The United States is “Losing” the United Nations

In January 2020, the United States and Iran had a series of conflicts. The United States refused to grant Iranian Foreign Minister a visa to attend a United Nations conference in new york, which was protested jointly by 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Two months on, the UN General Assembly condemned the US embargo policy against Cuba by 187 votes to 3. In addition to the United States, only Brazil and Israel voted against it, while Colombia and Ukraine abstained.
The UN General Assembly resolution is neither legally binding nor enforceable, but its voting results reflect world public opinion, or “public opinion” in the world.
As a founding member of the United Nations and the country where its headquarters is located, how did the United States come to this?
“Isolated” America

The “image” of the United States is out of shape. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that 45% of the countries/regions surveyed in 2018 regard the power and influence of the United States as “the main threat”. In Trump’s first year as president, the figure was 38%; In 2013, when Obama was in office, the figure was 25%.
In the past five years, Germany’s “dissatisfaction” with the United States has increased by 30 percentage points, France’s by 29 percentage points and Mexico and Brazil’s by 26%. Japan and South Korea, America’s old allies in East Asia, felt the threat to 66% and 67% respectively.
In the voting on international affairs, the “affinity alliance” of the United States is on the verge of disintegration. “Affinity Alliance” represents a group of countries/regions that express similar policy preferences by voting. At the UN General Assembly today, many countries belonging to the US “Affinity Alliance” are also voting against the US.
Several items of voting content in the UN General Assembly every year are fixed, such as Cuba blockade, arms control, Middle East issues, human rights and free trade. For a long time, the United States dominated the “voting results”, but the results have not been satisfactory in recent years. At the meeting, Palestinian Ambassador Riad Mansour spoke on behalf of 134 developing countries and expressed regret over the Trump administration’s tightening of the blockade.
There are many similar things.
African “spinheads” are springing up everywhere. Zimbabwe has long been a critic of American affairs. His government spokesman George Chalamba said publicly that he would never obey the foreign policy of a big country. In 2017, it was also a member of the UN General Assembly that condemned Trump’s policy of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. At that time, only eight countries voted in favor with the United States.
On the one hand, South Africa acknowledges that it has good relations with the United States; on the other hand, it often keeps the same vote with China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. China’s foreign minister, who has just visited Burundi, also lashed out at the U.S. for allegedly violating human rights and cutting aid.
In Latin America, Venezuela, the “bitter rival” of the United States, was “elected” to the UN Human Rights Council by secret ballot by the UN General Assembly in October 2019.
The head of United Nations humanitarian affairs has estimated that by the spring of 2019, about a quarter of Venezuela’s population-7 million people-will need humanitarian assistance. The deteriorating economic situation has led millions of Venezuelans to flee the country on foot.
Venezuela is relatively isolated in the group of Latin American and Caribbean countries to which it belongs, but the final vote of the general assembly was 153 votes for Brazil, 105 votes for Venezuela, 96 votes for Costa Rica, and the first two representatives of Latin America entered the human rights Council. Obviously, there are many countries outside the region that “retaliate” against the United States by supporting the “US thorn in the side”.
The United States withdrew from the Human Rights Council in June 2018 to protest its frequent condemnation of Israel’s “bullying” of Palestine. Of course, the United States immediately expressed dissatisfaction with Venezuela’s “ascendancy,” saying that “105 countries voted in favor of such a country that insults human life and dignity, proving that the Human Rights Council has broken down.”
The “Group of Western European and Other Countries” that once shared weal and woe with the United States “changed its face” as early as 2001. That year, the United States was excluded from the UN Human Rights Group for the first time. Past allies have criticized the U.S. for ignoring international organizations, refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol, and defaulting on its huge dues to the United Nations. To sum up, Western Europe’s attitude towards Washington is “impatient, disappointed and annoyed”; The United States itself began to wonder “why members of the United Nations increasingly find the United States an untrustworthy partner”.
In Latin America, Venezuela, the “bitter rival” of the United States, was “elected” to the UN Human Rights Council by secret ballot by the UN General Assembly in October 2019.

Due to dissatisfaction with many UN affairs, the United States has been in arrears with its UN membership dues since 2013. The arrears once exceeded US$ 1 billion, with US$ 500 million still outstanding. The United States believes that most of the more than 40,000 employees in dozens of UN departments are unnecessary. The assessed contributions of the United States are far ahead of those of other countries, while as many as dozens of countries have failed to pay their dues in time (7 countries were deprived of voting rights in the General Assembly at the beginning of the year due to long-term arrears of contributions).
What’s more, most of the countries that stood in opposition to the United States when voting in the UN General Assembly are small and poor, and even the gross domestic product of the entire continent is not comparable to that of a California in the United States. However, they often “dare to unseat the emperor” in political voting. What is the evidence for their choice?
Who is fighting?

For the past 35 years, the United States has issued a report every year comparing the voting records of the United States in the United Nations with those of other countries in order to quantify “who is against himself”.
According to the report, only 31% of other countries/regions voted for the United States in 2019, the same as in 2018. “Americans have paid 22% of the UN budget, more than the sum of donations from the second, third and fourth donor countries. Despite such generous attitude, other member countries are not so supportive of us … this is not an acceptable return on our investment.” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nicky Haley said at the time.
The climax of US leading global public opinion came after the end of the Cold War. Ten years before the end of the Cold War, U.S. followers at the United Nations General Assembly reached at least 15% of the total membership. After 1991, the red line of support began to cross the 30% baseline and reached a peak of 51% in 1995. However, after 2000, this figure continued to decline, hovering around 30%.
Niki Haley’s “return” refers to the “affirmative vote” that the United States hopes to get after distributing a large amount of economic and military aid.
Generally speaking, three factors affect the voting tendency in the general assembly meeting.
First of all, the voting principle of the UN General Assembly is “one country, one vote, the equivalent of votes”. Many small countries with very small population, small territory and poor and weak population have no less weight than the United States. When they vote, they will give priority to national interests, regional interests or group interests.

