Christopher Blasts GOP Limits on U.N. Funding
Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in his sharpest attack on the Republican “contract with America,” said Thursday that proposed GOP restrictions on U.S. contributions to the United Nations would destroy U.N. peacekeeping operations and hamstring American policy.
Christopher told the House International Relations Committee, which plans to start voting on the bill today, that the measure would leave President Clinton and future chief executives with the Hobson’s choice of “acting alone or doing nothing when emergencies occur.”
The legislation would deduct the costs of voluntary U.S. action supporting U.N. operations from Washington’s $1-billion annual share of the U.N.'s $3.6-billion peacekeeping budget. It would also restrict placement of U.S. troops under foreign commanders.
Washington is now spending about $1.2 billion a year on such activities, which means that the legislation would wipe out the entire U.S. contribution to the regular peacekeeping budget.
Voluntary activities are primarily operations such as the one that restored President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power in Haiti and the enforcement of the “no-fly” zone over northern Iraq. Although authorized by the U.N. Security Council, they are essentially U.S. initiatives.
“Under the current circumstances, such a proposal, if enacted in law, would threaten to end U.N. peacekeeping overnight,” Christopher said. “It would almost certainly lead our allies in (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Japan to follow suit, for they also make voluntary contributions of considerable magnitude.”
Christopher said that the legislation threatens regular U.N. peacekeeping in such trouble spots as the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria, the Iraq-Kuwait border, Cyprus, Georgia and Lebanon. Forgoing voluntary deployments is no answer, he added, because over the years these have included operations authorized by the United Nations but sponsored by the United States, such as the Persian Gulf War and the Korean War.
Christopher’s comments drew a partisan response from the committee. Democrats endorsed the Administration’s apocalyptic interpretation, while Republicans insisted that their objective was not to destroy the United Nations, just to reduce the cost to the United States.
“It seems to me that the current arrangement is not fair to the American people and it infringes upon the constitutional prerogatives of the Congress, the appropriation process,” Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) said. “I understand you’d rather have the status quo, but the status quo is not acceptable to the American people and to the Congress.”
Chairman Benjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.) said Republicans “certainly don’t want to prohibit peacekeeping or peacemaking” by the United Nations. But, he said, Washington pays too much of the cost.
“While at the U.N. we’re called deadbeats, we still spend hundreds of millions of dollars in support of U.N. peacekeeping operations, for which we receive no credit,” Gilman said. “How best can we rectify and ensure that U.N. members pay their fair share while we’re picking up a major share?”