As if the world’s hyperpower needed it: with two bold strokes – one from the executive branch and the other from Congress – the US increased its negotiating power over UN reform questions markedly this week.
First, while we were sitting in Foggy Bottom, the home of the US State Department in DC on Tuesday morning, above us Condoleezza Rice was coolly putting the finishing touches on the latest US position on UN reform. The US demands that the question of Security Council reform be discussed only after the other UN reform issues. This enables the US to count on the untiring support of both the Security Council aspirants – Germany, India, Brazil, Japan – and, to a lesser extent, those opposed to that expansion.
Second, the House of Representatives has voted to slash US contributions to the UN, a big step in the legislative process that now winds through the Senate and the White House. The President of course has the power to veto this bill. So this enables the US State Department and the White House to warn Kofi Annan and pro-reform governments that, if they want the President to exercise this veto, they will need to go along with the US position on other questions.