Justin Rood of ABC News reports on the critically important, yet often overlooked story of American arrears to UN Peacekeeping.

On the eve of President Bush’s trip to Africa, his administration has decided to drastically cut money for United Nations peacekeeping missions in war-torn countries there.

According to White House figures quietly released this week, more than $193 million for U.N. troops would be cut for missions in Liberia, Rwanda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and elsewhere. A State Department official who would not be named confirmed to ABC News Monday that the cuts could be even worse.

“America’s reputation and standing are not helped when we call and vote for — but don’t pay our fair share of — new and bigger U.N. peacekeeping operations in places like Darfur and Chad,” Deborah Derrick, executive director of the Better World Campaign, told ABC News. “Great nations pay their bills.”

Amen to that! (The Better World Campaign is the sister organization to the UN Foundation, which sponsors this site.)

Since the start of the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United Nations has quietly assumed responsibility for managing a growing number of conflicts worldwide. The flare-up in Haiti in 2004, the July 2006 fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, and the situation in Darfur, are just a few of many conflicts managed by the UN with little direct involvement by the United States. In fact, most Americans would be surprised to learn that of the 76,000 UN troops currently deployed to 20 missions worldwide, only eleven are American service members.

At the heart of this arrangement is an implicit deal: The UN will go to places where the United States cannot or does not want to so long as the United States picks up a little over a quarter of the cost of each mission. At least, that is the way it is supposed to work. In reality, the United States, as a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, has approved mission after mission while falling behind on its payments.

This arrangement is clearly not sustainable. If promoting democracy abroad and ending genocide are as much of a priority as the White House proclaims, then surely somewhere in the $3.1 trillion budget they can find spare change to fund Peacekeeping.

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