The White House is seeking a radical alteration of US foreign policy. The Trump administration plans to reduce its commitment to foreign aid and diplomacy through substantial funding cuts in the administration’s new budget plan. The purported purpose of this budget proposal is to “free up funding for critical priorities here at home and put America first.” The proposal includes a 28 percent ($10.1 billion) reduction in the State Department’s budget, which would be used to fund a defense spending increase of $54 billion, larger than the State Department’s entire $39 billion budget under the proposal.
The proposed budget is important because it gives insight into the direction of Trump’s foreign policy agenda. Trump’s proposal is an endorsement of the perception that might is right. While increasing military spending is not unusual, the disregard for tools, other than military predominance, certainly is. The effects of these cuts will have drastic ramifications for the rest of the world, by producing uncertainty and volatility. The full budget will be realized in May after Congress has reviewed and made changes to the current fiscal outline.
This budget plan would have drastic implications for the future of the UN. US funding for the UN accounts for approximately 22 percent of the international organization’s total budget and 28 percent of the peacekeeping budget. The proposed cuts in the State Department budget would result in a huge shortfall in UN funding. This would happen during the worst humanitarian crisis since the end of World War Two, with imminent malnutrition and famine facing millions of people in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria. UN agencies, such as the World Food Programme and the UN refugee agency, are already underfunded and in desperate need of resources to tackle pressing issues. Reducing funding to these UN agencies would have an adverse effect on their capacity to support the world’s poor and vulnerable.
There are also cuts in the budget that will be devastating for climate change and development initiates. For instance, the Global Climate Change Initiative, a US program that helps underdeveloped and developing countries grow in a climate-conscious manner, has been completely cut. By withdrawing from international diplomacy, the Trump administration is abandoning leadership in areas of major international concern. This retraction of soft power will give rise to the manifestations of war.
The State Department and the Pentagon have historically been seen as complementary parts of US foreign policy. The work of the State Department helps to reduce contributing factors to conflict and is a crucial part of US national defense. Trump’s budget proposal offers a self-fulfilling prophecy. By siphoning money away from foreign aid and diplomacy and dedicating it to a rise in military spending, the administration is making the world a more unstable and dangerous place, therefore creating a perception that more military spending is needed – in effect creating a deadly spiral. Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, exemplified this point when he addressed members of Congress at a National Security Advisory Council meeting: “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”
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