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U. S. Department of State
95/08/11 Focus: UN Peacekeeping: Supporting US Interests
Bureau of Public Affairs
Focus on the UN
UN Peacekeeping: Supporting U.S. Interests
[Were there no UN peacekeeping,] it would leave us with an unacceptable
option when emergencies arose: a choice between acting alone and doing
January 6, 1995
The peace and security operations of the United Nations directly support
U.S. national interests. Peacekeeping has the capacity, under the right
circumstances, to separate adversaries, maintain cease-fires, facilitate
the delivery of humanitarian relief, enable refugees and displaced
persons to return home, demobilize combatants, and create conditions
under which political reconciliation may occur and free elections may be
held. In so doing, it can help nurture new democracies, lower the global
tide of refugees, reduce the likelihood of unwelcome intervention by
regional powers, and prevent small wars from growing into larger scale
conflicts which would be far more costly in terms of lives and
In the post-Cold War world, one of the best vehicles to ensure
international burdensharing is UN peacekeeping. Nations that would not
otherwise deploy their military forces outside of their own borders send
their own men and women around the world on UN peacekeeping missions.
More than 90 nations have deployed troops on UN missions; 77 countries
have troops deployed today. Currently, the U.S. contributes only 5% of
UN troops. Other nations also pay the lion's share of the cost of UN
peacekeeping operations. Currently, 70% of total UN costs for
peacekeeping is assumed by other nations. The U.S. burden in the next
fiscal year will not exceed 25%.
U.S. and UN: Acting in Concert
The map of UN peacekeeping deployments closely parallels the pattern of
U.S. interests. UN peacekeepers play a key role in the Middle East,
patrolling the borders of America's close ally, Israel. In Cyprus, they
separate Greek and Turkish forces, helping to contain tension between
two of our valuable NATO allies. They have helped or are helping to
resolve regional conflicts in Europe, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa,
the Persian Gulf, and Central America. The UN Security Council also
provides international backing for U.S. actions to protect U.S. vital
national interests, as in the Persian Gulf war.
Most recently, the Clinton Administration won Security Council
authorization for deployment of a multinational force to Haiti that has
put the country on the path to democracy. Security Council support was
instrumental in gaining agreement from more than two dozen other
countries to participate in the multinational force, maximizing global
diplomatic support for the operation and enabling the U.S. to hand over
the peacekeeping function to a UN force.
Wars of ethnicity or nationalism--features of the post-Cold War era--and
the failure of nation states fuel mass migration, refugees, famine, and
disease. A necessary component of restoring peace and security is
stabilizing these calamities and then providing a way for refugees to
return home. The United Nations, particularly through its High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), plays a key role in coordinating the
international response to such tragedies.
In many instances, UN peacekeepers provide security for the return of
refugees and the delivery of humanitarian relief by UNHCR and the many
government and private voluntary groups that offer assistance.
Peacekeepers and relief organizations have worked side by side in
Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Georgia, Mozambique, and elsewhere.
Command and Control
The President will never--and under the constitution may never--
relinquish his command authority over U.S. military personnel at any
time. Command constitutes the authority to issue orders covering every
aspect of military operations and administration. By law, the chain of
command flows from the President to the lowest U.S. commander in the
field and remains inviolate.
But it has been long-standing U.S. policy, when it serves U.S.
interests, to place U.S. forces under the temporary operational control
of foreign partners. This procedure enables the U.S. to participate in
operations that directly serve U.S. interests, such as in the UN mission
in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, while limiting U.S.
exposure. Moreover, when the U.S. is willing to provide forces to
collective security actions, it reaps reciprocal benefits when other
countries contribute forces to U.S.-led operations, as in the Gulf war.
The Clinton Administration is pursuing policies to improve and reform UN
peacekeeping so that it better serves U.S. interests and trying to
improve international understanding of the decision to lower the U.S.
peacekeeping assessment to 25% by October 1995. In addition to reducing
the U.S. share of UN peacekeeping, the Administration is working to
reduce costs to all UN members by finding ways for the UN to undertake
needed missions more efficiently. The U.S. also actively supported the
recently adopted rules changes that reduce the amount paid by the UN for
heavy equipment--tanks, armored personnel carriers--that troop
contributors bring with them on peacekeeping missions.
In May 1994, President Clinton signed a Presidential Decision Directive
on Reforming Multilateral Peace Operations. The policy requires that
tough questions be asked about the costs, size, risks, mandate, and
duration of operations before they are launched or renewed. The policy's
goal is simple: ensure that peacekeepers are equipped properly, that
money is not wasted, and that operational directives are clearly
defined. The policy is working and has resulted in fewer and smaller new
operations and better management of existing ones. Additionally, the
Departments of State and Defense have been working with the UN to
streamline procurement, personnel management, and other support services
The Price of Peace
During the Cold War, one or both of the superpowers generally opposed
using UN peacekeeping to deal with most crises. In the immediate
aftermath of the Cold War, consensus emerged on the increased use of UN
peacekeeping and the number of missions, and the total cost of
peacekeeping escalated. But the absolute cost to the U.S. remains a
small portion of its national security expenses--the equivalent of less
than one-half of one percent of the Department of Defense budget. While
UN peacekeeping costs can and must be better contained, they represent a
far cheaper choice than either of the alternatives: acting unilaterally
or taking an isolationist stance until forced to confront crises after
they have spread to directly threaten U.S. national security interests.
The troubles encountered by UN peacekeeping operations in the former
Yugoslavia and Somalia have received most of the public's and media's
attention over the past few years, in line with the "bad news sells"
maxim. But the harshest critics of UN peacekeeping typically fail to
acknowledge that many countries that were not long ago wracked by civil
wars, such as Cambodia, El Salvador, and Mozambique, were helped out of
the "bad news" headlines by UN operations and today are making
considerable progress toward democracy and political stability.
U.S. Contributions to UN Peacekeeping (May 31, 1995)
UN Operation of Troops
UNTSO--Middle East 15
SOURCE: United Nations
August 11, 1995
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