President Trump used his third address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday to urge world leaders to strengthen their borders and focus on nationalism, not the international efforts that the global body has championed for decades.
“The future does not belong to globalists,” Trump said. “The future belongs to patriots.”
Trump drew no ovations during his 37-minute address, and his delivery was unusually subdued despite sometimes severe rhetoric, including harsh attacks on China, Iran and Venezuela.
The president focused on themes he regularly taps during his raucous campaign rallies: warning of socialism, threats to the 2nd Amendment, “vicious” immigrant-smuggling coyotes, worldwide abortions and other topics that play well with his domestic base.
As he has in the past, Trump urged U.S. allies to do more for regional defense, saying alliances depend on partners paying “their fair share of the defense burden that America has borne in the past.”
Trump launched an especially sharp assault on China for its economic policies, accusing Beijing of systematically stealing U.S. technology while insisting that America is winning a punishing trade war that has strained relations between the world’s two largest economies.
His comments could shake up already delicate attempts to reach an agreement to end the tariffs that have caused price increases in both countries.
“The American people are absolutely committed to restoring balance to our relationship with China,” he said. “I will not accept a bad deal for the American people.”
As expected, he harshly criticized Iran, saying the government in Tehran “has escalated its attacks and aggression,” and urged other countries to support U.S. sanctions on the country.
“As long as Iran’s menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted,” he warned.
“All nations have a duty to act,” he said. “No responsible nations should subsidize Iran’s blood lust.”
U.S. officials have blamed Iran for the Sept. 14 attack on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, and the Pentagon moved last weekend to boost air and missile defenses to help protect critical infrastructure in the kingdom.
Iran has denied any involvement in the drone and missile strikes, however, and the Trump administration has not released proof that Iran directed or launched the attack.
Germany, France and Britain joined the U.S. on Monday in blaming Iran for the attack on Saudi Arabia, although none said whether it was launched from Iranian soil.
Some world leaders blame Trump for helping create the current crisis by withdrawing last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and imposing a thicket of new sanctions, even though Tehran was complying with the accord. The other world powers who signed the accord have tried to keep it intact.
Presidents usually cover a grab bag of topics at the annual General Assembly, and Trump’s speech was no different. He blasted Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro as a “Cuban puppet,” described socialism as a “wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies,” and bragged about the strength of the U.S. economy.
Trump’s first two U.N. addresses were rocky affairs. During his first, in 2017, he derided North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as a “rocket man on a suicide mission,” raising fears of war. But Trump and Kim have met three times since then, easing tensions although Kim has shown no sign of giving up his nuclear weapons, the U.S. goal.
Last year, some diplomats and world leaders appeared to laugh when Trump bragged at the U.N. that he had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”
His speech Tuesday, while less boastful, made similar appeals to Trump’s supporters as he heads into his reelection campaign.
He faulted “a growing cottage industry of radical activists and nongovernmental organizations” critical of his immigration policies for their “false sense of virtue,” arguing they were encouraging migrants to make dangerous journeys with unscrupulous smugglers.
“These groups encourage illegal migration and demand the erasure of national borders,” he said. “Today, I have a message for those open border activists who cloak themselves in the rhetoric of social justice. Your policies are not just. Your policies are cruel and evil. You are empowering criminal organizations.”
Trump’s address was overshadowed, in part, by mounting concerns on Capitol Hill that he may have improperly sought to use foreign policy for personal gain.
At issue is whether Trump improperly pushed Ukraine’s president to reopen an investigation into a natural gas company in Kyiv (formerly known as Kiev) that had hired Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination.
Trump has accused Biden of improperly using his influence, when he was vice president, to stop an investigation of the company. No evidence has emerged of any wrongdoing by Biden or his son.
Trump has admitted that he spoke about Biden with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call July 25, but he insists he did nothing wrong. On Tuesday afternoon, Trump tweeted that a “complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript” of the call would be released Wednesday, a move that may help slow a growing push by House Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry.
The president is scheduled to meet with Zelensky for the first time on Wednesday, and a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday will focus on the dispute.
While at the U.N., Trump engaged in an annual ritual of international speed dating, holding separate meetings with several foreign leaders at a nearby hotel. At nearly every session, Trump blasted the U.S. news media.
Sitting down with Polish President Andrzej Duda, he slammed reporters as “crooked as hell.” When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson fielded a pointed inquiry, Trump said, “That was a very nasty question.”
He appeared happier on Monday with flattering questions from Pakistani reporters while he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“Where do you find reporters like this?” he said. “These guys are fantastic.”
Megerian and Wilkinson reported from the U.N. and Bierman reported from Washington.