Washington, DC – This week, global leaders convened in New York to participate in the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Many leaders engaged in conversations about the world’s most pressing challenges and came together as a global community to collaborate on solutions, but President Trump only furthered the erosion of American leadership on a global stage.
As in years past, Trump spent this week spouting his message of America first. In his address to the General Assembly, Trump declared “the future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.” He encouraged leaders to look inward to solve their own problems, instead of working together to help the most vulnerable. In terms of his meetings, Trump traded in leaders who consistently challenge the U.S. to be at its best, for those who reinforce the current administration’s fondness for isolationism and nationalism. Instead of meeting with the Merkels and Macrons of the world, Trump met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an echo chamber.
There were many other shortcomings of Trump’s UNGA. First, Trump and his administration failed to take a stand on climate change. While Trump did reverse his decision to skip the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday, his brief 15-minute drop-in was nothing more than a facade. While 65 countries announced efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and dozens of businesses said they would aim to abide by the Paris Agreement targets, the U.S. was absent. There was another glaring hole in Trump’s meeting agenda: Iran. In sticking to his failed plan of maximum pressure, Trump made no real effort to meet with Presidents Macron or Rouhani to discuss alleviating tensions in the region. Trump went so far as to condemn those trying to find solutions by saying “no responsible government should subsidize Iran’s bloodlust.” And of course everything that happened this week at UNGA occurred under a cloud of impending impeachment, overshadowing any remote chance Trump had at making a diplomatic impact..
“Trump’s behavior at UNGA has made it clear, the American people deserve better than an isolationist president who retreats from international promises and sabotages our relationships with our closest allies,” said Foreign Policy for America Executive Director Andrew Albertson. “His behavior this week not only rejects the very purpose of the UN and international organizations, it further damaged the historic role of the United States as a global leader for democracy and as President Reagan put it, a ‘beacon light [guiding] freedom-loving people everywhere.’”
“Our country and our President were focused on his corruption instead of concrete efforts to solve global problems,” said Ambassador Dana Shell Smith, FP4A Board Member and former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar. “We didn’t see Trump meeting or working with our most important friends and allies, nor working on our greatest challenges. He skipped the Global Climate Action Summit, acting as if a brief cameo is okay in life as it is on TV. It is a matter of great urgency that the U.S. return to responsible participation and steady governance at home immediately.”
“At the UN this week, President Trump called for an international system of ‘strong sovereign nations.’ But his confused view of sovereignty is hampering the United States,” said Nina Hachigian, Deputy Mayor of International Affairs for Los Angeles, former U.S. Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and FP4A Advisor. “He has used sovereignty as an excuse to remove the United States from multilateral deals that benefit us, and that we enter freely, like the Paris Climate Accord. But in his call with the Ukranian president, he asked for a ‘favor’ designed to affect America’s national elections—a violation of sovereignty if ever there was one.”
“The very aspects of Trump’s speech that seem odd or problematic to the seasoned UN observer point to its real relevance— as a blueprint for the prime preoccupations of the people around Trump and of their partners in resurgent nationalism in Europe and elsewhere,” said Heather Hurlburt, Director of the New Models of Policy Change project at New America’s Political Reform program and FP4A Advisor. “It signaled -loudly- the decline of diplomacy and the prospects for incitement of ethno-nationalist violence.”