United States and the United Nations
|United Nations membership|
|Since||October 24, 1945|
|Permanent Representative||Nikki Haley|
|This article is part of a series on the|
|Politics of the|
United States of America
The United States is host to the headquarters of the United Nations, which includes the usual meeting place of the General Assembly in New York City, the seat of the Security Council and several bodies of the United Nations. The United States is the largest provider of financial contributions to the United Nations, providing 22 percent of the entire UN budget in 2017 (in comparison the next biggest contributor is Japan with almost 10 percent, while EU countries pay a total of above 30 percent). From July 2016 to June 2017, 28.6 percent of the budget used for peacekeeping operations was provided by the United States. The United States had a pivotal role in establishing the UN.
Role in establishing the UN
Their main inspiration was the League of Nations; however, their goals were to rectify the League’s imperfections in order to create an organization that would be “the primary vehicle for maintaining peace and stability.” Roosevelt’s main role was to convince the different allies, especially Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, to join the new organization. The negotiations mainly took place during the Dumbarton Oaks Conference and the Yalta Conference, where the three world leaders tried to reach a consensus concerning the United Nation’s structure, purposes and principles. “Roosevelt saw the United Nations as the crowning achievement of his political career.”
In 1945, representatives from 50 countries met in San Francisco for the United Nations Conference on International Organization. They deliberated on proposals that had been drafted by representatives of the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference between August and October 1944. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin reviewed the Dumbarton Oaks proposal during the Yalta Conference in February 1945. The purpose of the conference was to discuss post-war settlements and to reach a final agreement concerning “the UN’s structure and membership and set the date of the San Francisco organizing conference.” The world leaders eventually agreed on Roosevelt’s proposal to give certain members a veto power so “that the Organization could take no important action without their joint consent.” Though the veto power question created a lot of disagreement among the different signatories, its inclusion in the charter was never a matter of negotiation for Roosevelt and his allies. Finally, during the Yalta conference, Stalin agreed to make the USSR a member of the United Nations.
An important American contribution, prior to the formation of the United Nations, was made at the Bretton Woods Conference. This conference took place in 1944 and its goal was “to create a new international monetary and trade regime that was stable and predictable.” Over subsequent decades, this new system opened world markets and promoted a liberal economy. It was implemented through different institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which went on to work with the United Nations but remained independent from it.
The United Nations officially came into existence on October 24, 1945, when the Charter was ratified by the Republic of China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States as well as a majority of other signatories.
The United Nations was the first international governmental organization to receive significant support from the United States. Its forerunner, the League of Nations, had been championed by Woodrow Wilson after World War I to prevent future conflicts. While it was supported by most nations of Europe, it was never ratified by the United States Congress due to the inability to reach a compromise regarding the Lodge Reservations or the Hitchcock Reservations.
Shortly after the establishment of the United Nations, the United States came into conflict with another member of the Security Council. Since the Soviet Union was a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, it had the power to veto any binding UN resolution. In fact, Soviet foreign minister and UN ambassador Vyacheslav Molotov used veto power twice as often as any other permanent member, earning him the title "Mr. Veto".
Relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (later Russia) within the UN have evolved in step with the larger geopolitical situation between the two powers. While the Soviet Union was boycotting the Security Council and China's seat was represented by U.S.-friendly Republic of China (instead of the communist People's Republic of China which would replace the ROC in the UN in 1971), the U.S. and UN jointly condemned the invasion of South Korea by North Korean troops, leading to the UN sanctioned Korean War. Later, the U.S. persuaded all permanent members of the Security Council to authorize force against Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1991. This was a major step toward U.S. and Russian reconciliation after the end of the Cold War.
Sources of conflict
Since 1991, the United States has been the world's dominant military, economic, social, and political power (not to mention hosting the UN Headquarters itself in New York City); the United Nations was not designed for such a unipolar world with a single superpower, and conflicts between an ascendant U.S. and other UN members have increased.
Conflict between the U.S. and the UN predates the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1971, the UN adopted Resolution 2758—which affected the admission of the People's Republic of China and the removal of the Republic of China—despite objections by the U.S. government (see China and the United Nations). The U.S. government changed its own China policy shortly afterward, however, so the conflict between the UN and US foreign policy was short-lived.
The U.S. government's repeated opposition to Arab military actions has created much more tension between the U.S. government and the United Nations. The General Assembly Resolution 3379 (determining that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination) of 1975 was strongly opposed by U.S. officials. In 1991, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 4686, which effectively negated Resolution 3379. Use of its veto power to prevent the Security Council from issuing resolutions condemning Israeli military action has frequently divided the U.S. from the Soviet Union, China and France in the Security Council; since 1989, the U.S. government has dissented against Security Council resolutions on 12 occasions out of 17 total instances when a permanent member vetoed. Of these 12 occasions, only two related to issues other than the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In 2009, the U.S. government abstained from Security Council Resolution 1860, which called for a halt to Israel's military response to Hamas rocket attacks, and the opening of the border crossings into the Gaza Strip.
