The US and the UN: A Changing Tide

In the past week, the administration of President Trump has threatened to cut payments to the United Nations by the United States government by half, having the potential to greatly impact on humanitarian and peacekeeping missions the UN has established. This comes after President Trump has been fiercely critical of the organisation, perhaps being the most outspoken President regarding the UN. The US, however, seems to get a ‘free pass’ in the UN and the Trump administration would do well to remember that.

It is not disputed that the US contribution to the UN is small; the financial assistance provided is by far the largest of any state. This funding does not come without any hidden attachments, however, and the US get a good deal from the UN for their assistance.

A permanent member on the Security Council, there is rarely negative press surrounding the use of the veto power by the United States, particularly in relation to their involvement in issues surrounding the Israeli apartheid regime. Contrast this with the portrayal of the Western media of Russia for their frequent use of the veto in situations relating to Syria, whilst in itself abhorrent, is puzzling.

Furthermore, following the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, headed by the United States under no legal authority granted by the Security Council, there were no hard-hitting sanctions placed upon the hegemonic power. The money provided to the UN, whether consciously or not, buys the state influence in the institution, and profits handsomely from this influence in furthering its foreign policy goals. Again, contrast this to the actions of Iraq in the 1990s following their invasion of Kuwait and it is clear the US gets a good deal.

Cutting funding to the United Nations is likely to be seen as a provocative act and, should President Trump go ahead with the threats issued, will lead to a loss of hegemonic power within the institution. It would appear that President Trump is sacrificing the long-term diplomatic interests of the state for the short term budget saving option – which amounts to  around 0.001% of GDP.

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The ICC: Better Health than Ever

Despite its relatively young lifespan as a judicial institution, there are many that have written the ICC off as ineffective. This position was supported in recent times with calls from the African Union to start a mass exit following allegations of the Court having an African bias. These criticisms appear to be misguided and the ICC should be considered stronger than ever before.

Since 2016, the ICC has been formally served with withdrawal notices from three stars – South Africa, The Gambia, and Burundi. This, coupled with members of the African Union encouraging others to follow suit has created difficulties for the Court.

Since the turn of 2017, the withdrawals from South Africa and The Gambia have been revoked and it appears that the fears from many of its supporters that this would be the beginning of the end for the Court have been premature.

The argument of the ICC being too focused on African states should also not be given too much thought. Whilst it is true that many of the investigations have centred on African states, many of these have been self-referred. Furthermore, the Office of the Prosecutor, the organ of the Court that decides which investigations it will follow through with, is held by a Gambian woman.

Whilst there may be legitimacy issues with the non-involvement of powerful states and issues relating to the enforcement of arrest warrants, the Court appears to be in good health, with states that have made the decision to leave having a change of heart. It can only be hoped in the near future that other issues of the young Court can be ironed out and it becomes an effective judicial mechanism in enforcing international law.

Scotland and the NATO Myth

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday publically stated that plans are in place for a second independence referendum. The move follows a narrow defeat for the Yes campaign in September 2014 and the subsequent decision for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, a decision the majority of the Scottish public voted against.

In the 24 hours since the public announcement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated Scotland would not retain membership of NATO should Scotland become independent. Whilst this may be strictly true, the notion that NATO would reject Scotland’s application to join has been cited, but this would go against the best interests of the organisation. NATO will not be willing to leave the GIUK open and allow the opportunity for Russian encroachment in the region.

Scotland would be in control of a large part of the vital Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom passage, the section of the Atlantic Ocean that would potentially allow Russian naval forces free entry into the Atlantic. The straight is of vital strategic importance to NATO should tensions escalate to a level seen at any time during the Cold War. The purpose of NATO, to defend against Russia in the Cold War, would mean that any application Scotland makes would more than likely be automatically accepted.

With the announcement of an independence referendum in Scotland, we can expect to see more deceptions like this in the near future.

WikiLeaks the Russian Propaganda Machine

In the past week, WikiLeaks published a new set of documents that they claim will be the first in a series entitled ‘Year Zero’. The leaks relate to classified documents from the Central Intelligence Agency, the C.I.A., and the organisation, headed by controversial figure Julian Assange, claim it is the largest ever release of classified information. Among the allegations made by WikiLeaks in the information release included evidence that the C.I.A. were using malware to target modern technology – such as iPhone and Android devices, as well as Smart TVs. However, the move by WikiLeaks, a stateless organisation that has no official affiliations with any nation, can be best viewed as another move in the ongoing story regarding U.S.-Russian relations – placing the organisation firmly in the camp of the Russian state.

The revelations allege the Agency is using this malware to ‘spy’ on the public by exploiting the flaws in the security of the software and hardware of the affected devices. While it may not be surprising to many that an intelligence agency has the tools to track individuals – whether these individuals are citizens by large or individuals the C.I.A. may have a particular interest in – the document dump comes at a time of fractured relations between the US President and the C.I.A.. With the new Commander-in-Chief’s criticism of the agency’s suggestion of Russian involvement in the U.S. elections, the move is nothing more than the organisation’s attempts to discredit the intelligence agency and shine the spotlight away from the on-going and developing story of President Trump and President Putin’s relationship.

If suspected links between the Russian state and WikiLeaks are confirmed to be true, this information will have come as a great surprise to the Russian government. It is likely the Russian government were unwilling to give up information relating to the methods of foreign intelligence agencies, such as the C.I.A. but saw it as a concession they were willing to take in order to direct attention away from the election hacking scandal.

WikiLeaks have previously come to the aid of the U.S. President. In the election campaign, it was WikiLeaks who provided documents relating to the emails of Hillary Clinton that President Trump clung on to. It is undoubted that this helped to swing the election in favour of President Trump and was key to his victory. With these latest allegations, again helping the President, it is becoming clearer that WIkiLeaks is a tool the Russian state is willing to use to force change in the world.