The expert on America, Ivan Kurilla, explains why the U.S. decided to withdraw from UNESCO.
The U.S. reduced contributions in 2011 after the Palestinian Authority was admitted as a member of UNESCO. The United States has not paid its contributions for six years. Withdrawing from the organization is simply the next step. Until 2011, the U.S. contributions were significant for the organization − they accounted for about 20 percent of the UNESCO budget. It was approximately $100 million. On the one hand, it’s a very small sum for the U.S. budget. On the other hand, it’s a very symbolic gesture: Washington supports an organization whose policies are not liked in the U.S.
This is referring to the anti-Israeli policy of UNESCO. The United States also emphasizes that the organization has debts, and they are due to inadequate management. But the first factor concerning the anti-Israeli policy is more important.
This step is significant for Donald Trump. The Israeli lobby is one of the most important support groups towards which both Democrats and Republicans are oriented. Relations with Israel have always been very important for the U.S. The previous president, Barack Obama, was criticized by the pro-Israeli lobby for supporting Arabs and Palestine. He was not considered a good protector of Israel’s interests. The U.S. has been acting as a defender of the interests of Israel for several decades.
Trump sent a signal to the pro-Israeli lobby. It might be connected with the fact that Trump is looking for additional allies in the domestic political arena. He believes that the "storm" with which he was met by the left-liberal part of the political elites has already passed, and now it is important to seek long-term allies and strengthen his positions. Thus this gesture can be considered as a sign to a quite strong pro-Israeli lobby in the U.S.
As for UNESCO, the United States has already left the organization once. From 1984 until 2003 the United States was not a member of UNESCO. Moreover, some other countries also withdrew from the organization during this time period, including Great Britain, which returned to the organization later. This was one of the “coldest” periods of international politics. At the time Washington pretty much accused UNESCO of being ruled by pro-Soviet forces. Nowadays, there are still accusations from the right side of the American political elite towards UNESCO about the fact that the organization is dominated by representatives of left-wing views. In this regard, it makes sense that “Trump’s rightist America” is withdrawing from the leftist organization.
Lastly, this position matches with the often-declared priority to reduce spending on foreign policy. This can be positively received by the right-wing part of the U.S. political community.