Nikki Haley now becomes Donald Trump’s foreign policy explainer-in-chief to the world, and that’s going to be a very tough job.
While Trump will nominate the governor of South Carolina to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, he and his national security team in Washington will set American foreign policy. The president-elect has shown little enthusiasm for United States alliances in place since the end of World War II. And Haley will report to a boss who’s known for his lack of diplomacy, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs.
Haley will be “the pleasant face on what is likely to be a very harsh administration internationally,” said Ted Galen Carpenter, senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at Washington’s Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.
“When she speaks with world leaders, the world is going to listen,” said David Wilkins, a former ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush and Speaker of the South Carolina House. “Everything she says will be heard and digested.”
Haley was lauded this week as someone well-prepared to bring people together over difficult issues, though not someone well-versed in the nuances of foreign policy.
“It’s a surprising pick to have someone who doesn’t have the diplomatic experience required,” said Ted Piccone, senior fellow in foreign policy at Washington Brookings Institution. But, he added, there’s an opportunity “if the administration wants to look at the United Nations as a place where deals can be done.”
Her supporters thought Haley’s lack of diplomatic expertise would not be a hindrance. “I think talented people can do anything,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
The U.N. Ambassador has to have leadership qualities and the ability to work with people with conflicting interests which Gov. Nikki Haley has in abundance.
Ann Corkery, former delegate to the United Nations General Assembly
Haley will arrive at a United Nations dealing with a world simmering with tension in a myriad of flashpoints. Current U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s experience illustrates the sort of promise and problems Haley faces.
The key to U.S. leverage is in the 15-member Security Council. Any of its five permanent members – the U.S., China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France – have a veto. Trump’s had harsh words for China, while stressing more cooperation with Russia.
Be careful, warned Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member. “Russia has shown itself to be a global bully and not a partner,” Cardin said.
Power, who has an extensive background in international affairs, has been one of the Obama administration’s key people watching implementation of the Iran nuclear pact.
She also was instrumental earlier this year in getting the Security Council to unanimously impose new sanctions intended to stop North Korea from further developing weapons of mass destruction. Power has been less successful, though, combating Russian resistance to agreeing on how to curb Syria’s civil war.
Piccone, a senior foreign policy adviser in the Clinton administration, thought Haley could have an opening. “Trump has said we need to fix Syria,” he said. He noted that Antonio Guterres, secretary general-designate, has a political background. He had been prime minister of Portugal.
Ann Corkery, a former delegate to the U.N. General Assembly, said Haley’s political experience could be highly useful. “She has consistently demonstrated her ability to bring together people on opposing sides of complicated issues,” said Corkery, now a Washington attorney.
If she finds his policies too harsh, will she continue in his administration?
Ted Galen Carpenter, senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at Washington’s Cato Institute
Among the challenges Haley faces:
▪ Will Trump renegotiate last year’s Iran nuclear deal, reached between that country and the U.S. and five other world powers?
Haley opposed the pact. The U.N. has urged all of the agreement’s negotiators to continue honoring it, something all other parties have signaled they intend to do. Supporters say scrapping the agreement will help Iranian hardliners, whose interests are better served with a more isolated Islamic Republic.
▪ Will Trump stick to his campaign promise to halt Muslim migration to the U.S. until terrorist threats are addressed? Will he bar refugees fleeing violence in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan?
Such policy could violate international law, which stipulates that other countries have an obligation to take in people seeking refuge from persecution in their home country and cannot bar refugees based on origin.
Guterres is likely to resist any American efforts to dismantle refugee programs. He formerly served as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and is a strong advocate for wealthy countries doing their fair share to help the most vulnerable. He will take office Jan. 1.
The new U.N. Secretary General knows something about politics and is someone you can do business with.
Ted Piccone, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution
▪ Will Trump have much use for the U.N.? He’s not a fan of traditional alliances.
During the campaign, Trump branded NATO, the 67-year-old European defense pact, as obsolete. He said the United States backing of a NATO ally could depend on whether a nation paid its fair share of military spending. About 70 percent of NATO spending comes from the U.S.
Trump appeared to soften that view last week. A NATO statement said he and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg discussed the alliance’s “enduring importance.” Trump has also suggested that Japan, South Korea and Germany don’t pay enough for U.S. military protection.
▪ Will Trump bring back waterboarding as an interrogation tool, even though it’s a violation of the international convention on torture?
The U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights has already warned his staff that they will fight attempts from a Trump administration to bend current human rights norms. Trump this week told the New York Times his view of torture may be shifting.
He said that retired Gen. James N. Mattis, who headed the United States Central Command, told him “I’ve never found it to be useful.”