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Mayank Chhaya: Trump’s threat of cutting aid mere bombast
December 23, 2017
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The Trump administrations less-than-subtle threat to stop aid to countries that voted against the United States for recognising Jerusalem as Israels capital is manifestly untenable. For one, the list of 128 countries includes those at the very heart of Washingtons deep strategic and national security engagement.

Stung by the overwhelming support for a United Nations resolution in favour of maintaining the status of Jerusalem in compliance with Security Council resolutions, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said Washington would be “taking names” of those who went against it. Before the vote Haley had said: “The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us.”

President Donald Trump went a step further, clearly suggesting that aid to those who did not support his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem would end. “Let them vote against us, we’ll save a lot,” he said. The only problem with this rather extraordinary warning is that among the countries that supported the UN resolution against America are those with a direct bearing on both this country’s strategic and national security interests.

Take, for instance, just four countries that voted against America — Afghanistan ($4.2 billion), Iraq ($4.2 billion), Jordan ($1.2 billion) and Egypt ($1.2 billion). They are at the core of America’s geostrategic engagement and between them accounted for over $10 billion in annual US aid out of a total obligation of $49 billion and actual disbursement of $45 billion worldwide for 2016. There is next to no prospect of even reducing, let alone ending, the aid to these four. Add to the list another equally crucial player, Pakistan, which received over $987 million in 2016 and which voted against the US.

Digging deeper into the complexities of US aid and its direct relationship with its various global interests, it becomes even clearer why President Trump’s warning is ill-conceived on the face of it. His just-released National Security Strategy document lays special emphasis on the enhanced role India ought to play both within South Asia and in the broader Indian Ocean region. It also expects India to increase its economic assistance to Afghanistan. India, in a somewhat spunky decision, voted against the US over the Jerusalem resolution.

It is hard to see how Washington might be able to balance punishing India for that vote even while expecting it to share a considerable amount of its foreign policy burden in Asia. IThe situation becomes even trickier for Washington when it comes to Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which voted against the US and both of which embody the very definition of its strategic and national security interests. How does America reduce or even cut off aid to these two countries abruptly now or in the foreseeable future?

The pronouncement by Trump is an example of his characteristic bombast in so much as it concerns such key strategic allies and interests. When it comes to the actual decision-making, it is more than likely that Washington would have to forget the grand threat and fall back to its more conventional diplomatic route.

Indo-Asian News Service

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