Does Donald Trump Actually Know How Much the US Pays the United Nations?

Donald Trump gave an extended interview to the New York Times this weekend. The part about where he calls for an arms race in Asia is getting the most attention. But when it comes to the United Nations It seems, Donald Trump believes that the United Nation’s true value to America is that it means he can charge more for residential apartments he owns in East Manhattan.

We won’t be isolationists — I don’t want to go there because I don’t believe in that. I think we’ll be very worldview, but we’re not going to be ripped off anymore by all of these countries. I mean think of it.We have $21 trillion, essentially, very shortly, we’ll be up to $21 trillion in debt. O.K.? A lot of that is just all of these horrible, horrible decisions. You know, I’ll give you another one, I talked about NATO and we fund disproportionately, the United Nations, we get nothing out of the United Nations other than good real estate prices. We get nothing out of the United Nations. They don’t respect us, they don’t do what we want, and yet we fund them disproportionately again. Why are we always the ones that funds everybody disproportionately, you know? So everything is like that. [Emphasis added]

The USA is, indeed, the largest funder of the United Nations. The USA funds about 22% of the regular UN budget and about 28% of the peacekeeping budget. This amounts to about $4 billion. To those of us who are not billionaires, this is a great deal of money. But from a budgetary perspective it’s a drop in the budget. For comparison’s sake it’s about 0.6% of the budget for the US Department of Defense.

Contra Trump, that pays for a lot. It paid the the UN mission that got rid of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. It pays for election monitors in places like Afghanistan. It pays for the ongoing peace talks in Syria. It pays for over 100,000 peacekeepers deployed around the world, helping to keep a lid on wars and violence that can spread. It pays for efforts to stabilize Somalia and Mali- places where just a few years ago terrorist groups controlled swaths of territory. It paid for the translators at the historic Paris Climate talks. And it pays for efforts to fight disease’s like Polio, and for efforts to bring people out of extreme poverty worldwide.  And it does all this, and more, on a pretty shoe-string budget.

And while the USA is the single largest contributor, it is also the fact that the rest of the world pays 78% percent of the regular budget and 72% of the peacekeeping budget. In other words, while the USA is the largest single funder, the rest of the world picks up the vast majority of the tab.

To be sure, we can probably take Donald Trump at his word when he says the true value of the United Nations is its effect on real-estate prices in the neighborhood around the UN. After all, he has a personal financial stake here. Apartments at the Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza can go for as much as $18.5 million.