The Dumbarton Oaks Conference

Between August 21 and October 7, 1944 representatives of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and China met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. Following the Moscow Conference of 1943, this gathering sought to lay out the principles and furnish the blueprint for the United Nations.

            It was as Dumbarton Oaks that the basic structure of the new world organization was established. This included a General Assembly comprised of all members, the Security Council of eleven members, an International Court of Justice, and a Secretariat. The main plan was to give the Security Council responsibility for preventing future warfare. The General Assembly would make recommendations and discuss international cooperation.

            In spite of the progress that was made at Dumbarton Oaks, the conference ended with two main issues left unresolved.  The first involved the Soviet demand that all sixteen republics of the Soviet Union have their own seats in the General Assembly. Assistant Secretary of State Edward Stettinius feared the sixteen-count votes from the Soviets would enrage the American public. At the same time, the Soviets expressed concern over the possibility they would be outvoted in a general assembly by Britain and her dominions, and the United States along with its allies from Latin America. 

            The second main issue at the Conference concerned the veto powers granted the four (later five) permanent members of the Security Council. The Big Four nations all agreed on their right to possess a veto, but the delegates had differing ideas on how vast that veto should be. The Soviet Union believed the veto should be absolute, which would grant the big four the power to prevent even the mere discussion of dispute within the Security Council. By the time the conference ended, however, the British and American delegations came around to the view that the veto should be limited to actions only. In other words, no power would have the right to block the discussion of any issued before the Council. Stalin vehemently disagreed, with the result that if the Four Major Powers could not find a resolution to these differences, the whole effort to establish the United Nations might come to naught.