Why U.S. Decided to Pay Its Late U.N. Dues

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The United States Congress has finally given up on its Dr. Evil-like plan to blackmail the United Nations into slashing its bureaucracy. Instead, they’re coughing up one billion dollars in back dues, and taking the money out of the back end. The Senate voted 98-1 on Tuesday to release the back dues and cut the U.S. contribution to the organization’s budget to 20 percent from 25 percent. TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell says the change of heart –- adopted by Democrats after Clinton went along –- has a lot to do with Slobodan Milosevic. "Kosovo showed the importance of the U.N. in building an international consensus for action," he says. "Even though it wasn’t possible in this particular case, with China and Russia both having Security Council vetoes over the air strikes, NATO realized how tough it is to be out there alone."

The U.N. is likely to kick up a fuss over the pay cut, but Dowell reminds that the U.S. share was established after WWII, when the U.S. was the only country in town with any money. "Europe should start kicking in some more -– they can afford it now," he says. And some of that saved money will go to another of the bill’s outlays, $3 billion over the next five years to beef up security at U.S. embassies. The measure next has to go to the House, where it passed last year before being vetoed by the President, who was angered by a tacked-on bill banning late-term abortions. Meanwhile, the U.N. says the U.S. still owes another $690 million -– but it’s likely to take what it can get. And the next Milosevic may even face a better-organized global police force. "This has been an embarrassing period for the U.S.," says Dowell, "and when it’s finally over, the next time the U.S. needs a truly international coalition, it may just be able to get it."