Despite Criticism Of U.N., Trump Set To Attend Meeting Of World Leaders

Sep 15, 2017
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Trump will attend his first United Nations summit next week. Every September, the leaders of the 193 member nations gather in New York. NPR's Geoff Bennett reports on what to expect as Trump makes his debut at an institution he's often criticized.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Donald Trump has at times berated the United Nations. As president-elect, he called it, quote, "just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time." But that's the U.N. of old, says U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

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NIKKI HALEY: The U.N. has shifted over the past several months. It's not just about talking. It's about action.

BENNETT: Haley and national security adviser H.R. McMaster outlined the president's goals for next week's U.N. summit. McMaster says Trump, much like previous presidents, will push a message of reform, calling for more transparency and accountability at the U.N.

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H R MCMASTER: The United Nations, of course, holds tremendous potential to realize its founding ideals, but only if it's run more efficiently and effectively.

BENNETT: But unlike past presidents, Trump is promoting his America-first agenda. And he wants to slash U.S. financial contributions to the U.N. Richard Gowan is a U.N. expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations. And he says he thinks foreign leaders expect to hear harsh words from President Trump.

RICHARD GOWAN: And they will tolerate that if he balances it with some positive messages about cooperation, and especially if he emphasizes that he wants to work diplomatically on some of the major crises of the moment.

BENNETT: And there is no shortage of crises, says Haley.

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HALEY: With North Korea being front and center - Iran will be an issue. Syria will certainly be talked about. Terrorism efforts and how we counter that is a huge topic.

BENNETT: The president will address some of those issues on Tuesday, when he takes the podium at the U.N. to address world leaders. Haley says she's read a draft of the speech.

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HALEY: I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people. And he comes out with U.S. being very strong in the end.

BENNETT: As President Trump in the role of statesman next week projects to the world his impression of the U.N. and his vision for American foreign policy. Geoff Bennett, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.