Trump Went Easy on the U.N. Last Year. Now the Gloves Could Be Coming Off

Trump Went Easy on the U.N. Last Year. Now the Gloves Could Be Coming Off
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, center, Jared Kushner, left, and Jason Greenblatt listen as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the U.N. Security Council, New York, Feb. 20, 2018 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

The United Nations has weathered the first phase of the Trump era, starting out 2018 in better shape than seemed possible a year ago. But U.S. relations with the U.N. could take a sharp and sudden turn for the worse quite soon.

President Donald Trump took office promising to slash the U.N.’s budget and rip up international agreements. But he has often shied away from delivering on his direst threats. His ambassador in New York, Nikki Haley, has shaved significant sums off U.N. budgets but avoided more severe cuts that would halt the organization’s operations.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has adroitly worked with Haley to identify institutional reforms that match U.S. interests and fix genuine flaws in the U.N. system. As I noted in a paper for the Century Foundation last September, the U.S. president has oddly become a “catalyst for constructive U.N. reform.”

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