UN Chief, Antonio Guterres, has called on the Trump administration to re-think its planned massive reduction in US contribution to UN, which could be as high as 50 percent according to media reports. This would mean a substantial cut in such important UN programs as peacekeeping, environmental protection, health, and refugees.
Yet, given the overt hostility of the Trump administration toward the UN and its de-prioritization of “soft diplomacy” reflected in the steep budget cuts for the Department of State, it is highly unlikely that Trump would heed Guterres’s call.
Tantamount to a financial earthquake at the UN, the US cuts are bound to have a deep impact in negatively affecting the UN’s ability to meet its burning priorities in today’s volatile world, which is wrought with numerous conflicts and unresolved crises around the globe, warranting a robust UN presence. The US ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley has rejected the description of these cuts as “cut and burn” but, in reality, these are exactly what they entail, triggering a financial crisis for the UN.
A clue to the simplistic “America first” slogan of President Trump, he conveniently overlooks that US’ active involvement and leadership in the international organizations such as the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are critical for US’ global preeminence and stability in a US-led world order in today’s post-Cold War era.
Portraying the US’ UN-based commitments in wholly negative light, i.e., as a pure financial burden, is a terrible mistake stemming from a fundamental inability to see the connections between the US’ global role and power and its heavy involvement in the international organizations. In a word, America cannot be first on the global scale when it is not at the forefront of maintaining global stability.
For sure, any drastic cut in UN’s peacekeeping operations is a recipe for disaster, likely to reduce the ability of world community to tackle the various conflicts around the world which have necessitated the presence of UN blue helmets. The UN is, in fact, in desperate need of more, not less, financial backing by the world powers, in light of the mass starvation of millions in Africa today that is largely ignored by the Western media. Rather than being responsive to the UN’s growing demands, the US is actually taking drastic steps that are hurtful on a long-term basis and their net effect would be to induce global anarchy.
Of course, US can begin contributing troops for the peacekeeping operations, now that it is slashing its funding of peacekeepers into half, but of course that would be against the Trump ideology of ‘re-entrenchment’ that is purely delusional and operates based on a caricature of the present global reality, which is complex and highly interdependent. As a former head of UN’s peacekeeping operation, Jean-Marie Guehenno, once told this author in an interview for the UN Chronicle, UN carries the torch in so many conflict situations that need to graduate to post-conflict status and, yet, more such societies are apt to slip back to conflict in the absence of sufficient fund to oversee their transitions.
Not only that, this does not serve USs own interest either, as more tension and conflict will translate into more costly functions for the already overstretched US military, which budget has received a 9 percent increase in Trump’s budget. Yet, such increases might be dwarfed in the future if the burden of more conflicts requiring some US action overshadows the Pentagon’s budget increase.
Therefore, for the sake of both the world community as well as US itself, the lawmakers in Washington ought to put up a fierce resistance to Trump’s thinly-veiled declaration of war on the UN, which is the preeminent world organization responsible for world peace and stability. Sadly, the disdain toward the UN shown by candidate Trump is now taking shape as a bitter reality dawned by President Trump that has hit the UN full force like a massive winter storm, warranting more than ever before new and creative efforts by the UN to find an alternative source of funding. Spring may be upon us but the new winter of discontent caused by Trump’s presidency has all but taken away the new season’s spirit, thus making Trump into the grinch who stole the Spring at UN.
For details of the UN cuts read: How would Trump’s budget hit UN programs?