Top 5 Reasons why Trump’s Threats to UNGA over Jerusalem are Empty

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The thuggish Trump and his gun moll Nikki Haley have threatened member countries of the UN General Assembly with a cut-off of US foreign aid if they vote against the US on Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump said, “They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us… We’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Haley, who apparently breaks people’s legs in her spare time for not paying their vig, had tweeted that “the US will be taking names” of the countries that vote against the Trump decision at the UNGA.

The right wing in the United States has long spread around the false story that the US government gives away enormous amounts of money to other countries. Opinion polls show that many Americans think it is as much as 25% of the $4.094 trillion budget, which would be a trillion dollars in aid. That is hilariously absurd. The actual US foreign aid budget is $41.9 billion, about one percent of the Federal budget.

Having retailed a false narrative for decades, the GOP has now been caught in its own trap, making threats on the basis of facts not in evidence.

1. So the first thing to say about Trump’s threat is that almost nobody really needs US aid, because Washington gives out so little.

In fact, Germany has a fourth the population of the US, and the UK has a fifth, and each gives out almost $20 bn. in aid, so that those two countries actually account for nearly as much aid as the whole US.

2. Another key point here is that a lot of US so-called aid is just corporate welfare for Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Most of the money the US gives to Egypt is in the form of weapons. The Egyptian government has more military helicopters than it knows what to do with, and they’re just stacked in warehouses. So the money actually went to US arms manufacturers, and Egypt gets a fairly useless shiny military toy. Trump would be hurting US corporations nore than Egypt if he cut it off.

3. Although 200 countries get US aid, the bulk of it is distributed to a small handful of countries. The The Council on Foreign Relations says the US gave the most to these countries in 2015: Afghanistan ($5.5 billion), Israel ($3.1 billion), Iraq ($1.8 billion), Egypt ($1.5 billion), and Jordan ($1.1 billion).

4 The US does not give this aid selflessly or for its own health. It is a form of influence peddling. The $1.2 bn the US gives to Egypt is intended to make sure its officers don’t renege on Camp David with Israel.

The fairly useless aid to Egypt is a bribe to continue with the “peace process” with Israel. If you take it away, we may finally get to see what an independent Egyptian government policy would look like. So punishing Egypt for its UNGA vote would likely simply diminish US standing at the UN and with the countries it woos by charity. Since the money is influence peddling, if you cut it off, the EU, China and Russia will fill in, in search of influence. China is giving Pakistan nearly $50 billion in development aid. It dwarfs what the US provides, and that is mostly in weapons.

5. Money by the US constitution is controlled by Congress. Trump may want to punish some countries, but Congress may disagree.

So to recap: The US doesn’t give out much aid, and therefore can’t hold it over the heads of many other countries. The aid it does give out is for establishing US influence, and discontinuing it is an opening for China to get US clients instead.

I very much doubt anyone will pay attention to Trump’s threats.


Related video:

Al Jazeera English: “Trump and the Ethics of Foreign Aid | People and Power”

21 Responses

  1. “I very much doubt anyone will pay attention to Trump’s threats.”

    Juan, I very much hope they do – sometimes the General Assembly looks like it could use a good laugh.

  2. Amazingly stupid then to make an empty threat. To lose the vote is bad enough but to escalate a defeat into a snub on Trump and Haley shows overwhelming hubris.

  3. Bibi made a similar threat to the UN last year in which, from the podium, he slowly shifted his gaze around the assembly hall and proclaimed to those who voted to resend Iranian sanctions…”I’ll be watching you!”

    I’m sure Netanyahu sent the same collective shiver through the gathered leaders as Nikki did with her “I’ll know whose been naughty or nice!” admonition.

  4. Yes, I absolutely agree. In the case of Egypt, the alliance is crucial to US dominance in the region, and the aid is what secures the alliance. If the US cut the aid they may as well gift-wrap Egypt and sent it to Xi Jingping for Christmas.

    I assume the bully-boy posturing is mainly for domestic consumption. But I can’t believe that the US will really upset one of their most important alliances over a trivial issue: this vote has few consequences beyond the symbolic. So isn’t Trump just going to look foolish in front of his supporters when he backs down? I’m trying to find an intelligible reason for this action but I can’t. In the ongoing debate about whether Trump an evil genius who acts the clown to distract attention while he asset-strips the US, or whether he is really is a clown who’s in way over his head, this incident suggests the latter.

