviet opportunity to
use sec o ndment as a control mechanism, was the introduction of
the concepts of "desirable range" and "midpoints" in the Omnibus
Resolution 3This is how the U.N. system works. The top 3,350
Secretariat These positions were made "subject to geographical
distrib~tio n positions blanketed the ranks of
Under-Secretary-General (the chiefs of the Security Council and
General Assembly bureaucracies Assistant-Secretary-General (the
chiefs of such major Secretariat departments as Social Development
and Humanitarian Affairs a nd the U.N. Conference on Trade and
Development D-2 and D-1 (the chiefs of divisions within the major
departments and P-5 down to P-1 (office heads within the various
These are policy making jobs. The personnel in these slots
determine what the U.N. Secretariat does, how resources are
allocated and who is responsible for implementing the resolutions
of the General Assembly and the Security Council. As a group, the
Under-Secretary-Generals and Assistant-Secretary-Generals comprise
the Secretary- G eneral I s cabinet The I1Dla and lvPa grades are
roughly fixed-term contracts of less than one year 3,350 positions
were set aside in a regional pool, presumably to handle such
potential inequities as the total non-representation of a
particular country i n the professional ranks of the Secretariat.
The remaining 3,110 positions were then distributed among the U.N
member-states according to two criteria Moreover 240 of the 1)
Every U.N. member-nation was assigned an automatic minimum or base
allocationf1 of from 2 to 14 positions, with a lldesirablell
midpoint of 7.75; and 2) The balance of 1,872 professional slots
was allocated in strict conformity to the scale of assessed
U.N. budget, it is entitled to 25 percent of the 1,872 professional
slots, or 468, plus the "base allocation,l# which adds up to a
so-called llmidpointln of 477.
19. The Soviet assessed contribution of 10.54 percent gives Moscow
a 205.66 midpoint while the U.K. assessment of 4.67 percent gives
it a 95.44 midpoint. The desir able range was set at 15 percent
plus-or-minus from the midpoint I Examples: because the U.S.
contributes 25 percent to the assessed i 1 I The Soviet Escape
Clause Resolution 35/210 also affirmed two controlling principles:
one has become'no more than a p ious wish, while the other
guarantees the success of the Soviets! misuse of secondment.
In the Resolution, Clause 3 declares "that no post should be
considered the exclusive preserve of any Member State, or group of
and requests the Secretary-Ge neral to ensure that this principle
is applied faithfully Inin accordance with the principlk of
equitable geographical distributi~n This is undermined, however by
Clause 4 which 4I Reauests the Secretary-General to continue to
permit replacement by candid a tes of the same nationality within a
reasonable time-frame in respect of posts held on fixed-term
contracts, whenever this is necessary to ensure that the
representation of Member.States whose nationals serve primarily on
fixed-term contracts is not adver sely affected.
Ostensibly, this clause was intended to ensure that the
representation within the U.N. Secretariat of the smaller
member-states was kept at least at midpoint in the desirable range.
Losing just one or two key staff slots would virtually wipe them
Moreover, many of these smaller countries have a limited pool of
skilled professionals and are willing to release them to the B.N.
only on fixed tenus, usually four or five years, rather than for
lifetime careers In reality, however, the claus e was designed to
protect the fiefdoms in the U.N. staff established by the Soviet
bloc. While some nationals from most countries have fixed-term
contracts 100 percent of Soviet bloc nationals in the professional
ranks of the Secretariat are on fixed-term contracts or TDY (as
distinct from careerists except for Bulgaria which has allowed 3 of
its 13 Secretariat professionals (as of mid-1985) to achieve career
or non-TDY status.
In contrast, only 39.7 percent of African state nationals serving
in the Secret ariat are on fixed-term contracts; 32.5 percent of
Asian and Pacific state nationals; 31.1 percent of West European
nationals 33.8 percent of Latin American nationals; and 19.5
percent of U.S nationals.
Much the sam e pattern holds for non-professional Secretariat
Staff. As of September 1985, of 446 Soviet nationals serving
throughout.'the U.N. bureaucracy 442 (or 96.8 percent) were on
fixed-term, non-career contracts; for the entire Soviet bloc, it
was 96.3 percent- - 59% of 614 total staff. For the entire
Secretariat however, the figure was about 30 percent Stavincr at
the Minimum Desirable Because the Soviets and their Eastern
European satellites keep virtually all of their nationals on the
short leash of fixed-term c ontracts, they can move them in and out
of'choice U.N. staff positions as their political agendas dictate.
And because the controlling General Assembly resolution 11ensures18
that their lvrepresentation...is not adversely affectedfv--in spite
of the of th e same origin--the Soviet bloc carefully keeps its
U.N. staff representation well below the Itdesirable midpoint,l#
usually right around the low end of the Ildesirable range
exhortation against automatic replacement of one national by
another 5Examples: In June 1985, Soviets held 176 professional
positions in the U.N. Secretariat, almost 15 percent below their
desirable midpoint of 205.66 and just barely within the desirable
range of 175-2
37. Bulgaria, Byelorussia, Hungary, and Poland were right around
their respective midpoints. Czechoslovakia,. East Germany, Romania
and the Ukrainian SSR were at or below the low end of their ranges.
By contrast, France was exactly at its midpoint with 129 staff
positions, the U.K. was a bit above (108 compared with 95-44), and
the U.S. was a bit below 472 compared with 477.19).
