President Donald Trump is set to deliver his proposed 2018 budget plan to Congress on Thursday, and it is widely expected to include dramatic cuts to the United Nations. The White House has instructed the State Department to identify UN programs that the U.S. can step away from or severely curtail funding to, according to The New York Times. All told, the Trump administration wants to cut America’s UN fiscal obligations by more than 50%.
Not all of the proposed cuts will necessarily be present in the White House budget. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested that some of the spending reductions will be phased in over the next three years, giving the targeted programs a chance to transition out smoothly or seek funding elsewhere.
The Times reports that the majority of the cuts will come from peacekeeping programs – some of which are popular with both Democrats and Republicans:
The cuts would fall heaviest on U.N. programs, like peacekeeping, UNICEF, and the U.N. Development Programme, that are funded out of the budget of the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs. It remains to be seen whether other U.N. agencies popular with Congress, like the World Food Programme and U.N. refugee operations — which are funded out of separate accounts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State Department, respectively — will get hit as hard. But one source tracking the budget proposal said the Trump administration is considering cuts of up to 36 percent on humanitarian aid programs.
It’s unlikely that Trump will get all of the cuts he’s asking for, but he may not even be expecting to. His negotiating strategy is all about the big ask, and he’s not shy about starting with an extraordinary proposal. That gives him room to walk a long way backwards while still getting more than anyone might have initially expected.
And, when push comes to shove, he may get more than critics would guess. The United Nations is historically unpopular among Republicans, owing to its repeated official condemnations aimed at Israel. At the very least, by threatening to snatch billions of dollars away from the UN, the Trump administration can once again put the U.S. in control of the organization.