Could Donald Trump’s Attack on the UN Destabilize the World?

The president seems bent on weakening the global body.

WHEN the draft of an executive order by Donald Trump saying he would cut America’s contribution to the UN by 40% was leaked in January, alarm bells began clanging not just at the organisation’s headquarters in New York but in chanceries all over the world. America pays for a good quarter of the body’s costs and even more for its 16 peacekeeping missions that strive to mitigate some of the bloodiest conflicts on earth. Could he mean what he said? On March 16th, when the White House unveiled its budget for 2018, the answer was a defiant yes. The State Department, which channels America’s contributions to the UN and its own foreign-aid agency, was told to chop $10.1bn from its budget, a cut of 28%.

For sure, this is but the start of months of bargaining between the White House and Congress. Several prominent Republicans, as well as an array of Democrats, said they would oppose cuts on such a scale. Moreover, what was dubbed the “skinny budget” was short on detail. Some saw it as theatre—“A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”, as Mr Trump described it—that was not intended to be enacted as drafted. But even if the cuts were to be halved in size during negotiations, they would still punch a big hole in the UN’s pocket. And no one now bets that Mr Trump does not mean what he says about pulling back from the world.

Some programmes are to be protected. Security aid to Israel, worth $3.1bn a year, will be kept “at an all-time high”. Pledges to Gavi, previously known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (better known as PEPFAR) and anti-malaria schemes will be fulfilled. But funds for climate-change programmes will cease (see article). And within the State Department’s remit, “the US would not contribute more than 25% for UN peacekeeping costs”. At last count, it was paying around 28%.

Image: 11 October 2016. Jeremie, Haiti.

Brazilian peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) help unload emergency supplies from a US military helicopter. United Nations Peacekeepers (MINUSTAH), Haitian government agencies, international organizations and residents, work to distribute food and emergency supplies, and to repair the massive damage caused by the passage of Hurricane Matthew in the western Haitian town of Jeremie. UN Photo/Logan Abassi

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