President Donald Trump has attacked many people, ideas and institutions during and after the campaign season. Among the institutions to come under Trump’s fire are some of the most vital in maintaining the post-World War II order, predominantly the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
While not perfect, these organizations serve many vital purposes in today’s democratic world order. They keep the peace between major countries and they facilitate a level of international cooperation that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. They deter aggression from non-democratic powers, predominantly Russia. They are important in the economic, social and cultural integration of the West.
We must recognize the role these organizations play in improving the world overall, and resist any attempts by the Trump administration to delegitimize, devalue and defund them.
The UN is an imperfect but critical organization. The Paris Agreement, a plan for the entire world to reduce emissions and fight climate change, would not have been possible without the level of international cooperation brought about by the UN, along with sanctions on North Korea and Russia. UN Peacekeeping efforts also seem to get a bad rap. Successes like Bosnia, Kosovo, Namibia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and East Timor have been vastly overshadowed by highly publicized failures such as Somalia and the Rwandan genocide.
Peacekeeping that usually works is certainly better than no peacekeeping at all.
Though the US isn’t a member of the EU, it is important to recognize how important the EU is to the values of democracy and civil freedoms. The EU is an ambitious project to unite a continent that had spent the last several thousands of years killing each other in hugely destructive wars. Today, it is difficult to imagine European powers again going to war, and this is largely because of the EU.
The economic, social and cultural integration the EU has brought to Europe is something never done in human history. The EU is good for a strong and united Europe, and a strong and united Europe is good for democracy, civil freedoms and the United States. An EU collapse would weaken western values, and would be the first step towards renewed European conflict.
Lastly, NATO is necessary in deterring military aggression from non-democratic regimes, primarily Russia. Many argue that NATO is no longer needed because it was created to fight the Soviet Union, a country that no longer exists, and that Russia has no imperial ambitions and isn’t strong enough to warrant a Western military alliance.
In reality, Putin’s authoritarian regime aims to eventually recreate the former Soviet empire, as his wars in Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine demonstrate. The Kremlin’s influence appears to be known worldwide, as their meddling in the US Presidential election has shown. It is vital we have a western military alliance to counter aggression from other non-democratic threats that may rise in today’s unpredictable world.
The Trump administration has, so far, shown to be hostile to all three of these organizations. Trump tweeted last month: “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. So sad!”
Apparently, the lack of direct war between major countries since the end of WWII is “So sad!” Trump blasted NATO last week, calling it “obsolete.” Trump has also egged more countries to leave EU since Britain’s vote to leave last summer. Republicans in Congress have recently presented bills to defund and leave the UN over a recent resolution condemning Israel for building settlements in Palestinian land. Such a bill passing would prove to be a stupid, unnecessary blunder.
Trump’s main argument is that other countries are not paying their fair share, and that the US has unfairly paid to shoulder the burden. In the case of the UN, he is dead wrong. The US represents 26 percent of the world’s income, and pays for 22 percent of the UN’s budget. As for NATO, Trump does make a legitimate case. NATO asks members to contribute two percent of their GDP to defense, a guideline only five of the 28 members meet.
The US contributes, by far, the most. However, Trump must work with NATO members to ensure they begin to pay their fair share, rather than leaving the alliance completely. The US doesn’t fund the EU, but for the sake of Europe and its impact on the world Trump needs to stop encouraging its collapse.
It is important for everyone to remember the facts on these organizations, and to remember that these organizations were created for good reasons. We must resist any attempts by Trump to delegitimize, devalue and defund these important parts of our modern world. We must work to come up with reasonable solutions, instead of abandoning our allies.