06:14 GMT +314 December 2018
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    Divided Nations? Trump’s Attempts to Reform UN Could Damage World Security

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    Later this month, Donald Trump plans to meet with other world leaders to discuss the prospects for reforming the United Nations. Russian observers warn that if the US president attempts to use the forum to try to deprive permanent members of the Security Council of their veto rights, it will be the beginning of the end for the organization.

    On Friday, Reuters reported that Trump will host an event dedicated to its reform on September 18, a day before his address at this year's General Assembly.

    Leaders will be invited to the meeting only if they sign on to a US-drafted 10-point declaration backing efforts "to initiate effective, meaningful reform." The declaration commits signatories to "reducing mandate duplication, redundancy and overlap, including among the main organs of the United Nations," and voices support for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his efforts to make "concrete changes" to improve the UN's humanitarian, development and peacekeeping initiatives.

    Trump officials have previously criticized the international body as a "club for people to get together, talk and have a good time," and made commitments to slash US spending on the organization in the next federal budget. The US currently contributes about 22% of the UN's budget and about 28.5% of the funding for UN peacekeeping operations.

    Russian officials have voiced skepticism over the initiative. Frantz Klintsevich, deputy chairman of the Russian Senate's Committee on Defense, suggested that Trump's meeting "looks less like a discussion, and more like diktat."

    "I will not presume to judge whether the time for a reform of the UN has come, and if it has, whether such reforms would lead to even more disagreements between nations. These are questions of a different order. But this [Trump's meeting] is not the way to go about things," Klintsevich wrote on his Facebook page.

    President Donald Trump gestures while speaking following his meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Friday, Aug. 11, 2017.
    © AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais
    President Donald Trump gestures while speaking following his meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Friday, Aug. 11, 2017.

    According to the lawmaker, globally accepted practice is for experts from different countries first come together, search for a common approach, agree their positions, and only then discuss things at the level of heads of state.  Under this approach, "there can be no question of some preliminary conditions, like this ten-point declaration proposed by Donald Trump."

    So far, it's unclear which countries will agree to take part in the meeting hosted by Trump. In any event, Russian President Vladimir Putin will not take part in the General Assembly this year, and the Russian delegation will be headed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

    Russian observers say that the significance Trump's gathering will depend on the issues that are raised. For example, any discussion on the reform of the Security Council would not only threaten Russia's international standing, but the global balance of power.

    The issue of Security Council reform has been widely discussed in recent years, and has included proposals to expand the permanent membership of the body to include emerging powers, to limit the power of the veto, or on the contrary, to expand it to other countries.

    The United Nations Security Council votes on a new sanctions resolution that would increase economic pressure on North Korea to return to negotiations on its missile program, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017 at U.N. headquarters
    © AP Photo / Mary Altaffer
    The United Nations Security Council votes on a new sanctions resolution that would increase economic pressure on North Korea to return to negotiations on its missile program, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017 at U.N. headquarters

    Dmitri Zhuravlev, director of the Moscow-based Institute of Regional Problems, believes that if Trump's meeting includes discussion on how to reduce Russia's influence in the UN, it could trigger the beginning of the end for the international organization.

    "If one first has to agree [to the ten-point declaration] to participate in the discussion, this is not a discussion, but a recognition of the right of the strong to his point of view," the analyst said. "Signing Mr. Trump's proposals automatically means agreeing with him. What is there left to discuss then? Where to place the punctuation marks in the document?"

    In the analyst's view, the US has gotten used to this sort of behavior in the international arena over the last few decades. "They are absolutely confident of their exceptionalism. It's just that some, like Barack Obama, talked about it a lot, while others, like businessman Donald Trump, try to implement it in practice. But the essence doesn't change."

    As far as UN funding reform is concerned, Zhuravlev noted that theoretically, US promises to reduce their funding were not a problem. "It's another matter if Russia and other countries also begin raising similar questions about their commitments. Yes, the US pays a lot, but not everything, and not even half of the UN's budget. Russia also commits a lot for the needs of this organization." Therefore, the analyst noted that "if Trump begins cutting funding, other countries may end up doing the same."

    Still, the main issue, according to the expert, is the Security Council veto. "The UN was created after World War II, and reflected a situation where there were five key countries in the world who possessed the veto right. If today the US tries to surmount this system, it will be the UN's end. If we deprive this organization of the mechanism of parity in decision-making, it will be unclear why it's needed at all. After all, there are other formats, like the G8 or the G20, where nations can gather and discuss various issues. The strength of the UN lies precisely in the fact that it allows for a balance between countries."

    President Vladimir Putin attends G20 summit in Hamburg, July 2017
    © Sputnik / Michael Klimentyev
    President Vladimir Putin attends G20 summit in Hamburg, July 2017

    "I'm not certain whether Trump understands this, and whether he even plans to raise the veto issue at all…But if he is, the whole system of international security built after WWII will cease to exist," Zhuravlev stressed.

    "This is why we support the current structure of the UN so strongly. So long as it exists," the US and its allies "are forced to account for our opinion." If Russia is stripped of its Security Council, this will end, "force will become the only argument, and the only parity will be nuclear parity. Switching to this argument over a political dispute is very dangerous."

    For his part, political analyst Leonid Savin believes that while the UN does require reform, the US will undoubtedly try to subordinate this process to its own interests.

    According to the expert, the UN has become a very cumbersome organization with a large number of diverse institutions, some demonstrating their worth, and others becoming a financial and administrative burden necessitating reforms. "Who will carry out this reform and how is another question. It's necessary to approach each area that the organization is engaged in carefully, and consider its committees and organs, based on their relevance and the interests of all countries. Reform is really long overdue; the question is its format."

    Unfortunately, the analyst admitted that the discussion format proposed by the US president does not seem inclusive. "The US will doubtlessly work to manipulate public opinion in other countries. It wouldn't be the first time that they've done this. Studies have shown, for instance, that there is a clear correlation between loans provided by the International Monetary Fund, and the decisions taken by nations at the UN" in the US's favor.

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    veto, United Nations, Donald Trump, United States, Russia
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