President Donald Trump in his marquee address Tuesday before the United Nations General Assembly will stress “protecting U.S. sovereignty” and reserving U.S. foreign aid only for those allied countries that share American values, a top administration diplomat said in a preview.
Trump will return Sunday to New York City for his second visit to the gathering of world leaders after several moves this past year away from multilateralism. They include the United States' withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal to which Britain, France, China and others still belong.
The president has and will continue to put American interests first, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley reiterated to reporters.
“He wants to talk about protecting U.S. sovereignty but also those other countries that look at that protection,” Haley said at a news conference Thursday. “He will talk about foreign aid, how generous the United States is, but he’ll also lay down a marker that while the United States is generous, we’re going to be generous to those that share our values.”
According to administration officials, Trump's schedule includes:
- Making remarks Monday at an event on the “world drug problem,” featuring more than 120 countries, and then hosting a reception for fellow heads of state.
- Addressing the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
- Chairing the UN Security Council briefing on Wednesday. The White House said last week that the meeting will focus generally on counter-proliferation. Countries rotate in presiding over the council and the United States this month takes its turn.
Among those with whom Trump will gather for bilateral meetings this week are the presidents of South Korea, Egypt and France and the prime ministers of Israel, Japan and the United Kingdom.
The Trump administration, since his debut address last year from the green-marbled General Assembly rostrum, has rejected the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, left the UN Human Rights Council, announced it is moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, stopped funding for a UN agency aiding Palestinian refugees and begun a trade war with China, experts noted.
The president last year earned some praise internationally by arguing in his UN speech that others should put their countries first for the mutual benefit of “a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty.”
But Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Stewart Patrick said that for the United States to lead, it needs followers.
“The president will encounter a more skeptical global audience, woke to the reality that his administration’s diplomacy is all take and no give,” Patrick wrote in a Business Insider opinion piece.
The handling of Iran’s nuclear program is expected to be a tricky discussion this session between the United States and the remaining members of the 2015 deal from which Trump withdrew last May, experts said.
While the U.S. Mission to the UN earlier this month said in a statement that Wednesday’s Security Council gathering additionally “will address a broader range of issues,” Trump said in a tweet Friday that it would be a “meeting on Iran.”
The United States has restored sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of the deal and a second round set for November will affect Iran's oil and gas sectors.
"The General Assembly is going to be the highest-profile opportunity that the White House has had so far to say that this strategy is not negotiable and there are going to be consequences if you don’t fall in line," Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, said of other signatories of the deal. Berman added that, in turn, "European leaders are going to be pressuring Trump to moderate."
Trump's approach has worked more effectively than even administration officials believed it would because European firms are leaving the Iranian market, even if European elected leaders remain unconvinced, Berman noted.
"They've picked Iran as a hill that they want to spar on," Berman said. "The companies are taking a different stance. For them, it’s not political, it’s market-based."
Trump in July said he would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with "no preconditions."
Rouhani in an opinion piece Friday in The Washington Post called Trump's offer to meet "not honest or genuine." He said that Iran and other countries in the deal are seeking to move forward without the United States.
"It has now become crystal clear that most countries in the world oppose U.S. unilateralism and abhor being bullied," Rouhani wrote.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was asked Thursday whether he believes Trump to be a threat to multilateralism.
He responded that he doesn’t like to personalize matters, but said “the trust of people in their political establishments, the trust of states among each other, the trust of many people in international organizations has been eroded.”
Guterres told reporters, “It’s essential to preserve multilateralism.”
Haley defended the administration against critics of its go-it-alone approaches.
“They’re tired because we’re being strong again,” she told Fox News on Thursday. “They’re tired because we’re not going to have these multilateral organizations mandate that the U.S. has to do what they want us to do. We’re going to do what’s in the best interest of the American people.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his remarks Friday before the Values Voter Summit echoed that the Trump administration has been unapologetically consistent.
"This State Department, under President Trump," Pompeo said, "is fighting to make sure that American citizens and American interests come first in our foreign policy."