In his first appearance before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), President Donald Trump used the podium intended to spread messages of peace and diplomacy to threaten to “destroy North Korea” and quibble about how much the United States pays for the United Nations.
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said. “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
Trump then went on to threaten Iran and Venezuela.
The speech was an astonishing one for a sitting U.S. president to make before an institution meant to keep international peace — and follows threats the Trump administration has made about cutting funds to the United Nations.
Compared to the rest of the U.N. states, which pay 22 percent, or $1.2 billion of the regular budget, the United States is the chief financial contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions at 28.5 percent. Trump is aiming to cut that down to 25 percent as part of his quest to “reform” the United Nations.
What a difference two years makes. In 2015, as world leaders gathered in New York for the UNGA, over 50 countries attended President Barack Obama’s special summit on peacekeeping, pledging additional troops, funding, equipment, and support for U.N. missions around the world.
Of course, pledging, as U.N. states are wont to do, especially when there’s a pay-for-play event such as Obama’s, is one thing — delivering is quite another. And by 2016, according to U.N. figures, a third of the states had not yet delivered with their pledges.
If they haven’t already, they might not need to bother, because Reuters reports that the Trump administration intends to cut support for peacekeeping, as are other U.N. member states.
On Wednesday, when the U.N. Security Council meets to discuss peacekeeping reform, troops on the ground in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan will find out what kind of cuts they’ll be facing.
The peacekeeping program, while vital, has been problematic, as Reuters reports:
Analysts and some U.N. insiders say progress is slow, however, and that administrators in New York are dodging many of the thorniest issues — specifically the poor quality of many troops, confusion over the mission’s priorities and a culture that protects senior, well-paid officials even when they do not perform.
There have been numerous, embarrassing allegations of misconduct and coverups in U.N. peacekeeping forces — from French peacekeeping troops being accused of sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic to Nepalese peacekeepers being responsible for a calamitous outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Still, experts question whether cuts in funding and manpower is the way to go about improving peacekeeping missions, as Matt Wells, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International, told Reuters:
“Peacekeeping reform is essential, and the U.S. should lead in demanding better performance and accountability. But that will not be achieved by crippling the ability of U.N. troops and civilian personnel to operate where they’re needed most.”
In June, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley praised the cuts to the United Nations and said the administration is “only getting started.”