US President Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday explicitly targeted China. He not only used the derogatory term “the China virus” to refer to the raging novel coronavirus pandemic, but also called on the UN to hold China accountable. At a time when the world is in dire need of helping each other and overcoming difficulties together, Trump is keen to confront rather than cooperate with the other big powers.
Obviously, Trump does not regard the UN as a platform for cooperation – he just views it as an arena to play out the “games” among the great powers.
However, there have been very few to respond to his grandstanding move at the UN. Other countries have long been dissatisfied with the unilateral and irresponsible approach of the US under Trump. But many of them have been keeping silent due to the US overall strength and the Trump administration’s tough style. At present, the “Trump shock” has made the UN risk severe divisions.
Since Trump took office, the US has withdrawn from various international groups and broken away with international treaties, such as the UN Human Rights Council and UNESCO. This ample evidence shows that the Trump administration has ignored multilateralism. In recent years, the US utilitarian attitude toward the UN has been particularly obvious: Supporting it when it is in the interest of the US, totally ignoring it when it is not.
As for the Trump administration, which takes “America First” as its strategic orientation, its selfishness is even more apparent – it has shown a negative attitude toward the billions of dollars of debt the US should have paid to the UN.
The active role of the UN in maintaining international peace and security depends on the normal operations of relevant UN mechanisms – which have bills. UN membership dues are important sources of financial support, as are paid expenditures for peacekeeping operations.
According to resolution 55/235 of the UNGA’s Committee on Contributions on peacekeeping operations, which stipulates the budget assessment rates of member states, the US should bear the largest share. However, the US so far owes more than $2 billion for the UN and its peacekeeping contributions.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in May that there may be a shortage of funding for peacekeeping missions, saying, “There may be significant delays towards the middle of the year, unless the cash position across missions improves significantly.” In its 75-year history, the UN has played an active role in preventing conflicts, keeping peace and promoting development. But the UN is not without problems. It has been criticized for its poor effectiveness and implementation of certain programs. This makes calls for fostering UN reforms increasingly stronger.
Whereas the UN is truly the only global institution of its magnitude, there is no better way for human society to come together than seeking reforms within it. But what the Trump administration has done has not only undermined the UN’s unity, but also damaged its efficiency.
The UN Security Council has a unique role in maintaining international peace and security. The five permanent members (P5) – China, the US, Russia, Britain and France – as major powers bear important responsibilities for international peace and security. Because of the existence of the veto power of the P5, the coordination of big powers is very important for the work of the Security Council.
In order to maintain its hegemonic position, the US continues to suppress other powers, especially China and Russia. This has certainly worsened relations between the great powers. It has seriously damaged coordination among them, and affected the work of the Security Council as a whole.
However, the US will not withdraw from the UN, nor will the UN be divided. Leaving the UN means that the US’ international influence will be severely jeopardized. And this obviously is not in line with the US overall interests. The US complains that it does not have enough power in the UN and responds negatively to important UN affairs. But it does not mean that the UN will no longer work. After all, most member states still support the UN to play a leading role in international affairs.