TRUMP’S UN BLUSTER

US president’s vow to drop countries that are ‘not our friends’ threatens US aid to SA

By Peter Fabricius 25 September 2018
Caption
US President Donald Trump speaks at the delegate luncheon on the sidelines of the General Debate of the General Assembly of the United Nations at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 25 September 2018. The General Debate of the 73rd session begins on 25 September 2018. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES

South Africa, which receives millions of dollars in assistance from the US each year, especially for fighting AIDS, could be in Donald Trump’s crosshairs amid his latest threat.

US President Donald warned at the United Nations in New York that he is serious about cutting off US foreign aid to unfriendly countries which don’t respect the US.

He announced he had ordered an investigation to show whether the countries which get US aid served US interests.

Trump told the UN General Assembly during the opening of its annual debate on Tuesday that the US was grateful to the UN for the work it did to help better the lives of people and their families.

The US was the largest giver of foreign assistance by far, he said.

But few give back to us.”

That was why his administration was, he said, “taking a hard look at US foreign assistance, headed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We will examine what is working and what is not working and whether those countries which receive our dollars and our protection also have our interest at heart.

Moving forward we will only give foreign aid to those who respect us and are our friends.”

Earlier in 2018, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also hinted at cutting off US aid to countries which voted against the US at the UN. She listed SA among the 10 countries with the worst record, from a US perspective, for most often voting against US-supported resolutions and decisions.

The vast majority of the United States’ roughly R6.8 billion in annual assistance has been through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in support of the South African government’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the US Embassy in Pretoria said.

Trump has now gone further than that by directing Pompeo to investigate those specific countries from which the US will cut aid.

The probe comes at a time of strained SA relations with the US over Pretoria’s plans to expropriate land. Ramaphosa reacted angrily to a recent tweet by Trump saying he had asked Pompeo to investigate land “seizures” and farms murders in South Africa.

At an address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Monday, Ramaphosa did not answer yes or no when he was asked if South Africa had mended relations with the US after the row.

I regret to say President Trump was ill-informed about what was happening in South Africa. I think if he had taken time to get better information from us, he would have been much better informed and his comments would have been better appreciated by South Africans,” Ramaphosa said.

He added that his government had sent clear messages to the US State Department and to the US itself that his government was consulting broadly on the land issue – which was “the original sin which was committed in South Africa when the colonialists came” – and was dealing with it within the Constitution and the law.

Though Ramaphosa did not mention it, his officials had earlier announced that International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu would meet Pompeo later this week to try to patch up the quarrel.

Specifically on defence support, Trump said in his address to the General Assembly that the US would now expect countries to pay a fair share of the cost of their own defence.

He added that the US was committed to making the UN more accountable and effective. The US would no longer pay more than 25% of the UN’s peacekeeping budget. This would encourage other countries to carry a larger share of America’s “very large burden” of peacekeeping costs.

The US would also shift more of its UN financial support from assessed contributions to voluntary contributions so as give more support to programmes with proven track records of success.

Assessed contributions and voluntary contributions are the two sources of UN funding. Countries have less control over assessed contributions as these are obligatory payments made by member states to finance the UN regular budget and peacekeeping operations.

They are largely based on per capita income so the US share is quite high.

Trump’s speech was deliberately aimed at punting nationalism and patriotism as the higher virtues, rather than multilateralism and co-operation among nations, which the UN embodies.

Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth,” he said.

That is why America will always choose independence and co-operation over global governance, control, and domination.

I honour the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship.

We only ask that you honour our sovereignty in return.”

In reply French President Emmanuel Macron stood up and delivered an impassioned defence of multilateralism, speaking for well over three times his allotted 15 minutes. That threw out the schedules of all the following speakers, including Ramaphosa. DM

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