The United States is now $466.9 million in arrears on the dues it owes the United Nations.
As a result, the U.N. is running out of money so fast that Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar warns the world organization will be completely out of operating funds this fall.Put those two facts together and what do you get?
Among other things, a recent resolution from the U.S. Senate calling for an end to the congressional decision to curb American support. Indeed, the non-binding resolution calls for the restoration of full U.S. funding.
The trouble with the resolution is that it shows astigmatism as well as bad memory.
The Senate professes to be moved not just by the United Nations' penury but by its purported contributions to peace recently in such places as Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq war.
What the senators overlook is that the U.N. had little to do with the movement toward peace in those trouble spots. Though Iraq had long been suing for peace, its pleas fell on deaf ears until Iran started losing not only troops but territory. While the Security Council demanded an end to the fighting more than a year ago, the U.N. was unable to impose an arms embargo on Iran for its defiance.
The U.N.'s track record in Afghanistan is even less impressive. As long ago as 1979, the U.N. called for the withdrawal from Afghanistan of all "foreign troops." The world body could not even bring itself to identify them as Russians.
Such U.N. calls, however, got nowhere. Likewise, mediation efforts by a high-ranking U.N. official were fruitless. Russia decided to withdraw not because of anything the U.N. did but because Moscow finally concluded it was in a Vietnam-like morass - and because American-supplied Stinger missiles, in the hands of the Afghan resistance, started downing Soviet planes at the rate of one a day.
Moreover, what the senators forget is the reason for imposing the freeze on American contributions to the U.N. Funds were withheld to prod for budget reforms at the U.N. and to get the international organization to tone down its blatant anti-Americanism.
Progress has been made toward both objectives, justifying the restoration of some American funding. But the full contribution should not be restored until the U.N. has done a better job of putting its house in order. When and if that it done, it still would be a mistake to count on the U.N. to achieve or enforce peace.