President Trump will use his landmark first address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday to outline his “America First” ideology to a global audience — underscoring what he’ll argue is the importance of nations’ “sovereignty,” while also using the platform to call out a “shared menace” in the destabilizing activities of North Korea and Iran.
A senior administration official familiar with the president’s remarks told reporters in a conference call Monday that the president has spent “so much time” crafting his speech, as he sees it as “an incredible moment and an enormous opportunity” to demonstrate U.S. leadership and values.
The official said the speech will operate as the third in a line of major foreign policy addresses for Trump, including his speech to Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia in May and his remarks to the people of Poland in July.
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The administration has framed those speeches as moments of triumph for Trump, in which he’s been able to effectively transmit the “America First” vision, which electrified his campaign crowds, to foreign audiences wary over years of American interventionism. But the president’s speech to NATO allies in May drew alarm from many European allies after he openly scolded nations for failing to pay the alliance’s burden-sharing costs, and refused to reaffirm the “collective defense” principle at the core of NATO.
Trump, the official repeatedly emphasized, will use his U.N. speech to appeal to member countries to promote “sovereignty” in the face of “top-down governance.”
That language is reminiscent of the more nationalist inclinations of the president’s base supporters, who have accused institutions like the U.N. of encroaching on U.S. values, and even state laws. The idea of preserving national sovereignty was also a driving force behind the president’s announcement that the U.S. would exit the Paris Climate Accord.
The official said the president will call out countries like Iran, North Korea and Venezuela by name, and to expect him to address the “enablement of the North Korean regime.” The official would not say if that would include calling out China directly.
While the president continues deliberating on whether to pull the U.S. out of the Iranian nuclear deal next month, the official said the president directed “strategic thought” in his address toward separating the actions of the Iranian regime with country’s people.
The official would not say whether Russia or its incursion into eastern Ukraine would be addressed at all in the speech.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Chinese President Xi Jinping all sat out this year’s UNGA summit, though the White House said that Trump spoke with Xi over the phone Monday regarding North Korea’s destabilizing activities.