Trump Disdains the UN, But He Loves Its Stage

In this Sept. 19, 2017 photo, U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters in New York City. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
In this Sept. 19, 2017 photo, U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters in New York City. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

President Donald Trump made quite a splash at the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders last year.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, he blasted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as "Rocket Man," threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea and warned of global peril from "loser terrorists" and the "wicked few."

It was standing room only for presidents, prime ministers and diplomats curious about America's most undiplomatic president.

When Trump returns to the U.N. Tuesday, he is expected to claim that his brash diplomacy has eased tensions with North Korea and that Islamic State is on the run. He also will discuss the opioid crisis, the danger of nuclear proliferation and his "foreign policy success," according to Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

She said Trump also will make it clear that he does not see international alliances and organizations -- including U.N. agencies -- as other presidents have.

"He'll also lay down a marker that while the United States is generous, we're going to be generous to those who share our values, generous to those who want to work with us, and not those that try and stop the United States or say they hate America, or are counterproductive to what we're doing," Haley said.

While at the U.N., Trump is expected to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to receive a private message from Kim. The North Korean leader and Trump have said they hope to meet again this year, and the White House has said it is working to arrange another summit.

Iran may bear the brunt of Trump's harshest rhetoric this year for what the administration considers its malign behavior, including support for militants in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.

According to a senior administration official, Trump plans to repeat his claim that the Iran nuclear deal "failed" -- despite continued reports from the U.N. nuclear watchdog that Iran is complying with it -- and is likely to scold Europeans for continuing to try to salvage the international agreement that Trump withdrew from in May.

He will face a more jaded audience than last year, however. Many leaders have sized up Trump's blustery rhetoric, are wary of the policy havoc he can wreak and are finding ways to navigate with or around him, diplomats say.

Trump's foreign policy includes a visceral disdain for most alliances and multilateral organizations, including the U.N. He has criticized the organization as bloated and ineffective, and cut U.S. funding and participation from several agencies and pacts, including the U.N. Human Rights Council, International Criminal Court, and mechanisms for peacekeeping and helping refugees.

At the Group of Seven in Quebec in June, Trump scolded his allies and suggested that Russia be allowed to rejoin the group, which kicked Moscow out in 2014 for its illegal annexation of Crimea.

At a NATO summit in July, his demands triggered an emergency session when he suggested the U.S. might withdraw from the trans-Atlantic military alliance, the bedrock of post-World War II peace in Europe.

Trump declared victory at every turn and glowed in the limelight, a performance that played far better with his supporters back home than with U.S. allies overseas.

"He just uses these things ... to show his base that he's onto these foolish multilateral structures, that he's proud to go in there and give them the lecture they've never had," said Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to four countries who worked for Republican and Democratic presidents.

U.S. allies "have come to an understanding that Trump is what he is. They're just trying to get through the next two years and hoping he's not re-elected," Hill said.

At a rally Thursday in Las Vegas, Trump explicitly suggested something nefarious about world leaders engaging in multilateral collaboration at the U.N. or elsewhere.

"The American people voted to reject this corrupt globalism," he said. "Hey, I'm the president of the United States. I'm not the president of the globe."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently reflected publicly on the United States' shrinking ability to influence world events.

Last year, Guterres welcomed Trump to the U.N. with a public expression of gratitude for Trump's insistence that other countries contribute more money to the organization.

This month Guterres lamented that Trump has pushed the United States into "a number of conflicts of different natures -- in relation to trade, in relation to other situations," while disengaging from important global agreements.

The U.S. role "that was a dominant factor in international relations just a few decades ago is today less clear," he told the Atlantic magazine.

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This article is written by By Tracy Wilkinson and Eli Stokols from The Los Angeles Times and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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