Trump Calls for UN Reform 09/19 05:59
President Donald Trump used his United Nations debut on Monday to prod the
international organization to cut its bloated bureaucracy and fulfill its
mission. But he pledged U.S. support for the world body he had excoriated as a
candidate, and his criticisms were more restrained than in years past.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- President Donald Trump used his United Nations debut
on Monday to prod the international organization to cut its bloated bureaucracy
and fulfill its mission. But he pledged U.S. support for the world body he had
excoriated as a candidate, and his criticisms were more restrained than in
"In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential due
to bureaucracy and mismanagement," Trump said. "We are not seeing the results
in line with this investment."
The president urged the U.N. to focus "more on people and less on
bureaucracy" and to change "business as usual and not be beholden to ways of
the past which were not working." He also suggested the U.S. was paying more
than its fair share to keep the New York-based world body operational.
The short remarks at a forum on U.N. reforms were a precursor to Tuesday's
main event, when Trump will address the U.N. General Assembly for the first
time, a speech nervously awaited by world leaders concerned about what the
president's "America first" vision means for the future of the world body.
Trump riffed on his campaign slogan when asked to preview his central
message to the General Assembly, saying: "I think the main message is 'make the
United Nations great' --- not 'again.' 'Make the United Nations great.'"
"Such tremendous potential, and I think we'll be able to do this," he added.
But even as the president chastised the U.N., he pledged that the United
States would be "be partners in your work" to make the organization a more
effective force for peace across the globe.
He praised the U.N.'s early steps toward reform and made no threats to
withdraw U.S. support. The president's more measured tone stood in sharp
contrast to the approach he took at NATO's new Brussels headquarters in May,
when he scolded member nations for not paying enough and refused to explicitly
back its mutual defense pact.
While running for office, Trump had labeled the U.N. as weak and
incompetent, and not a friend of either the United States or Israel. But he has
softened his message since taking office, telling ambassadors at a White House
meeting in April that the U.N. has "tremendous potential."
Trump more recently has praised a pair of unanimous U.N. Security Council
votes to tighten sanctions on North Korea over its continued nuclear weapons
and ballistic missile tests.
The annual gathering of world leaders opens amid serious concerns about
Trump's priorities. For many world leaders, it will be their first chance to
take the measure of the president in person.
The president on Monday praised U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who
said he shared Trump's vision for a less-wasteful U.N. that will "live up to
its full potential." The U.S. has asked member nations to sign a declaration on
U.N. reforms, and more than 120 have done so.
True to form, the president also managed to work into his speech a reference
to the Trump-branded apartment tower across First Avenue from the U.N.
His speech began a busy week of diplomacy for Trump, who is scheduled to
meet separately with more than a dozen world leaders along the sidelines of the
U.N. In his first bilateral meeting, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, Trump declared that they "are giving it an absolute go" on Middle
East peace talks.
Trump is to meet with the head of the Palestinian Authority later in the
week, but the White House has played down prospects for a breakthrough.
U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster said "Iran's destabilizing
behavior" would be a major focus of those discussions. While seated next to
Netanyahu, a vociferous critic of the Iran nuclear deal, Trump declared "you'll
see very soon" when asked if the U.S. would stay in the agreement. Netanyahu,
for his part, labeled it "a terrible nuclear deal."
Trump and Netanyahu also discussed Iran's "malign activities" in the Middle
East and spoke about the need to prevent Iran from establishing any deep roots
or organizing in Syria, according to a readout provided by Brian Hook of the
The threat posed by North Korea was expected to dominate the week's
proceedings. Though Chinese President Xi Jinping did not travel to New York, he
and Trump spoke by phone about the need to use a recent U.N. Security Council
resolution to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Trump arrived at the U.N. a few months after announcing that he was
withdrawing the U.S. from an international climate agreement --- negotiated
during the Obama administration and signed by nearly 200 countries --- and amid
speculation that he might be softening his position.
But Gary Cohn, one of Trump's top economic advisers, reiterated during a
meeting with energy ministers that Trump will proceed with the withdrawal plan
unless terms more favorable to the U.S. can be negotiated, said a senior White
House official. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss details of a
Major European powers that support the pact have said it cannot be
renegotiated. Trump's meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron included
discussion of the agreement, with the U.S. president insisting the original
pact was not fair to the United States --- though he said he shared the goals
of wanting clean air and water.
During his discussion with Macron, Trump also mused about ordering up a
military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to rival the one he
witnessed in Paris on Bastille Day.
Trump planned to have dinner later Monday with Latin American leaders.
The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget, reflecting
its position as the world's largest economy. It pays 25 percent of the U.N.'s
regular operating budget and over 28 percent of the separate peacekeeping
budget --- a level of spending that Trump has complained is unfair. The U.S has
yet to make its payment this year, leading some in the U.N. to be fearful that
it may slash its contribution.