The Trump administration’s tough line on the need for reform at the United Nations has effectively put the world body “on notice,” U.S. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Wednesday, telling a Capitol Hill hearing that President Trump’s unpredictability is an asset because other countries can no longer take American help and American money for granted.
In a lengthy presentation before a large audience at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Wednesday, the former South Carolina governor responded to criticisms hurled from both sides of the aisle, ranging from how to handle the unfair human rights biases in Israel to how to end Syria’s civil war. Through it all, she argued Mr. Trump’s unconventional approach to diplomacy is advancing U.S. interests at the U.N. despite some outward signs of conflict.
“We work very well together, and we work closely together,” Ms. Haley said of U.S. relations with the U.N., which Mr. Trump has called an “underperformer” with “great potential.”
“And while we don’t plan word-for-word talking points, we’re all moving in the same direction,” Ms. Haley said.
Ms. Haley defended the Trump administration’s 2018 U.N. budget request, which has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill this week. The administration’s request for $996.4 million for the account that funds the U.N. regular budget and major U.N. agencies is more than 30 percent below the current fiscal year’s estimate funding, and there is a major cut to the U.N.’s peacekeeping account — $1.196 billion, compared to the FY 2017 estimate of $2.45 billion.
Mr. Trump’s budget was “making a point,” Ms. Haley argued, “and it worked.”
She added: “I’ve used that as leverage, because now we’re seeing a lot of the other countries come forward and say, ‘Yes, we should do reform.’ When it comes to peacekeeping reform, they have worked with us on every single renewal to change it, to make it smarter, to make it better for the people.”
There were even tentative signs the administration’s hard line was producing results as diplomats announced a tentative deal to cut nearly $600 million from the U.N. peacekeeping budget Wednesday, reducing the budget to $7.3 billion on peacekeeping in the coming year.
Some Democrats argued that Mr. Trump’s preference for one-on-one negotiations over multilateral forums like the United Nations could cause problems for U.S. foreign policy. Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, New York Democrat, said the approach undercut U.S. ability to champion human rights as Mr. Trump forged personal ties with authoritarian leaders in countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China.
“It seems to me that the actions of the president of the United States make your job a very difficult job because you’re supposed to be working with everyone,” Mr. Meeks said to Ms. Haley. “And with the decrease in confidence in the United States, it seems to me that that would complicate your job to advance our national interest.”
Also during the hearing, Ms. Haley:
• Said she had not spoken to President Trump about the scandal surrounding Russian meddling in the 2016 election because it was not part of her job responsibilities as U.N. ambassador.
• Criticized the U.N.’s treatment of Israel and the presence of human rights violators such as Venezuela on the U.N. Human Rights Council. The council cannot be a place where “bad actors go to protect themselves.”
• Praised the Trump White House’s unusual preemptive warning to Syria Monday night against launching any new attacks using chemical weapons, saying the warning had clearly had an impact on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. “I would like to think the president saved many innocent men, women and children,” she said.
• Shot down reports that she was planning to move the U.S. U.N. mission to her boss’ high-profile Manhattan property after vacating the Waldorf-Astoria after it was bought by a Chinese owner. “I’m not moving to Trump Tower,” she said.