Nikki Haley Puts U.N. on Notice: U.S. Is ‘Taking Names’
UNITED NATIONS — The American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, issued a stark warning on Friday to allies and rivals abroad, saying in her first remarks at the headquarters of the world body that the Trump administration would hold to account those who do not back the United States.
“You’re going to see a change in the way we do business,” Ms. Haley said. “Our goal with the administration is to show value at the U.N., and the way we’ll show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure our allies have our back as well.”
“For those who don’t have our back,” she added, “we’re taking names; we will make points to respond to that accordingly.”
Ms. Haley offered no further details in brief remarks to reporters, nor did she take questions, before presenting her diplomatic credentials to the secretary general, António Guterres. A former socialist politician from Portugal who took over the United Nations at the start of the year, Mr. Guterres is under pressure to persuade the Trump administration to not gouge the organization and to uphold America’s international obligations, including on climate change.
President Trump has dismissed the United Nations as a social club and suggested the United States could cut its funding of the organization’s efforts. His “America first” pledges have raised concerns among diplomats at the United Nations about his commitment to international cooperation.
The administration’s antipathy toward the United Nations has been sharpened since a Security Council resolution last month condemning Israeli settlements. Mr. Trump and Ms. Haley have criticized the Obama administration’s decision not to veto the resolution. And several Republican senators have supported legislation threatening to defund the United Nations unless the Security Council reverses the terms of the resolution, which Council diplomats say would be politically unworkable.
The United States is the United Nations’ largest single donor, providing 22 percent of its regular budget, according to the terms of an international agreement that sets a country’s contribution based on its wealth. That assessed contribution pays for operating expenses like the electricity bills at its headquarters and human rights investigations in places like Syria and South Sudan. The United States also contributes voluntarily to other United Nations programs, including those that provide food and blankets to refugees fleeing war zones and that immunize children against preventable diseases.
A draft executive order obtained by The New York Times proposes at least a 40 percent cut to those voluntary funds. Some of the provisions in the draft text are redundant, and it is unclear how serious these proposals are, or if they will ever be signed.
The money that the United States voluntarily contributes to the United Nations is a little over 0.1 percent of the total federal budget. Some Republican lawmakers have sought in the past to make some of the assessed dues also voluntary, but that idea has never passed muster with Congress.
One area that is likely to draw scrutiny from the Trump administration, judging from what Ms. Haley said during her confirmation hearing, is peacekeeping. The United States pays the largest share of the peacekeeping budget — about 28 percent — but provides virtually no soldiers.
The threats to cut funding come as China has stepped up its role at the United Nations, increasing its support for peacekeeping and development aid. China also has a veto in the Security Council.
“This is a time of strength, this is a time of action, this is a time of getting things done,” Ms. Haley said on Friday, adding that she was prepared to re-evaluate the United Nations’ efforts.
“Everything that’s working we’re going to make it better. Everything that’s not working we’re going to try and fix. And anything that seems to be obsolete and not necessary we’re going to do away with,” she said.
Her tone was in contrast to a far more conciliatory approach just days ago, when she faced a Senate confirmation hearing. There, she said she did not favor a “slash and burn” approach to American contributions to the United Nations, but she questioned its value to American national interests.
“Are we getting what we pay for?” she asked.
The Trump administration’s draft order suggests defunding United Nations groups that recognize Palestinian statehood — already prohibited by United States law. It also recommends stopping funding for the International Criminal Court, even though the United States government does not belong to nor provide support to the court. The United States has in the past helped transport indicted war criminals to The Hague, where the tribunal is based.
Ms. Haley, 45, a former Republican governor of South Carolina and one of Mr. Trump’s most outspoken critics during the campaign, had tried to distance herself from some of what Mr. Trump has said about international diplomacy. She has said she favors continuing sanctions against Russia, for instance, but also cooperation with the Kremlin on counterterrorism. She has said she is concerned about security threats posed by refugees, and while she said climate change was “on the table,” she said she did not favor policies that imperiled business.