Obama slams populist strongmen in UN address
PRESIDENT Barack Obama used his farewell UN address to castigate strongmen and populists, taking aim at Vladimir Putin’s Soviet nostalgia and Donald Trump’s rise at home.
Mr Obama told the UN General Assembly on September 20 that democracy remains the “firmest foundation for human progress” as he repudiated “crude populism” that has mushroomed in the United States and around the world.
“Some argue the future favours the strongman,” Mr 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 that strongmen are then left with two paths: permanent crackdown, which sparks strife at home, or scapegoating enemies abroad, which can lead to war.”
Mr Obama’s solemn valedictory remarks came less than 50 days before Americans decide whether fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton or Mr Trump, the Republican nominee, will be his replacement.
Trump, the bellicose reality TV star, has taken far-right positions on immigration and security on the campaign trail and into the US political mainstream.
Mr Trump lashed out at Mr Obama on September 19 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”.
Mr 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.”
But he admitted there were “deep fault lines in the existing international order”, not least in the Middle East where “basic order has broken down” and fundamentalists prey on social unease.
He admitted too that a “course correction” was needed to smooth the serrated edges of globalisation.
“A world in which one percent of humanity controls as much wealth as the other 99pc will never be stable,” he warned.
Mr Obama had a more direct message for his Russian counterpart, accusing Mr Putin – who has invaded Ukraine and deployed forces to Syria – of using the military to gain global clout.
“In a world that left the age of empire behind, we see Russia attempting to recover lost glory through force,” Mr Obama said.
By the same token, Mr Obama 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.
Barack Obama takes a dig at Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.