This fine tuning of the numbers allowed the Soviets and the bloc to
claim that they are in imminent danger of llunder-representation.lg
This means that they can insist on replacing in a key U.N. s taff
slot a departing Soviet national with a new Soviet national.
.Thisohas been their set practice for more than 20 years, and the
U.N., with U.S complicity, lets them get away with it WHAT SHOULD
BE DONE I What is involved here is an interlocking patter n of
Charter abuse, rule bending, and special pleading, with the
objective of locking Soviets and other Soviet bloc nationals into
key U.N last two decades and was confirmed, in effect, by the
General Assembly in its key 1980 resolution-even though the off
icial U.:N. lllinell is Itno exclusive preserves1
for any nation or group of.na$ions. In practice, the Soviet bloc
totally controls all of its nationals on the U.N. professional
staff: the secondment game simply reinforces the control I
professional staff positions. This pattern has evolved during the
Examples of this pattern of control o Almost without briak during
the 40 years of the U.N.Is history the Soviet Union has held the
major slot of Under-Secretary-General for Political and Security
Council Aff a irs who runs the bureaucracy of the U.'N.Is principal
unit, charged with meeting "threats to international peace and
securityll and with peacekeeping. These are the two preeminent
purposes of the entire U.N. system. l i o In contrast, a U.S.
national has generally held the lesser slot of
Under-Secretary-General for Political and General Assembly Affairs.
Whereas the Security Council is the 8
unit atop the U.N system, the General: Assembly specializes in
Valk. Moreover, there is absolutely no evi dence that the U.S.
government ever has lucontrolledlf or even attempted to control the
incumbent of this slot-which is in line with the practice of
virtually all of the Western and democratic U.N. member-states I I
6 I o The Soviet bloc has held on to th e key slot of Under
Secretary-General for Conference Services almost without a break
for three decades. The incumbent is a Pole. His Director of
Interpretation and Meetings is a Soviet. So is the Director of
Publications and the Director of the Library. Al l Russian language
interpretations and translation is handled by Soviet nationals, the
only U.N. language division monopolized by one country. This huge
department, the biggest in the U.N. Secretariat, runs all
conferences and backup services for meetings- a nd conferences and
meetings are the principal business of the U.N o For more than ten
years, the Director of External Relations in the U.N. Department of
public Information (whose last two chiefs have been Japanese) has
been a Soviet national disseminatio n of publications to all U.N.
Information Centers throughout the world This division controls the
Several measures could reduce substantially Soviet exploitation
ofathe U.N. by the secondment game.
First, the U.S. Ambassador to the'U.N., with the explicit backing
of the Secretary of State and coordinated support from U.S.
diplomats in all foreign capitals, should demand immediate
compliance with Clause 3 of General Assembly Resolution
35/210--that no U.N. staff positions become the Itexclusive
preserve" of any state or group of states. The Secretary-General
should be directed to limit any member-state or other state in the
same regional bloc (as these blocs are defined by the U.N.) from
occupying posts in the top four professional categories for more
than f i ve consecutive years. This rule would apply.to all Under-
and Assistant-Secretary-Generals and to all department and division
heads (D-2 and D-1 slots Some exceptions might be permitted in the
five lesser professional categories (P-5 down to P-1), but onl y if
the Secretary-General were to certify that no other qualified
candidates were available to .fill a particular slot.
This would break the Soviet bloc lock on key U.N. power centers.
It would end the perpetuation of Soviet bloc cadres within the
Secret ariat, thus making it more difficult for espionage networks
to dig in. Such a proposal should be attractive to just about all
U.N members because it would spread the top jobs. more equitably
among the member states, especially the smaller ones. Put to a v
ote in the General Assembly, this proposal could command a healthy
majority-if the U.S. made it clear it meant business.
Second, the U.S. should demand an end to the systematic Soviet
practice of Secondment on fixed-term contracts adopted setting a 50
perc ent limit on the nationals of any country seconded to the U.N.
professional staff. The smaller member-states those with minimum
staff representation in the 2 to 14 range, should A rule should be
0 -7 I be exempt from the rule professionals to draw on and,
understandably, often are able to post a few of them to the U.N.
staff for limited terms only Such countries have a limited pool of
This rule can and should be enforced by a reduction in the U.S
assessed contribution of the exact amount of the U.S. share o f the
salaries of U.N. professional staff seconded in violation of the 50
percent limit CONCLUSION Moscow exploits the U.N. and flagrantly
violates the U.N. Charter by its systematic abuse of the practice
of secondment: it movbs U.N professionals around a t will, grabs
key slots as monopoly preserves and maintains total control over
its nationals, who presumably are international civil servants
responsible only to the U.N. itself.
The U.S. must take the lead in forcing Moscow to play by the rules
that apply to everyone else: top professional slots in the U.N.
Secretariat must be rotated among all U.N. members on a regular
basis and a ceiling should be imposed on the nationals of all
countries except those with minimum staff representation) seconded
to the U.N I on-fixed-term contracts--enforced by a reduction i n
the U.S. assessed L contribution for noncompliance 7- As with all
of the U.N. reforms under consideration, the real b4neficiary of
these proposals would be the U.N. itself air. adequate, workable
Charter. It ought 'to be observed and its rules ought to b e
enforced t$e Soviets' contemptuous abuse of the principle of an
impartial system credibility it has lost, it must be serious about
reforming itself The U.N. has Putting an end to the secondment game
and to I professional international civil service can only
strengthen the U.N I If the U.N. hopes to regain some of the
respect and a-