    • The US destroying or enfeebling the UN on its quest for global hegemony would be parallel to the way similarly selfish powers undermined the League of Nations. This doesn’t lead to anything good.

  5. Besides being remembered for all the unfinished wars the U.S. has engaged in for over the last 70 years, along with dropping out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and now this threat with extortion for not voting with the U.S. on the Jerusalem give away Deal to Israel, will go down in history as the last thrashing’s of a dying empire before it’s fall and it’s going down for the count. This should come as no surprise, since the U.S. replaced diplomacy with gangsterism, with the Art of the Deal. Now stand for your National Anthem citizens, because it’s the patriotic thing to do, so just do it.

  6. Trump administration is riven by a profound division between those determined to avoid deep entanglements in the Middle East, such as Donald J. Trump himself, and the hawks he is putting in key positions,

    Trump has put out mixed signals about Israel/Palestine, as well. At one point he urged a more even-handed policy.

    Then he appointed a man as ambassador to Israel who more or less believes that Palestinians have no rights at all and all their property may be stolen at will. Likely, the Palestinians will be screwed over, as they usually are by Washington (which only pays lip service, occasionally, to their rights).

    Trump’s announced Iran policy is a mess, and it remains to be seen if he can shape it into something meaningful.

    The US has intervened too much and too incompetently in the Middle East. Trump’s initial idea of leaving it alone has virtues. But can he really leave it alone?

    He is unpredictable and lacks diplomacy

  7. I hope Egypt can become independent of U.S. aid but they depend on U.S. wheat imports. Egypt actually used to export wheat but after the Camp David agreement they made changes to their economy that made them dependent on the U.S. imports. Was this another economic hit man scam?

  8. Names have been taken, soon some offenders will be sent to see the Principal, while for the rest, let the detentions and spankings commence!

  9. Agreed. Yesterday I sent a similar message to my Member of Parliament and our Foreign Minister. Unfortunately realpolitik prevailed and Canada abstained in the UN vote. Aren’t we just too too nice.

  10. Instead of giving $3 billion a year to Israel, the U.S. should be imposing sanctions on Israel for refusing to obey a long list of Security Council resolutions and for refusing to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians.

    Sometimes, one wonders what would happen if the U.S. completely pulled out of the U.N. Would the world be better off or worse off in the long run?

  11. It is really a pleasure each day to read something so topical and so informative about some of the most important issues of the day. Many, many thanks.

    It seems that all the threats issued by Mr. Trump and Ms. Haley did not produce the desired result, as 128 countries voted in favor of the resolution, including many US allies. Even Canada and Mexico abstained. It is quite something when Mr. Erdogan, the leader of a NATO ally, lectures Mr. Trump by saying; “Mr. Trump, you cannot buy Turkey’s democratic free will with your dollars, our decision is clear… What is the cradle of democracy doing! They are looking for people they can buy with their dollars.” He exhorted other countries: “do not, for the sake of a few dollars, sell off your democratic free will.”

  12. When you threaten like a thug, and still lost the vote, you have to take it like a huge slap in the face. The world rejected what Netanyahu and Trumped dished out, and anyway they spin it, it was a humiliating defeat.

  13. It always makes me laugh reading the names of the countries who vote with US and Israel: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo. What is US going to do with all are submerged in twenty years?!!

  14. Mr. Trump is demonstrating why the solutions so often heard on Fox News, InfoWars, and the like may sound good to the right wingnuts, but don’t work in reality. From the sounds of things, Mr. Trump is making America greatly despised. I expect China, Russia, and the European Union will pick up the slack if the US decides to stop funding the UN. If the US leaves the UN, we lose our seat on the Security Council – and our ability to veto sanctions against Israel… or on our own country. The sad thing is, I expect Mr. Putin is quietly encouraging Mr. Trump to take such a dramatic stand – and Mr. Trump’s just foolish enough to fall into the trap.

  15. Haley said “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very right of exercising our right as a sovereign nation”

    And the the “sovereign nations” Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo obediently voted with their imperial masters.

  16. Let us hope that Rump carries out some of these threats of not aiding countries who vote against the Great America. Please Rump, please carry out some of these threats, i.e., please stop America’s coming to the aid of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, et al. Please stop America’s sending in bombs and troops and private contractors and trunks of cash into these countries. Please teach them a lesson by showing that America, who knows what is good for these countries, can stop its divinely inspired benevolence!

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