Trump Admin. to Slash Support for UN Peacekeeping Missions in Africa

Bolton calls missions 'unproductive, unsuccessful, and unaccountable'

John Bolton
John Bolton / Getty Images
December 13, 2018

The Trump administration plans to significantly cut U.S. support for United Nations peacekeeping missions in Africa as part of a broader strategy that seeks to better promote American interests on the continent, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Thursday.

Speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Bolton criticized "unproductive, unsuccessful, and unaccountable U.N. peacekeeping missions" that often lead to decades of U.N. occupation rather than conflict resolution.

"We will only back effective and efficient operations, and we will seek to streamline, reconfigure, or terminate missions that are unable to meet their own mandate or facilitate lasting peace," Bolton said. "Our objective is to resolve conflicts, not freeze them in perpetuity."

Bolton, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under the second Bush administration, accused the world body of frequently entering into truces with African governments followed by the deployment of peacekeeping forces without addressing the issues fueling the conflict.

"All too often at the United Nations, establishing the peacekeeping force and deploying it is the end of creative thinking and the mandate [of the mission] is renewed almost automatically," he said. "There needs to be a lot more focus on resolving the underlying conflict, and therefore having success in the peacekeeping mission. Success is not simply continuing the mission ad infinitum."

Bolton cited the U.N. mission in the Western Sahara, which has operated there for nearly three decades. Bolton helped write the mission mandate in 1991 when he served as the assistant secretary for international organizations at the State Department.

He asked in exasperation, "How can you justify that?"

The United States has already rejected an increase in funding for a peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic and has threatened to withhold backing for the U.N.'s Congo mission.

Earlier this year, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the organization the United States would no longer fund more than a quarter of its peacekeeping missions. The United States is currently the largest financial contributor to U.N. peacekeeping operations, funding roughly 28 percent of the $8 billion budget. The second largest contributor is China, which covers a little more than 10 percent of the costs.

The administration's new Africa strategy also seeks to counter China and Russia's growing influence in the region in a pivot away from counterterrorism operations. Bolton accused the two U.S. adversaries of "predatory practices," which use their investment and trade to leverage influence over African governments.