Under the Reagan administration, the U.S. withdrew from UNESCO, and withheld its dues to encourage the UN to repeal Resolution 3379, which it did in 1991. The U.S. was—and continues to be—the member state levied most heavily by the UN, so U.S. policymakers expected this strategy to be an effective way to oppose Soviet and Arab influence over the UN. When the UN repealed Resolution 3379, the U.S. resumed dues payments, but not before the U.S. had accumulated significant and controversial arrears.
The U.S. arrears issue
The UN has always had problems with members refusing to pay the assessment levied upon them under the United Nations Charter. But the most significant refusal in recent times has been that of the United States. Since 1985, the U.S. Congress has refused to authorize payment of the UN dues, in order to force UN compliance with U.S. wishes, as well as a reduction in the U.S. assessment.
After prolonged negotiations, the U.S. and the UN negotiated an agreement whereby the United States would pay a large part of the money it owes, and in exchange the UN would reduce the assessment rate ceiling from 25% to 22%. The reduction in the assessment rate ceiling was among the reforms contained in the 1999 Helms-Biden legislation, which links payment of $926 million in U.S. arrears to the UN and other international organizations to a series of reform benchmarks.
U.S. arrears to the UN currently total over $1.3 billion. Of this, $612 million is payable under Helms-Biden. The remaining $700 million result from various legislative and policy withholdings; at present, there are no plans to pay these amounts.
Under Helms-Biden, the U.S. paid $100 million in arrears to the UN in December 1999; release of the next $582 million awaits a legislative revision to Helms-Biden, necessary because the benchmark requiring a 25 percent peacekeeping assessment rate ceiling was not quite achieved. The U.S. also seeks elimination of the legislated 25 percent cap on U.S. peacekeeping payments in effect since 1995, which continues to generate additional UN arrears. Of the final $244 million under Helms-Biden, $30 million is payable to the UN and $214 million to other international organizations.
|31 December 1995||$414 million (73%)||$816 million (47%)||$1.231 billion (56%)|
|31 December 1996||$376 million (74%)||$926 million (57%)||$1.303 billion (61%)|
|31 December 1997||$373 million (79%)||$940 million (60%)||$1.313 billion (64%)|
|31 December 1998||$316 million (76%)||$976 million (61%)||$1.294 billion (64%)|
|31 December 1999||$167 million (68%)||$995 million (67%)||$1.170 billion (67%)|
|31 December 2000||$165 million (74%)||$1.144 billion (56%)||$1.321 billion (58%)|
|31 December 2001||$165 million (69%)||$691 million (38%)||$871 million (41%)|
|31 December 2002||$190 million (62%)||$536 million (40%)||$738 million (44%)|
|31 December 2003||$268 million (61%)||$482 million (45%)||$762 million (48%)|
|31 December 2004||$241 million (68%)||$722 million (28%)||$975 million (33%)|
|30 September 2005||$607 million (82%)||$607 million (28%)||$1.246 billion (41%)|
The Iraq issue
Further conflict between the U.S. and some UN members arose in 2002 and 2003 over the issue of Iraq. George W. Bush maintained that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had not fulfilled the obligations he had entered into at the end of the Gulf War in 1991, namely to rid Iraq of all weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and to renounce their further use. A series of inspections by the IAEA failed to find conclusive evidence that proved allegations that Iraq was continuing to develop or harbour such weapons. The findings were conveyed by the leading weapons inspector, Hans Blix, who noted Iraq's failure to cooperate with the inspections on several counts. The U.S. replied by saying that the responsibility of proof of disarmament was upon Iraq, not on the UN or the U.S.
In November 2002, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1441, giving Iraq an ultimatum to co-operate in disarmament within an unstated timeframe of a few months. However, in March 2003, the U.S., supported by fifty countries (including the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland) which the Bush administration referred to as the "coalition of the willing" launched military operations against Iraq. On April 9, Saddam Hussein's regime was overthrown and Iraq was placed under occupation, marked by the fall of Baghdad. The U.S. argued that this action was authorized by Resolution 1441, since Iraq had failed to comply by co-operating fully in the identification and destruction of its weapons programs, and since Resolution 1441 promised 'serious consequences' for lack of full compliance and achievement of its objective.
Other countries, led by France, Germany and Russia, maintained that Resolution 1441 did not authorize the use of force without passage of a further Resolution. French President Jacques Chirac stated "My position is that, whatever the circumstances, France will vote 'no' because this evening it considers that it is not necessary to make war to achieve the stated goal of the disarmament of Iraq".
Rightly or wrongly the "this evening" qualification was ignored, perhaps because the implications of its English translation are ambiguous. The statement was widely interpreted in the English-speaking world as meaning that France would exercise its right as a Permanent Member of the Security Council to veto any resolution at any time ("whatever the circumstances") to use force against Iraq.
