Del­e­ga­tion to UN cut back as US iso­la­tion­ism mounts

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

THE US State Depart­ment plans to scale back its diplo­matic pres­ence at this year’s an­nual UN gath­er­ing of world lead­ers in Septem­ber, a cost-sav­ing ini­tia­tive that de­liv­ers an­other pow­er­ful sig­nal that Amer­ica is deep­en­ing its re­treat from in­ter­na­tional di­plo­macy, ac­cord­ing to well-placed diplo­matic sources.

For more than seven decades, Amer­i­can pres­i­dents from Harry Tru­man to Ron­ald Rea­gan and Barack Obama have at­tended the au­tumn UN Gen­eral Assem­bly gen­eral de­bate in New York to project their vi­sion of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy to the world.

They have been ac­com­pa­nied by a grow­ing en­tourage of Amer­i­can diplo­mats, lawyers and tech­ni­cal ex­perts who ne­go­ti­ate a wide range of is­sues, from nu­clear arms treaties to cli­mate change pacts and con­flicts.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump does plan to ad­dress other world lead­ers at the UN, Gen­eral Assem­bly, and he will be ac­com­pa­nied by other top ad­vis­ers, in­clud­ing his son-in­law Jared Kush­ner and his daugh­ter Ivanka Trump, who stopped by UN head­quar­ters on Fri­day for a pri­vate lunch with UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res.

But the ranks of pro­fes­sional diplo­mats, aides and of­fi­cials that at­tend the event to pro­mote Amer­i­can pol­icy pri­or­i­ties on a range of is­sues will be thinned out.

For now, it re­mains un­clear pre­cisely how large of a cut in US staff is en­vi­sioned, but two of­fi­cials said that the State Depart­ment is seek­ing to keep a ceil­ing down to about 300 peo­ple, in­clud­ing ev­ery­one from the pres­i­dent to sup­port staff.

Last year, 347 US of­fi­cials were counted by the UN in the of­fi­cial Amer­i­can del­e­ga­tion, which in­cluded then-pres­i­dent Obama and his top diplo­mat, John Kerry. But the full del­e­ga­tion, in­clud­ing sup­port staff and se­cu­rity, was far larger, ac­cord­ing to for­mer US of­fi­cials.

While some crit­ics fear that a trun­cated diplo­matic pres­ence will di­min­ish US in­flu­ence on an im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional stage, oth­ers, in­clud­ing Trump sup­port­ers and for­mer po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, think the Amer­i­can del­e­ga­tion could use some trim­ming.

Richard Gowan, a UN ex­pert at the Euro­pean Coun­cil on For­eign Pol­icy, said that a lighter pres­i­den­tial work­load at the Septem­ber sum­mit might not be such a bad thing, par­tic­u­larly given Trump’s record of ag­gra­vat­ing diplo­matic dis­agree­ments with al­lies in re­cent for­eign vis­its. But a larger diplo­matic pres­ence could help di­min­ish the dam­age.

“Trump demon­strated at the NATO and G20 meet­ings that he doesn’t re­ally know how to be­have on th­ese oc­ca­sions,” Gowan said. Tiller­son and Ha­ley “should be ab­so­lutely co­coon­ing the pres­i­dent in staffers in the hope that they can keep him away from trou­ble.” For­eign Pol­icy

PIC­TURE: EPA

US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son.

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