The subject of foreign assistance is one that will remain at the fore in international relations and foreign policy long into the future. Foreign assistance has a long history as a tool for building positive relationships with other nations, for propping up allies who are threatened by a powerful enemy, or simply providing humanitarian assistance out of a sense of obligation. The United Nations is currently responsible for distributing a great deal of foreign assistance out of its own budget, and powerful nations like the United States, Russia, China, and France all cultivate relationships with smaller countries via offering foreign assistance.
Foreign assistance has traditionally been conceived of as a tool for influencing the outcome of international events in accordance with foreign policy needs. A famous and cogent example is the Lend-Lease assistance provided by the United States to Britain and the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Beset by an enemy in the Axis powers that threatened to overthrow the current system of states and possibly threaten the United States itself, Britain and the USSR received shipments of supplies, weapons, aircraft, and even ships for over a year before the United States officially entered the war. This aid played a significant role in keeping Britain and the USSR on their feet long enough for their combined efforts to stop the German and Italian assaults on them.
In modern times, foreign assistance is more commonly thought of in terms of humanitarian aid and assistance rendered after a natural disaster. After the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004 and the Japanese Sendai Quake and Tsunami of 2011 many nations around the world put together assistance packages designed to ease the suffering of disaster victims and help rebuild their economies. This type of aid can be essential in preventing additional harm from coming to those affected by such tragedies.
But even without such periodic catastrophes, foreign assistance still plays a major role in foreign affairs. International agreements are solidified by foreign assistance packages – both the relative Mideast Peace after 1973 and operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan are underpin by massive foreign assistance agreements that effectively pay nations to act in accordance with the wishes of the United States. These sorts of foreign assistance acts can be expected to continue as the United States seeks to obtain desired foreign policy outcomes under ever-growing military constraints. And other nations are getting into the act as well – in the future the greatest growth in foreign assistance may be between China and smaller nations in Africa and Latin America in order to secure vital supplies of raw materials to back up its growing economy.