Will US pull out of UN in future?

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/9 20:18:40

Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

Since US President Donald Trump took office, the US has withdrawn from many international organizations and treaties, including UNESCO and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Amid the worsening COVID-19 crisis in the country, the US announced on Tuesday it will begin formal withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO), which will take effect on July 6, 2021. Many US politicians have also targeted the United Nations (UN). For example, US congressman Mike Rogers said in 2017 that the US' participation in the UN "should end immediately." Will the US eventually withdraw from the UN? The Global Times talked to two Chinese experts about the US abandoning international organizations under the Trump administration.

Zhang Tengjun, assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies

Over the next few months -- before the 2020 US presidential election -- if Trump thinks it will benefit his reelection, he may even pull the US out of the UN. 

However, if Trump really threatens to withdraw from the UN, it is unlikely that American people will support him. Trump's threats are persuasive only to his loyal supporters. A wider range of Americans may hold reservations about the possible US withdrawal from the UN, and may even voice their powerful opposition against it. 

There have been many internal problems in the US, and it is difficult for the Trump administration to pass the buck to the UN. Playing such a card may not benefit Trump at all.

The Trump administration has always been unwilling to participate too much in international affairs. Trump believes the US does not get as much as it gives in the sphere of international affairs. Based on this calculating mind-set, he believes that becoming a member of international organizations hurts the interests of the US. Withdrawing from international organizations is also Trump's bravado to show the US' importance and an attempt to maintain the country's global status in a multilateral world.

If the US really withdraws from the UN in the future, this means the UN system - launched and led by the US and other Western countries since 1945 - will lose the support of an important founding member state. This will seriously undermine and impact the power of the organization, especially when considering that it is headquartered in New York City. 

If the US withdraws from the UN and turns to form a small group of countries to build a new system, the UN's effectiveness and operation will face a serious blow. The US, obviously, can act more unscrupulously on the global stage if this happens. This will further affect peace and stability worldwide.

Rather than completely withdrawing from the UN, it may be more realistic for the US to try to reform the UN and shape it into an organization more in line with the US' vision and interests - just as it tried to do with the WHO and WTO. The US has always wanted to reform the UN and to have much more say in the organization. This is what previous US administrations had tried to do. But the Trump administration has adopted a more direct and radical approach.

It is very likely that the US will continue to stay in the UN system. Meanwhile, Washington will proactively seek reforms in the organization in order to bring the US broader benefits. It is also likely to reshape the international system - in a destructive way - which is more in line with the US' interests. If the US fails to rebuild the system, it may threaten to withdraw from it, and completely become a destroyer of the current structure of international relations.

Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China

The US started to withdraw from international organizations and treaties almost since the first day Trump took office. The reason behind the US' withdrawal is mainly the country's current ruling philosophy. First, populism, which manifests as nationalism externally. 

For example, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo openly said in April that "every international organization that we take taxpayer money and give to them for the benefit of America … we need to make sure it's delivering on those taxpayer dollars." This sounds ridiculous. International organizations should be platforms for coordination, instead of a joint-stock company. The US' strange mindset is not in line with the international organizations' rules and logic.

The US also believes that the WHO's position is partial to China. It wants the organization to endorse the US. However, the WHO did not cater to the US, making the latter very dissatisfied. In April, US Senator Todd Young even called on WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to appear before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee to answer questions about the organization's handling of the COVID-19. The US' ruling philosophy, hegemony and dissatisfaction with specific issues are reasons behind the US' withdrawal.

It seems that isolationism, in the form of mercantilism, is returning to the US. The Trump administration always prioritizes economic interests, and Trump tends to fight back whenever he feels that the US has suffered losses. Whether the trade war or withdrawing from international organizations, they serve US business interests.

But it is unlikely that the US will withdraw from the UN, because the US would have gone too far. If the Trump administration really threatens to withdraw from the UN or NATO, most US strategists would try to stop it.

The US may try to reform the UN to make it more in line with the US' interests. Now the US wants its international interests without paying to obtain them. This is the US' idea of mercantilism. 

The US wants international organizations to follow Washington's lead and act in line with US goals. Otherwise, the US will threaten to withdraw.  The logic and mindset behind US' current practice is not merely isolationism but an attempt to maintain its international leadership at low costs.  

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