When asked about President Donald Trump’s July 2018 visit to Europe, Henry Kissinger presciently noted, “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.” In other words, for all the uproar surrounding the president’s personality, something bigger is going on, and Trump has come to personify it. Perhaps the biggest challenge is, therefore, to put words to this shifting ground and imagine its potential consequences.
This article was originally published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 2 May 2018.
Total world military expenditure rose to $1739 billion in 2017, a marginal increase of 1.1 per cent in real terms from 2016, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). China’s military expenditure rose again in 2017, continuing an upward trend in spending that has lasted for more than two decades. Russia’s military spending fell for the first time since 1998, while spending by the United States remained constant for the second successive year. The comprehensive annual update of the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database is accessible from today at www.sipri.org.
The United Nations General Assembly has approved $6.8 billion in peacekeeping expenditures for the 2017/18 budget year. This total will increase, possibly to as much as $7.3 billion, since states only agreed on the first six months of funding for two ongoing operations. Yet even that total would still be some $600 million less than the amount requested by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and $500 million less than the approved resources for the previous year.
United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has celebrated this reduction: “Just five months into our time here, we’ve already been able to cut over half a billion dollars from the U.N. peacekeeping budget and we’re only getting started.” The UN’s Africa Group has warned, however, that excessive budget cuts would “endanger the implementation of [mission] mandates.”
As the prospect of United States funding cuts hangs over the United Nations and its flagship peacekeeping operations like the sword of Damocles, many are asking whether the threat might in fact provide the impetus for necessary reforms. The picture will become clearer at the April 6 Security Council thematic debate on peacekeeping, which the US is organizing. If UN member states remain focused on reform and reinvest in political strategies, and if the bureaucracy helps itself by initiating real rather than merely rhetorical change, a positive outcome is possible.
Reports of proposed US cuts have generated much panic around Turtle Bay for the past couple of months. This started with a January draft US presidential executive order—never signed into action—recommending “eliminating wasteful and counterproductive giving” to the world body. It culminated in March with the release of the US federal budget blueprint for 2018, which confirmed the White House’s intention to cut 40% of the State Department’s $2.2 billion annual contribution to the UN’s overall peacekeeping budget, which comes to just under $8 billion.
Cartoon of The Defense Budget by Amitai Sandy. Used with permission. Text from right-to-left: A-You, B-Me, C-the next war.
One of the major results of the social justice protests in Israel in the last year has been a renewed debate about the budgetary priorities of the state. The social justice movement (also known as #j14) demanded a more equal distribution of wealth in Israel, including funneling a greater share of the budget to welfare services for the population such as subsidized housing, free education, and better medical services, at the expense of current budgetary priorities – namely, the defense budget. » More