USA TODAY US Edition
Trump treks to U.N. amid multiple crises
President to appear before assembly that is still unsure of him
President Trump heads to the United Nations Monday to meet with world leaders, and many of them are anxious — not just about global security challenges but about Trump himself.
The president hopes to use his first appearance before the U.N. General Assembly to rally other countries against North Korea’s nuclear threats.
He plans to criticize the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran and address the economic meltdown in Venezuela and the civil war in Syria.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, puts it simply: The president “slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end.”
Trump will pursue what his aides call “U.N. reform,” another way of calling on members to pay for U.N. projects.
U.N. members will watch the president’s tone, some foreign policy analysts said, given Trump’s aggressive performances at this year’s NATO meeting and Group of Seven and Group of 20 summits.
There, Trump “came off as boorish and money-grubbing and often unresponsive to the concerns of partner nations,” said Stewart Patrick, senior fellow with the Council of Foreign Relations.
“At the U.N.,” Patrick said, “Trump can win by surpassing expectations about what he is going to say.”
Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Trump “performed poorly” at previous international meetings, and diplomats are concerned about a rerun. “The swirl of minor leaders and frazzled diplomats around U.N. headquarters can be quite disconcerting, even for relatively calm leaders,” Gowan said. “Trump may become irritable.”
Trump’s aides said the president was pleased with his summit meetings. Trump is proud of commitments by NATO members to spend more on their national defense. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump developed good relations with world leaders, “so they can focus on big problems like North Korea.”
Trump’s behavior at the United Nations will be highly scrutinized, given how he has criticized the body over the past year.
During the presidential transition in December, Trump criticized a U.N. vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In a tweet, Trump said the world body had become “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”
At least two key world leaders won’t be at the United Nations this year: Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom Trump is lobbying especially hard to pressure North Korea, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is involved in disputes over North Korea and Syria and whose relationship with Trump is controversial.
Trump “came off as boorish and moneygrubbing and often unresponsive to the concerns of partner nations.”
Stewart Patrick, Council of Foreign Relations