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UNITED NATIONS: Lesson for Juan

2 minute read

Every statesman, in his first go at negotiating with Russia, thinks that he will succeed where others have failed. Argentina’s Juan Bramuglia was no exception. Nervously chain-smoking his black Argentine cigarettes, he spent two weeks shuttling back & forth between the Soviet Embassy and the headquarters of the Western delegations, trying to work out a compromise for the Berlin crisis.

The delegates were seized by feverish compromise hopes. At one point during a Security Council session, spectators anxiously watching Andrei Vishinsky were startled when he rushed from the Palais de Chaillot stage. It was, however, no political demonstration. In his haste Vishinsky blundered into the ladies’ room.

The “Little Six” compromise draft suggested that the Russians end the Berlin blockade immediately, and that the Berlin military governors start working out ways & means of establishing the Russian mark as Berlin’s only currency, under four-power control. The Western Allies accepted this proposal and agreed to drop their demand for a Security Council vote censuring Russia.

This week, on the morning after U.N.’s third anniversary, Vishinsky informed Bramuglia that he had a “counter-proposal.” Bramuglia hastily called the principals into his suite at the plush Hotel George V, locked the door, and turned the night latch. But the Russian “counterproposal” was no secret. It was the same old story: Russia wanted its currency introduced first—then it promised to lift the blockade.

When the Council finally convened, President Bramuglia put the Little Six compromise proposal to a vote. Arc lights blazed and a hundred cameras clicked as Vishinsky’s hand, pausing on its way to flick an invisible speck of dust from its owner’s black suit, sharply stabbed the air. “We cannot accept . . .” said Vishinsky. It was Russia’s 28th veto. Said the U.S.’s Philip Jessup: “In the judgment of the world . . . if the Berlin question is not settled . . . the responsibility of failure will rest squarely and unavoidably on the government of the U.S.S.R.”

Juan Bramuglia had learned the painful lesson anyone learns who tries to make Russia see reason.

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