Following the overthrow of the former Iraqi government, the Iraq Survey Group led an exhaustive search of Iraq for WMD. Ultimately, while over 500 "degraded" chemical warheads were found, no deployable WMD of any kind were found and all WMD production facilities had been found to be inactive since 1991.
Reform of the United Nations
The United States Congress has shown particular concern with reforms related to UN effectiveness and efficiency. In November 2004, the bill H.R. 4818 mandated the creation of a bipartisan Task Force to report to Congress on how to make the UN more effective in realizing the goals of its Charter. The Task Force came into being in January 2005, co-chaired by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader, George J. Mitchell. In June 2005, the task force released "American Interests and UN Reform: Report of the Task Force on the United Nations," with numerous recommendations on how to improve the UN.
On June 17, 2005, the United States House of Representatives passed the United Nations Reform Act of 2005 to slash funds to the UN in half by 2008 if it does not meet certain criteria. This reflects years of complaints about anti-American and anti-Israeli bias in the UN, particularly the exclusion of Israel from many decision-making organizations. The U.S. is estimated to contribute about 22% of the UN's yearly budget due to the UN's ability-to-pay scale, making this bill potentially devastating to the United Nations. The Bush administration and several former U.S. ambassadors to the UN have warned that this may only strengthen anti-American sentiment around the world and serve to hurt current UN reform movements. The bill passed the House in June 2005, and a parallel bill was introduced in the Senate by Gordon H. Smith on July 13, 2005. However, a number of leading Senate Republicans objected to the requirement that the U.S. contributions be halved if the UN failed to meet all of the criteria. The UN Management, Personnel, and Policy Reform Act of 2005 (S. 1394), introduced on July 12, 2005 into the Senate by Sen. Norm Coleman [R-MN] and Sen. Richard Lugar [R-IN], called for similar reforms but left the withholding of dues to the discretion of the President. Neither piece of legislation made it into law.
Visa refusal controversy
In April 2007, the U.S. government refused to give an entry visa to the foreign minister of the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia (de jure part of Georgia) Sergei Shamba who was due to speak at the UN headquarters in New York City. The incident caused an international dispute as Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin accused the U.S. of not letting one side of the conflict speak before UN. Security Council president, British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, backed the Russian demand for Shamba's visa. But the U.S. Ambassador, Alejandro Daniel Wolff, accused the Russian side of “a mischievous effort” to raise “false analogies” between Abkhazia and Kosovo, thus “complicating the discussion.” The U.S. stated that such airport to UNHQ visa access was not guaranteed to countries seeking international recognition; Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu had been given a visa. Sergei Shamba himself described the situation as "dual standards".
In the US, complaints about the UN surface regularly in the domestic mainstream media. Some critics who oppose international constraints on US foreign policy contend that the US should withdraw from the UN, claiming that the United States is better equipped to manage the global order unilaterally. More frequently, critics argue that the UN should be reformed to bring it more in line with US policy and leadership.
Despite criticisms, the majority of Americans (88%) support active engagement in the United Nations, as evidenced by a non-partisan poll conducted after the 2016 election. While most agree that the UN could be improved, Noam Chomsky, a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, proposes that measures such as the US relinquishing its veto power in the Security Council and submitting to the rulings of the International Court of Justice could significantly improve the UN's ability to foster the growth of democracy and promote global peace and the protection of human rights. However, some American organizations and individuals, such as the John Birch Society and Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, oppose the United Nations on the basis of its perceived failures. LaPierre wrote the book "The Global War on Your Guns," in which he alerts the U.S. to the supposed threat of the Arms Trade Treaty.
When the United States Government released its National Security Strategy.pdf for 2010 in May 2010, this quote was found embedded on the 46th page in regards to the United Nations:
Enhance Cooperation with and Strengthen the United Nations: We are enhancing our coordination with the U.N. and its agencies. We need a U.N. capable of fulfilling its founding purpose—maintaining international peace and security, promoting global cooperation, and advancing human rights. To this end, we are paying our bills. We are intensifying efforts with partners on and outside the U.N. Security Council to ensure timely, robust, and credible Council action to address threats to peace and security. We favor Security Council reform that enhances the U.N.’s overall performance, credibility, and legitimacy. Across the broader U.N. system we support reforms that promote effective and efficient leadership and management of the U.N.’s international civil service, and we are working with U.N. personnel and member states to strengthen the U.N.’s leadership and operational capacity in peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, post-disaster recovery, development assistance, and the promotion of human's rights. And we are supporting new U.N. frameworks and capacities for combating transnational threats like proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, infectious disease, drug-trafficking, and counter terrorism.
On January 3, 2017, a bill entitled the American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017 (ASRA) was introduced in the House to withdraw the US from the U.N. This bill is nearly identical to the first such bill, the ASRA of 1997, introduced by Ron Paul. Since then, a version of the ASRA has been introduced in every congressional session. To date, each such attempt has been met with minimal congressional support and died in committee.
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