Senator Jesse Helms Remarks to UN Security Council Members on Visit to U.S. Congress 
Washington, D.C., March 30, 2000

An unprecedented visit to Capitol Hill by all 15 members of the United Nations Security Council could prove to be a step toward "an ongoing and permanent dialogue leading to a better U.S.-U.N. relationship," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms said March 30.

Helms spoke at the start of a meeting between the United Nations ambassadors and leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees -- a return visit for one that the Foreign Relations Committee paid to the United Nations headquarters in New York in January. The meeting took place in the Foreign Relations Committee's hearing room.

Following is the prepared text of Helms' opening remarks at the meeting:

Ambassador Holbrooke, Mr. President [of the Security Council], distinguished ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is our great pleasure and honor to have you here today for this historic meeting.

This is indeed an historic day. Just as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's U.N. visit was the first time the committee had ever traveled en masse to visit an international institution, so too is this the first time that the entire United Nations Security Council has traveled together, as a group, to visit the U.S. Capitol. We are extremely honored by your presence, and hope that this is the beginning of an ongoing and permanent dialogue leading to a better U.S.-U.N. relationship.

When I spoke to you in the Security Council chamber, I said that I came with the intent to extend my hand in friendship, and to convey the hope that we can work together to build a more effective United Nations. I believe that our Committee's visit to the U.N. went a long way in advancing that goal -- and that your visit today has taken the process a step further.

Of course, we still have disagreements. But I hope that we can agree to disagree agreeably, and proceed in friendship in a search for common ground. The stakes of this endeavor are high. In our success or failure lies not only the fate of U.S.-U.N. relations, but quite possibly the fate of the U.N. itself.

Earlier this century, this committee was seized with the issue of whether or not to approve the Treaty of Versailles establishing the League of Nations. The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Henry Cabot Lodge, was not implacably opposed to the League. But he was opposed to the radical vision of the League championed by President Wilson.

Instead of fighting to kill the League, Chairman Lodge made a constructive offer. He asked for 14 common sense conditions to the Treaty establishing the League of Nations. These included language to ensure that the United States remained the sole judge of its internal affairs; that the league not restrict any individual rights of U.S. citizens; that the Congress retain sole authority for the deployment of U.S. forces through the League; and so on. These were common sense proposals designed to protect the sovereignty and independence of [the] United States, while at the same time making the League more effective by founding it on the basis of reality.

But President Wilson dug in his heels, and refused any compromise with Senator Lodge shouting "Never, never! I'll never consent to adopting any policy with which that impossible man is so prominently identified!"

What happened? Wilson lost and the League of Nations withered on the vine, and the United States was pushed into a brief, but unfortunate period of isolation. How different a world we might have had this century if President Wilson and the champions of the League had accepted Lodge's hand in cooperation?

This committee, through the leadership of Senator Biden, Senator Grams, and many, many others, has extended a hand of friendship to the U.N. We want very much to improve the U.S.-U.N. relationship, and to strengthen cooperation between our country and a United Nations that respects the sovereignty and independence of the United States. And we have attempted to lay out a path by which such an improved relationship will be possible.

Others want the U.N. to travel down a very different path. They envision a United Nations which has the sole authority to legitimize the use of force, and to insist on the authority to sit in judgment of the foreign policy decisions of the United States. They are pressing for an International Criminal Court that purports to hold American citizens under its jurisdiction even if the United States has neither signed nor ratified the Treaty. They see the U.N. as the central authority of the new international order of global laws and global governance.

Improved U.S. relations with a U.N. that travels down this path will be difficult, if not impossible.

We have invited you here today in the sincere hope that, through increased dialogue and increased understanding, we can avoid a breach in the U.S.-U.N. relationship. We want to work with you to help the U.N. serve the purpose for which it was designed: to help sovereign states coordinate collective action by "coalitions of the willing"; to provide a forum where diplomats can meet and keep open channels of communications in times of crisis; to provide the peoples of the world with important services such as peacekeeping, weapons inspections, and humanitarian relief.

This is important work. It is the core of what the U.N. can offer the American people and the world. And we in the U.S. Senate are pledged to working with you to ensure that the U.N. has the resources to accomplish these core tasks -- and to do them well. We want to help the U.N. become a more efficient deliverer of humanitarian aid, a more effective peacekeeper, a better weapons inspector, and a more effective tool of diplomacy.

Let us hope that at the start of this new century, we can together avoid mistakes President Wilson made at the start of the last century. With the passage of the Helms-Biden bill, and with the important dialogue that we have begun together, the U.S. Senate is reaching out its hand of friendship to the United Nations.

We cannot force the U.N. to accept our outstretched hand.

Ultimately, the choice is up to the members of the U.N. whether to choose the path of constructive cooperation, or the path that may very well lead to confrontation. For my part, I sincerely hope we can travel down the path of increased cooperation together, and that our discussion today will lead us in that direction.

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