VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian official on Wednesday pushed greater burden sharing for United Nations peacekeeping missions, saying the U.S. will drop its contributions by 3 percent.
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stressed that while the U.S. will now look to pay 25 percent of the roughly $8 billion it costs to run the missions annually, the country still pledges to bolster training and equip peacekeepers.
“The United States remains the largest financial contributor and capacity-builder for peacekeeping missions. We currently provide more than 28 percent of assessed costs and have spent more than $1 billion training peacekeepers over the last decade,” Shanahan said at the U.N. Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial conference in Vancouver.
“We will continue to provide a quarter of all costs into the future.”
The 3-percent dip was first announced in White House budget documents released in March. The administration also said it wants to cut State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development funding by 28.5 percent.
In 2016, the U.S. gave about $2.2 billion through the State Department to the U.N. to help run the 92,000-strong peacekeeping force. The amount is more than the combined dollars from the next top three contributors: China, Japan and Germany.
President Trump, a frequent critic of the UN, has bashed the payments as too costly, and on several occasions has threatened to cut off funding.
“The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” Trump tweeted in Dec. 2016.
Critics of the cuts, however, say they will undermine foreign policy goals and make the U.S. less safe.
The Defense Department works closely with the State Department on the peacekeeping missions, training and equipping in 56 countries, almost half of them in Africa.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has also said she’d consider cutting U.S. dollars for the peacekeeping missions.
Others have called out instances of misconduct by troops and police during UN peacekeeping missions, including sexual abuse cases.
Shanahan acknowledged the criticism in his remarks, noting that “it is always easier to be a critic than part of the solution,” but said countries must band together to focus “on bettering peacekeeping by removing roadblocks to success.”
He added that “difficult environments do not excuse poor performance or bad behavior,” and badly performing leaders and units must be removed from the field.
In his first foreign trip since becoming Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE’s second in command in July, Shanahan said that the U.S. will focus on “a partnership-to-provide model” matching U.S. capabilities with the needs of the U.N.
As part of the model, Shanahan said that the United States pledges to provide medical support to the U.N., bolster planning, coordination and communication before and during peacekeeping missions and provide additional training and equipment.
He also said the U.S. will deploy its training teams to peacekeeping operations for short durations to help identify gaps.
“In Secretary Mattis’s words, ‘problems in ungoverned spaces don’t stay in ungoverned spaces,’” Shanahan said.