Trump’s cut to the U.S. contribution to the U.N. budget meets the definition of duress. A suggestion from the year 1945 should now be taken up again.
“No member of the United Nations should finance more than a maximum of 10 percent of its budget so that the new world organization does not get caught in too great a dependency on just one country.”* This suggestion, made in wise foresight by the Swedish ambassador at the founding conference of the U.N. in June 1945, unfortunately, did not meet with agreement at that time. It was still correct, and its implementation is more urgent today than ever. That is shown by the successful policy of financial and political extortion and duress regarding the U.N. which the Trump administration has established with drastic cuts to the regular U.N. budget and the budget for peacekeeping missions.
Naturally, Donald Trump is entirely justified in demanding that the U.N. should use the finances available to it as efficiently as possible. This demand is just as legitimate with respect to the U.N. as with respect to a national government or city administration.
Even so, the fulfillment of this demand is comparatively difficult in an international institution in which the 193 member states are often pursuing highly contradictory interests, and whose nearly 50,000 employees worldwide, together with 120,000 peacekeeping soldiers, come from vastly different political cultures. Nevertheless, a study by Congress found that the efficiency of a U.N. peacekeeping mission is eight times as high as that of a U.S. military mission, and the cost of deploying a U.N. peacekeeper is one-tenth the cost of a soldier.
But for President Trump, it is not a matter of efficiency in the work of the U.N., but instead, political pressure on member states that do not support his policies. This was made clear through the announcement of the cuts by Washington’s ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, instead of by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Haley’s appearance took place several days after the defeat on the Jerusalem question for the Trump administration in the General Assembly and the Security Council.
The Trump administration’s announced cuts in voluntary U.S. payments also pertain exclusively to U.N. special organizations and programs that are unpopular with Washington. The other 193 member states will only overcome their susceptibility to blackmail if they implement the 1945 suggestion of the Swedish ambassador.
*Editor’s note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.