Threatening to Withhold Foreign Aid in Support of U.S. Policy—Is Legal

President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


If you listen to the strident, breathless reporting of the press, you would believe that President Trump is some sort of Mafia “Don” (pun intended) having made Ukraine an offer it can’t refuse. Because of the press reporting and its sin of omission, a goodly portion of the populace evidently believes that it is against the rules to use our foreign aid as a cudgel to influence other governments. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

First of all, as has been well covered by my Red State colleagues, there is not one iota of evidence that President Trump exerted any such coercion during his phone call with Ukraine’s then President-elect, Volodymyr Zelensky. Point of fact, President Zelensky strongly denies any such coercion and the official transcript/memo of the conversation confirms that.

Second and most importantly, are the reasons we give aid to other countries. One such purpose is to leverage our own resources. An example of this is Foreign Military Aid, which we use to assist an ally. This is a lot cheaper than having to deploy U.S. troops to defend that ally. However, there is also a side benefit which has become one of the prime purposes we give that foreign aid, to establish strings we can later tug on to influence those countries.

Yale Journal of International Law, Jeffrey A. Meyer writes:


As the United States in the 1980s seeks to reassert its influence abroad, foreign assistance is playing an increasingly important role in American foreign policy. No longer primarily a subsidy for friendly foreign governments, foreign assistance has become a versatile instrument of intervention without the use of force. For example, the United States has used foreign aid to destabilize unfriendly regimes in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Angola; to quell international terrorism; and to secure the release of American hostages in the Middle East. Foreign aid serves an equally great symbolic role, as a barometer of American moral approval or disapproval of the outside world. Therefore, though the actual volume of foreign assistance channeled abroad may be small and sometimes of little impact, American foreign assistance policy functions as a broad index of U.S. foreign policy concerns. The annual foreign assistance budgeting process has become no less than a surrogate for a systematic reexamination of the progress, problems, and propriety of America’s foreign policy.

Although published 30 years ago thus somewhat dated, this extract is spot on. Some of the issues the United States uses foreign aid to address are, Female Genital Mutilation, Abortion & Human Trafficking, to name but a few. In the case of Ukraine, if indeed President Trump had tied U.S. Aid to the conversation, it would have been in support of U.S. policy concerning corruption. This policy is in fact codified in a treaty between the United States and Ukraine, signed by no less than President Bill Clinton.


Let’s contrast this with Vice President Biden, who did indeed threaten Ukraine with the withholding of U.S. aid if they didn’t fire their senior prosecutor, which they did. The difference there, was that Biden did this to preclude a corruption investigation on his son. Interestingly enough, that would not only be a violation of U.S. law, but a violation of the U.S.-Ukraine Treaty criminal investigation treaty.

In short, we have then Vice President Biden, corruptly using his office to preclude a criminal corruption investigation of his son. On the other hand, we have a sitting President, who in accordance with his Article II powers, U.S. Statute and Treaty obligations, asked his counterpart, President Zelensky to look into a case of possible corruption and interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The first (until just a few days ago) was the odds on favorite to be the Democrat nominee for President. The second is the subject of yet another Democrat witch hunt, this one masquerading as an “Impeachment Inquiry” for for an action that he didn’t take, but even if he did, would be absolutely in line with U.S. Law and Foreign Policy.

The Democrats have gotten out way over their skis on this one. Not only is this going to prove a nothingburger as far as President Trump goes, but it will likely lead to Biden dropping out of the race.


Author’s Note: I’d like to extend a warm welcome to our new front page writers Nick Arama and Retired Navy Captain, Stu Cvrk. Although I question the undergraduate credentials of one of them (he’s a Boat School grad) both of these guys have been kicking out some great stuff and I look forward to working with them to advance conservative thought.

Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters.

Follow him on Twitter: @MikeFor10394583

You can find his other Red State work here.


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