Nine former U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations on Tuesday warned against Trump administration plans to slash funding of the world body, portraying such a move as a grave danger to American power.
The ambassadors’ warning, contained in a letter to congressional leaders, came a day after President Trump received members of the U.N. Security Council at the White House and gave them an undiplomatic lecture on what they’ve been doing wrong.
Trump has threatened to drastically reduce the sizable U.S. contribution to U.N. peacekeeping, health and other missions, which are made inefficient, as the president put it, by "bloat."
Madeleine Albright, a former U.N. ambassador and the country’s first female secretary of State, said cutbacks at a time of numerous global crises would in fact weaken U.S. power and its position as a world leader.
"The United States needs to be doing more in the world, frankly, not less," Albright said in a telephone briefing with reporters.
She was one of nine former ambassadors to the world body, from five Democratic and Republican administrations, who called on congressional leaders to resist the cuts Trump has outlined in budget proposals.
Withholding money, the ambassadors said, "undermines essential U.N. activities that promote core American interests and values," deprives the U.S. of the moral authority to demand critical reform within the U.N. bureaucracy, and "costs us more over the long term."
"It also cedes the agenda to countries that can be hostile to our interests and more than willing to see the U.S. give up its seat at the table," the ambassadors said.
Albright said countries like Russia and China would be eager to fill any leadership void vacated by the United States. And she said the United States loses its ability to demand U.N. reform if it becomes the cause of a severe financial crisis at the organization.
The letter was signed by every living former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. since and including Andrew Young (1977-79), except for three: John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad, all of whom served under Republican presidents.
Trump, in public remarks with the Security Council members on Monday, said he had long considered the U.N. an "under-performer" but that it has "tremendous potential."
He scolded the members for not "taking on certain problems" like Syria’s chemical weapons and North Korea. (He failed to observe that it is Russia, a country Trump never criticizes, that has repeatedly vetoed U.N. resolutions against Syria.)
He said U.N. costs "have absolutely gone out of control."
"We need the member states to come together to eliminate inefficiencies and bloat," Trump said.
Then-national security advisor Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing Feb. 1 at the White House. A boy in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, looks at the area where a taller fence is being built along the U.S.-Mexico border near Sunland Park, N.M., on March 29. (Molly Riley / Pool Photo) A worker sorts lumber at the Pan Abode Mill in Richmond, Canada. (Pew Research)