Trump Faces Laughter at UN, Then Unleashes Global Grievance List
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump reasserted his “America First” perspective in his address to the United Nations on Tuesday, chastising regimes in Iran and Venezuela and offering a blunt rejection of the multilateral underpinnings of the very body he addressed.
But the world, in turn, showed a glimpse of what it thinks of the U.S. president. Trump began his speech as if he were at a campaign rally in rural America, ticking off a list of his administration’s domestic accomplishments and statistics about the U.S. economy.
“My administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” he declared, a line that would draw raucous applause in an Ohio sports arena.
But the UN audience laughed at him.
“Didn’t expect that reaction,” he said. “But that’s OK.”
Nearing the two-year point in his administration, Trump’s UN speech illustrated how the U.S. president continues to grapple with his place on the world stage, and that world leaders remain largely befuddled by him. He criticized U.S. ally Germany for its energy ties to Russia, drawing puzzled looks from the German delegation. He insisted that other countries must respect U.S. sovereignty before urging them to reject socialism; Swedish officials looked bemused.
The speech was largely a sedate, 34-minute bill of grievances against the world, with only a select few countries receiving Trump’s praise -- notably North Korea, the formerly “depraved regime” that was the villain of his 2017 speech to the same audience.
“The U.S. will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control and domination,” Trump told his audience.
He dismissed the authority of the International Criminal Court. He touted his decision to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year in protest of its criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, as well as his decision not to support the UN global compact for migration.
“We will not be governed by an international body that is unaccountable to our own citizens,” he said. The U.S. is one of five countries with veto power on the UN Security Council.
Some U.S. allies, Trump complained, are freeloaders, taking U.S. aid without giving anything in return. “Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and who are, frankly, our friends,” he said.
“We are not going to put up with it, these horrible processes, much longer,” he said. The United States is the largest provider of foreign aid, “but few give anything to us. That is why we are taking a hard look at foreign assistance.”
Trump singled out China for “abuse” in its trade practices and complained that nations in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries “are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world. We defend many of these nations for nothing.”
Oil prices have risen steadily since Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear accord and re-imposed sanctions on the country’s oil exports, essentially removing a major source of supply from global markets.
Iran was Trump’s chief target in the speech, as he pleaded with the rest of the world to align themselves with his view of the Islamic Republic. Its leaders, he said, “sow chaos, death and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors’ borders or the sovereign rights of nations.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, followed his boss with an even more blistering speech to the group United Against a Nuclear Iran, threatening that there will be “hell to pay” if the country crosses the U.S. or its allies. The president will chair a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday at which he’s said he’ll again raise his complaints about the Islamic Republic’s malign behavior.
“Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond,” Trump said. “We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues.”
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