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Posted on on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (

Future of US relationship with UN in doubt.

By Stewart Patrick, December 28, 2016
An Op-Ed at CNN

The CNN Editor’s note: Stewart Patrick is the senior fellow and director of the program on International Institutions and Global Governance. The views expressed in this commentary are his. (that is not CNN pronouncement)

(CNN) Among the many foreign policy uncertainties created by Donald Trump’s election, there is one prediction we can take to the bank: The United Nations is going to get hammered.
An unapologetic nationalist is bound for the White House, Republicans are in control of both houses of Congress—and the world body is in their crosshairs.

Last week’s Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank — a resolution on which the Obama administration controversially abstained — has enraged GOP legislators. The President-elect has also lashed out, tweeting, “The United Nations has such great potential. But right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. Sad!” Secretary of State John Kerry tried today to defend US diplomacy at the UN, but Republicans on Capitol Hill are determined to pass legislation condemning the Council.

The US-UN relationship is fraught in the best of times — during the George W. Bush administration when the US imposed a unilateral vision globally, or during the 1990s, when Sen. Jesse Helms bedeviled the United Nations and created a financial crisis at the institution by withholding US dues. Conservative critics, both in and outside government, regularly scapegoat the UN for the failures of its member states. And because it lacks a domestic constituency, it is an irresistible target for nationalist demagogues.

After eight years of the most multilaterally-inclined US administration in history, the United Nations is in for a shock. Donald Trump is the new sheriff in town.

Where President Obama proclaimed himself a “citizen of the world,” Trump is channeling a populist base deeply skeptical of international organizations, where paranoid fantasies about UN “black helicopters” as a threat to American sovereignty run deep.

The international organization is certainly flawed and often exasperating — but it is the best vehicle the United States has for advancing its agenda in the world and sharing the burden with others.


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