Daniel R. DePetris
Security, North America
The UN General Assembly is the best opportunity for Donald Trump to shine.
It’s that time of year again, a time when diplomats and heads-of-state in fancy suits from around the world all fly into New York City, ready to give inspirational speeches about the virtues of world peace and the importance of economic development. The UN General Assembly’s general debate is like Christmas time for aspiring negotiators. It is an opportunity for the up-and-comers to make a name for themselves and build connections with fellow diplomats that will hopefully last a lifetime. Also, it is a period for senior officials who may be new to the world of international diplomacy (i.e. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley) to convince their colleagues that they are serious people, doing serious things.
Over the normal course of business, the General Assembly debate would be a rather placid—even boring—affair. The hours-long, bizarre and somewhat entertaining diatribes from the likes of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Muammar el-Qaddafi died along with them, so don’t expect any yelling, screaming, or pounding of fists on the podium this week. These sessions resemble political infomercials in which statesman take to the stage and provide their best sales pitch to the international community. Think of the talk-a-thons in the U.S. Senate, but on a global level.
This year’s general debate, of course, will be different. Barack Obama, the man who espoused internationalism and prided himself on being a multilateralist who worked within the UN framework, is long gone—replaced by Donald Trump, a man who isn’t especially happy with how the global body operates. Trump doesn’t like how much money the U.S. taxpayers are pumping into the system and he is unhappy with the topics that UN bureaucrats choose to focus on (Israeli settlement building, climate change, poverty reduction, etc.). Trump made his thoughts on the UN quite clear, as he always does, on Twitter. In December he said, “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”