Obama hits at populist strongmen in UN address
NEW YORK: President Barack Obama used his farewell UN address yesterday to castigate strongmen and populists, taking aim at Vladimir Putin’s Soviet nostalgia and Donald Trump’s rise at home.
He told the UN General Assembly that democracy remains the “firmest foundation for human progress” as he repudiated “crude populism” that has mushroomed in the US and around the world.
“Some argue the future favours the strongman,” Obama said, in remarks that will echo in the 2016 US campaign as much as the Kremlin or Tiananmen Square. “I believe this thinking is wrong. “History shows strongmen are then left with two paths: Permanent crackdown, which sparks strife at home, or scapegoating enemies abroad, which can lead to war.”
Obama’s solemn valedictory remarks came less than 50 days before Americans decide whether fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, or Trump, the Republican nominee, will be his replacement.
Trump lashed out at Obama on Monday after a spate of attacks in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota, saying “our country has been weak. We’re letting people in by the thousands and tens of thousands”.
Obama challenged that thinking, saying: “We have to open our hearts and do more to help refugees who are desperate for a home.
“We have to imagine what it would be like for our family, for our children if the unspeakable happened to us.”
Obama had a more direct message for his Russian counterpart, accusing Putin – who has invaded Ukraine and deployed forces to Syria – of using the military to gain global clout and “recover lost glory”.
“If Russia continues to interfere in the affairs of its neighbours, it may be popular at home, it may fuel nationalist fervour for a time, but over time it is also going to diminish its stature and make its borders less secure.”
Obama also warned China’s increasingly powerful leader Xi Jinping that adhering to the rule of law offers “far greater stability than the militarisation of a few rocks and reefs” in the South China Sea. – AFP