Cruz and Graham

Senators propose the diplomatic equivalent of cutting off one’s nose to spite the face

UPDATE: Cruz and Graham introduced the legislation this afternoon. It is…extreme. The operative part of the legislation (text below) calls for the defunding of not just the UN, but the entire United Nations system. This includes UNICEF, the World Food Program, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, UN Peacekeeping, and World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, among many others.

“The United States Government may not make any voluntary or assessed contributions to the United Nations or any United Nations organization, including any United Nations specialized agency, fund, or program and any other body or entity affiliated with the United Nations or founded by a United Nations treaty, convention, or agreement, until the President certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016) has been repealed.”

So, to recap: these Senators are proposing that the USA stop funding nuclear inspections in Iran (IAEA); emergency food relief for starving refugees (WFP); keeping babies alive in dangerous places (UNICEF);  Holocaust eduction and Tsunami early warning systems (UNESCO); Peacekeepers around the world, including those fighting terrorists in Mali and those providing a buffer in the Golan Heights between Israel and the Syrian civil war (Department of Peacekeeping Operations); making sure international flights don’t crash into each other (International Civil Aviation Organization); letting you send a letter from your house in D.C. to your friend in Japan (Universal Postal Union), and many other programs, services and global goods, all because they disagree with one vote taken by the 15 member Security Council.  This is nuts!

Original post below

Senators Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz are introducing legislation today to restrict funding to the United Nations over last month’s Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlement expansion as a barrier to the Two State Solution–a vote which the USA did not veto.

The details of the legislation are not yet fully known, but on Morning Joe this morning Ted Cruz said simply that the legislation would “end all US taxpayer funding for the UN unless or until they reverse this resolution.” (Clip starts at min 6:44)


The USA pays 22% of the budget of the United Nations. This comes to about $610 million this year. Cutting this funding would cripple UN operations around the world. It also sets the USA and the UN on a collision course that is profoundly detrimental to American security interests around the world. “Conditioning funding to the United Nations to persuade the Security Council to reverse its vote will not work, ” Peter Yeo, President of the Better World Campaign* said in a statement issued this morning. “Such a step will be welcomed by our opponents and undermine U.S. foreign policy and Israeli objectives while crippling vital UN operations. The reduction of American influence that goes along with refusing to pay our dues will make it nearly impossible to garner support at the UN for the American position on North Korea, Iran, and Syria.”

Punishing the entire United Nations for a decision taken by just 15 of its members is misguided. As the late Richard Holbrooke used to say, it’s like punishing Madison Square Garden when the Knicks lose. It’s also profoundly immoral. Cutting off more than one-fifth of the funding of the UN means means restricting access to vaccines for 40% of the world’s children; reducing food aid for starving refugees; and halting development projects that empower communities to rise from the degradations of extreme poverty, among other things. All because of one vote by 15 of the UN’s 192 members — a vote, incidentally that these Senators’ own government did not block.

“If you cut off their money, that gets their attention,” Ted Cruz told Morning Joe. That’s certainly true. But if enacted, this legislation would undermine the ability of the United States to set the agenda at the United Nations in ways that advance American interests and values. It’s the diplomatic equivalent of cutting off one’s nose to spite the face.