With President Bill Clinton's veto of the Foreign
Operations Appropriations bill on October 18, 1999, Congress will
be forced to consider foreign assistance appropriations again this
year. Congress had included $12.7 billion in appropriations for
foreign assistance and international organizations in this bill,
nearly $2 billion less than the Administration had budgeted. The
largest cuts were in funding for the Wye River peace accord in the
Middle East, aid to Russia, and contributions to international
development banks, such as the World Bank. With his veto, the
President hopes to force Congress to increase foreign assistance
appropriations in the budget negotiations at the end of this
President's actions are motivated by a belief that foreign
assistance supports the efforts of other U.S. foreign policy arms
and bolsters U.S. global interests. According to the White House,
the President vetoed the appropriations bill because it did "not
[meet] the commitments that we've made, particularly in the Middle
East....The President believes strongly of the benefits of engaging
around the world, of the U.S. demonstrating our leadership."
the historical evidence reveals that this belief is not well
founded. The fact is that U.S. assistance has had no discernable
effect on encouraging support for U.S. policy goals by the
recipients of U.S. foreign aid in, perhaps, the most readily
measurable forum: the United Nations (U.N.).
HOW AID RECIPIENTS VOTE IN THE U.N.
Proponents of foreign assistance have
argued that reductions in U.S. assistance will adversely affect
support for U.S. foreign policy goals abroad. They claim that U.S.
assistance increases stability and development around the world,
and stable and wealthy countries are more likely to support U.S.
foreign policy goals. For example, in a mission statement included
in the United States Strategic Plan For International
Affairs, the Admin-istration asserts, "the United States
conducts relations with foreign governments, international
organizations, and others to pursue U.S. national interests and
promote American values." Moreover, in the
introduction to this "strategic plan," the Administration makes
clear that, "From a strategic planning perspective, foreign
assistance strategies are critical investments, not in foreign aid,
but in advancing American interests and values."
However, the portion of U.S. foreign
assistance that directly supports U.S. foreign policy goals, namely
military and security assistance programs that are restricted to
the closest U.S. allies abroad, comprised less than 26 percent of
the foreign aid budget in fiscal year (FY) 1998. The largest
portion of the foreign aid budget--economic development
assistance--goes to many countries that seldom support U.S. foreign
extent to which U.S. foreign assistance elicits support for U.S.
interests and priorities can be examined by comparing U.S.
assistance with U.N. votes by recipients of that assistance.
Specifically, this study looks at how often these countries
supported U.S. positions on controversial issues in the United
Nations General Assembly. The U.N. is an
international forum in which the United States specifically seeks
the cooperation of other countries in a variety of foreign policy
matters. If the recipients of U.S.
foreign assistance found this reason to advance "U.S. national
interests" and adopt "American values," then evidence should be
found in how they vote on controversial issues before the United
analysis of the U.N. voting records of U.S. aid recipients over the
past five years indicates that there is in fact no significant
relationship between foreign aid and voting tendencies. The amount of assistance
received by countries has no discernable effect on the likelihood
of aid recipients voting with the United States on controversial
issues in the U.N. Moreover, past support of U.S. interests in the
U.N. apparently is also not a significant factor in U.S. decisions
over which countries receive U.S. foreign assistance.
fact, most recipients of U.S. foreign aid vote against the United
States more often than they vote with it. This casts serious doubt
on the claims from the Administration and proponents of foreign aid
that such foreign aid spending is vital to the national interests
of the United States. (See Appendix.)
Consider the following facts:
On average, recipients of U.S. assistance
voted with the United States only 43 percent of the time in 1998
(the year of the 53rd Session).
By contrast, countries receiving no
assistance from the United States in 1998 voted with the United
States 49 percent of the time on average.
- Of the 128 U.N. member states receiving
U.S. assistance in 1998 and voting during the 53rd Session, 75
percent voted against the United States a majority of the
trend is even more pronounced over time:
Countries voting at the U.N. that received
no U.S. assistance during the previous five sessions of the General
Assembly voted with the United States 56 percent of the time, on
average, over those five years. Countries receiving U.S. assistance
during at least one of those sessions voted with the United States
only 44 percent over that time on average.
73 percent of U.S. foreign aid recipients
voted against the United States a majority of the time on average
over the past five sessions of the U.N. General Assembly.
Of the 10 largest recipients of U.S.
foreign aid that voted during the 53rd Session, 6 voted against the
United States more than half the time (see Table 1).
- The top 10 countries voting against the
United States that also were U.S. aid recipients received some $379
million in foreign aid in FY 1998 (see Table 2).
Notable opponents of the United States in the U.N.
include the following recipients of U.S. foreign assistance:
India, the sixth largest recipient
of U.S. foreign assistance in FY 1998 ($144 million) voted against
the United States 81 percent of the time during the 53rd Session of
the U.N. General Assembly in 1998. This record merely followed
India's trend of opposing U.S. policies. Despite receiving $935
million in U.S. assistance between 1993 and 1998, India also voted
against the United States an average of 81 percent of the time over
that period--a record that is worse than that of notable U.S.
adversaries China, Libya, and Iran.
Jordan, set to receive part of the
$805 million requested by the Administration for the Wye River
peace accord, opposed the United States 72 percent of the time
during the 53rd Session, despite receiving $193 million in U.S.
assistance that year. Between 1993 and 1998, Jordan received $479
million in bilateral assistance from the United States, but opposed
the United States in U.N. votes an average of 67 percent during
that same period.
- Mexico, which received a $50
billion multilateral bailout thanks to U.S. urging in 1994, received over $15 million in
assistance from the United States in FY 1998. Nevertheless, Mexico
voted against the United States 67 percent of the time in the 53rd
Session. Indeed, Mexico received over $56 million in bilateral U.S.
economic assistance between 1993 and 1998, yet it voted against the
United States an average of 65 percent of the time over that
historical U.N. voting record of recipients of U.S. foreign aid
refutes assertions by the Clinton Administration and proponents of
foreign aid that such aid helps U.S. interests. There are many
reasons for a country to vote with or against the United States at
the United Nations. The most obvious reason is self interest--a
motivation that will not be overridden by a promise of greater
foreign assistance from the United States or the threat of losing
it, especially since the United States has shown little evidence in
the past of withdrawing assistance as a consequence of opposing
U.S. interests in the U.N. The bottom line is that a U.N. member
state's opposition to U.S. proposals or interests is likely to be
rooted in the issue being debated at the time, not in how its vote
may influence the amount of assistance it receives.
D. Schaefer is the Jay Kingham Fellow in International
Regulatory Affairs in The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
International Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.
with the U.S. at the United Nations and U.S. Foreign Assistance:
1993 to 1998
Republic to Laos
U.S. Department of State, Voting Practices in the United
Nations, 1998, March 31, 1999;
U.S. Agency for International Development, Congressional
Presentation Summary Tables, various years