The US government has announced significant cuts in its United Nations budget obligations for 2018-2019 in what will be interpreted as a further ratcheting up of pressure from the Trump administration looking to bend decision-making at the international body to its will.
In a statement released over the holiday, the US Mission to the United Nations said next year’s budget would be slashed by over $285m and unspecified reductions would also be made to the UN’s management and support functions.
The announcement didn’t make clear the entire amount of the budget or specify what effect the cut would have on the US contribution.
“We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of,” US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in a statement. Haley added that the “inefficiency and overspending” of the organization is well-known.
Under the UN charter, the US is responsible for 22% of the the body’s annual operating budget, or around $1.2bn in 2017-2018, and 28.5% of the cost of peacekeeping operations, estimated at $6.8bn over the same period.
In her statement, Haley said she was pleased with the results of budget negotiations, and the US Mission would continue to “look at ways to increase the UN’s efficiency while protecting our interests”.
But the timing of the announcement sends a clear message. On Thursday, the General Assembly voted 128-9 in favor of a resolution condemning the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
After the vote, Haley reminded the assembly that the US was “by far the single largest contributor to the UN” and would remember the vote “when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations, and we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit”.
Before the vote, the US president, Donald Trump had said at a cabinet meeting: “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars … We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”
On Sunday, Guatemala became the first country to follow the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Guatemala’s president Jimmy Morales made the announcement via Facebook.