At the same time, certain specific seats in the United Nations system can only be or tend to be held by representatives of small countries, making the opportunities for small countries to “master” far more than large countries. Seats such as the UN Secretary General and the UN General Assembly President are basically made up of representatives of small and medium-sized countries. And small countries also have more advantages in the choice of topics. In 1989, the United Nations representative of Maldives sent a letter to the Secretary-General requesting that the agenda of “the protection and security of small States” be added to the agenda of the General Assembly. Eventually, the General Assembly joined the agenda. The Secretary-General made a report on the subject.
Secondly, regional groups and other political groups have been playing a role in voting for the General Assembly. Like the Group of 77, which is composed entirely of third world countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, its goal is to reverse the passive position of developing countries in international trade. Naturally, it conflicts with the goal of “US first”. Like the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, its members cover the Middle East, Central Asia, West Africa, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent, with a population of 1.6 billion. Its claim to support the Palestinian people in their struggle to restore their national rights and return to their homes is incompatible with the purpose of the United States to support Israel. Like the “Non-Aligned Movement”, it started in the Cold War and did not form an alliance with any superpower. In recent years, it has devoted itself to promoting “de-imperialism”.
Thirdly, the power of “money diplomacy” has departed from ideal conditions and its effectiveness is often compromised. From 1980 to 2008, the United States provided nearly 460 billion U.S. dollars in development funds to recipient countries, not to mention a small amount. However, an analysis report on voting records of the General Assembly from 2000 to 2008 shows that about 95% of the recipient countries voted against the United States in non-consensus votes, and 72% of the recipient countries voted against the non-consensus votes that the United States considered “important”.
Of the 30 countries with the largest U.S. aid, 29 voted against the U.S. in non-consensus votes and 25 voted against the U.S. in “important” non-consensus votes. This has also prompted the United States to find a deeper reason for its “affinity alliance” to look totally different.
“Freedom Index”

Many realists believe that the United States need not care about any substantial influence from the United Nations. However, as the most prestigious and widely connected international organization, the United Nations can provide vital legitimacy support for U.S.-backed actions.
Two Gulf Wars are the best cases. In the 1991 Gulf War, the United States was authorized by the United Nations Security Council, but it was not authorized in 2003. The results were quite different: in 1991, the Allies provided 160,000 troops, the number of US casualties was 299, and US taxpayers spent only US$ 10 billion. In 2003, the allies provided 45,000 troops, with more than 4,000 U.S. casualties and 400 billion U.S. taxpayers.
Among the factors that affect the voting tendency of the UN General Assembly, the internal factors play a greater role than the external factors such as economic aid and group entrapment. However, a country’s “freedom index” is a more effective observation object-the affirmative vote for the United States increases with the increase of political freedom and economic freedom.
Of the 30 countries with the largest U.S. aid, 29 voted against the U.S. in a non-consensus vote, which also prompted the U.S. to find deeper reasons for its “affinity alliance” to look totally different.

Economic freedom means that the basic rights of individuals to work, produce, live and consume are not violated by the state. Greater economic freedom gives people more opportunities, which can not only bring lasting prosperity, but also cultivate respect for human rights.
The 2010 Economic Freedom Index examines 10 key elements. Each country scores on the “Top Ten Freedoms” with a score range of 0 to 100 points. According to the average score, it is divided into five types: “free”, “almost free”, “medium free”, “almost not free” and “suppressed”.
By comparing the voting patterns of the UN General Assembly, it can be found that countries with higher economic freedom are more likely to vote for the United States. From the comprehensive comparison results from 2000 to 2008, the “free” countries voted for the United States more than twice as much as the “suppressed” countries.
The results of political freedom and economic freedom are highly coincident. According to 10 questions about political rights and 15 questions about civil liberties, the World Freedom Index 2010 rates each country’s political freedom and divides it into “freedom”, “partial freedom” and “non-freedom”.
In 2009, free countries voted for the United States with 36.6% of all non-consensus votes in the United Nations General Assembly. In the “important” non-consensus vote, the free countries voted for the United States with 50.8% of the votes. From the comprehensive comparison results from 2000 to 2008, the political “free” countries voted for the United States more than twice as much as the “not free” countries.
The game at the UN General Assembly meeting is a microcosm of the game played by all countries in the world. Each country votes according to its own national interests. As countries become more free politically and economically, policies that are in line with their interests are more likely to be close to those of the United States.
From this result, it can be said that more and more countries, especially small countries, have not become more “free” politically and economically. After all, the United States is getting fewer votes.
Similarly, it also prompts us to reflect on the American definition of “freedom”-to what extent does individual rights mean inviolability and citizen expression mean democracy and equality? If American “freedom” is not achieved, is it necessarily the opposite of freedom? Rather, they are just on the opposite side of the United States.
The loss of “votes” and public opinion in the United States does not imply the decline of its soft power?
Looking back at the voting history of the United Nations, the “moral lighthouse” of the United States seems to follow a cycle: every once in a while, the light from the lighthouse will shift away.