Threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea. Prophesying that some nations in the room are “going to Hell.” Warning diplomats they “haven’t heard the last of” his attacks against the Iran nuclear deal.
Beyond the dark picture of the world U.S. President Donald Trump painted from the podium at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, world leaders in the room may have taken comfort in one word he pitched again and again.
Trump mentioned the concept 21 times in 40 minutes, making the case for national self-interest and the rights of countries to have their own world views and systems of government respected without outside meddling.
“Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity and peace, for themselves and for the world,” Trump told the annual gathering of 193 member nations and their representatives.
As U.S. president, he said he will “always put America first. Just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.”
Applause in the room seemed to validate UN expert Richard Gowan’s contention that sovereignty is, ironically, a “popular concept” at the world body.
Popular among whom, though, is potentially the problem.
“It’s very popular with China. With Russia. And with developing countries in the Non-Aligned Movement,” said Gowan, with the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s appealing to a lot of the non-Western countries in the room.”
Many of those nations have come under the scrutiny of international human rights observers.
‘Leave us alone’
While Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, skipped this year’s gathering amid allegations of ethnic cleansing of the Southeast Asian nation’s Rohingya Muslims, Gowan said demands by any U.S. delegates that Myanmar stop the persecution could be thrown right back at the Americans.
“My suspicion is that U.S. diplomats who are going around trying to pressure Myanmar, or perhaps even Venezuela, will find that a lot of non-Western counterparts will say, ‘We just heard your president praise sovereignty. We are simply sovereign nations — leave us alone.'”
Pundits pointed out after the speech that Russian President Vladimir Putin would delight in the prospect of an American president elevating national sovereignty above the promotion of democracy abroad.
“Trump has given a rhetorical gift to countries that are anti-liberal…