Earlier this week, I wrote about legislation introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen which would shift the way the United States contributes financially to UN operations worldwide from the current dues-paying method to a system of voluntary contributions. Under the proposed legislation, the United States would pick and chose which UN missions to pay for and which to ignore.
This proposal runs counter to American interests–and would end up costing the USA more in the long run. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s Council on Foreign Relations fellow Stewart Patrick
At first blush, sounds reasonable. So what’s wrong with this rosy picture?
To begin with, abrogation of U.S. financial obligations to the United Nations would do grievous damage to the global reputation of the United States and its perceived legitimacy as the world’s natural leader. The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to repair U.S. relations with the UN, which reached a nadir during the tumultuous Bush years. Were it to become law, H.R. 2829 would undo this progress, reinforcing the U.S. image as a coercive hegemon determined to impose its will unilaterally on the world body.
Even the Bush administration, for all its skepticism of the United Nations, recognized the limitations of withholding funding as a weapon to impose UN reform. By contrast, the new legislation would set the United States and the United Nations on a financial collision course reminiscent of the mid-1990s, when a Republican-controlled Congress led by Jesse Helms repeatedly withheld U.S. dues, leading to an arrears crisis that poisoned the diplomatic atmosphere at the UN.
Second, other nations would inevitably respond in kind, by adopting their own, selective approach to financing the United Nations. The likely result would be reduced funding for UN programs that the United States finds valuable, from global health interventions to counterterrorism cooperation. UN member states might respond in other, counterproductive ways as well. Indian officials have suggested privately that if the United States cuts its peacekeeping support, they may provide fewer peacekeepingtroops. Cherry picking, in other words, could prove a dangerous game.
Third, the House bill would impose material, as well as reputational costs, on the United States. GOP advocates of withholding UN dues present themselves as wise stewards of the federal budget. But crippling the UN’s finances would likely increase the cost to U.S. taxpayers, by forcing the United States to spend more of its own resources to achieve its global ends.