The United States has now agreed to pay half of its United Nations assessments for the current year, just what it did last year. That is, if Congress appropriates the money.
If the money becomes available in December, the world organization will be able to meet its current payroll, according to Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. If not, well, there are disagreements among the bookkeepers as to just when the cash would be exhausted.
This tardy promise to make a partial payment is embarrassing. It is bad business, bad politics and bad policy, risking long-term interests of the United States and weakening programs that have been and are effective in addressing urgent global problems.
The first lesson that the Reagan Administration and Congress are teaching is that the rule of law is to be observed only when convenient. Assessments of the United Nations and its specialized agencies are treaty obligations and American defiance of them is a breach of law. To make matters worse, the United Nations yielded to the fiscal pressure of withdrawn American funds and agreed to extensive reforms that make it leaner and cleaner than at any time in recent history, but, still, the United States is refusing to pay its share.