UNITED NATIONS — President Donald Trump used his third address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday to deliver a full-throated defense of nationalism to an organization dedicated to using international cooperation to address global problems.
“The free world must embrace its national foundations,” Trump said. “It must not attempt to erase or replace them.”
He added, “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.”
Trump launched a sharp assault on China for its economic policies, defending his attempts to negotiate a new trade deal even as tit-for-tat tariffs with Beijing have upended relations between the world’s top two economies.
“The American people are absolutely committed to restoring balance to our relationship with China,” he said. “I will not accept a bad deal for the American people.”
As expected, he harshly criticized Iran, saying the regime in Tehran “has escalated its attacks and aggression,” and urged other countries to support U.S. sanctions on the country.
“All nations have a duty to act,” he said. “No responsible nations should subsidize Iran’s bloodlust.”
U.S. officials blamed Iran for the Sept. 14 attack on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, and the Pentagon moved last weekend to boost air and missile defenses to help protect critical infrastructure in the kingdom.
Iran has denied any involvement in the drone and missile strikes, however, and the Trump administration has not released proof that Iran directed or launched the attack.
The White House wants to assemble an international coalition to help block what it describes as Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East.
“The world must come to terms with Iran’s ambitions and counter them, or the Iranian Crescent will soon enough become a full moon,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, said Monday at the Asia Society in New York.
Germany, France and Great Britain joined the U.S. on Monday in blaming Iran for the attack on Saudi Arabia, although none said whether it was launched from Iranian soil.
But some world leaders also blame Trump for helping create the current crisis by withdrawing last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and imposing a thicket of new sanctions, even though Tehran was complying with the accord. The other world powers who signed the accord have tried to keep it intact.
Trump’s speech may be overshadowed by the growing scandal in Washington over his apparent effort to get Ukraine to investigate a potential political rival in the 2020 race.
Presidents usually cover a grab bag of topics at the annual General Assembly, and Trump’s speech was no different. He blasted Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro as a “Cuban puppet,” described socialism as a “wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies,” and bragged about the strength of the U.S. economy.
Trump’s first two U.N. addresses were rocky affairs. During his first, in 2017, he derided North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as a “rocket man on a suicide mission,” raising fears of war. But Trump and Kim have met three times since then, easing tensions although Kim has shown no sign of giving up his nuclear weapons, the U.S. goal.
Last year, some diplomats and world leaders appeared to laugh when Trump bragged at the U.N. that he had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.” His speech championed sovereignty over globalism, a fundamental tenet of his “America First” policy.
On Tuesday, Trump’s return visit was overshadowed, in part, by mounting concerns on Capitol Hill that he may have improperly sought to use foreign policy for personal gain.
At issue is whether Trump improperly pushed Ukraine’s president to reopen an investigation into a natural gas company in Kyiv that had hired Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, who leads most polls for the Democratic nomination.
Trump has accused Biden of improperly using his influence, when he was vice president, to stop an investigation of the company. No evidence has emerged of any wrongdoing by Biden or his son.
Trump has admitted that he spoke about Biden with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call on July 25, but he insists he did nothing wrong. House Democrats are trying to obtain a whistle-blower complaint that reportedly involves the call.
The president is scheduled to meet with Zelensky for the first time on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the U.N., and a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday will focus on the dispute. The Senate Intelligence Committee also plans a closed-door hearing.
The administration temporarily withheld a $250-million aid package to Ukraine this summer, and critics suggested that Trump may have held up the aid as leverage to persuade Zelensky to investigate Biden. Trump denied that on Monday.
“I did not make a statement that you have to do this or I’m not going to give you aid,” Trump said.
But his denial left a loophole, saying it was appropriate for him to discuss “corruption” with beneficiaries of U.S. aid and he accused Biden of causing corruption.
“When Biden does a thing like that, then there’s still corruption, and that’s not good,” he said.
Trump has lashed out at the media, political opponents and the still-unidentified whistle-blower who first complained about Trump’s conduct.
“Is he on our Country’s side. Where does he come from,” Trump tweeted Monday about the whistle-blower.
Biden said Trump was abusing power in the White House and trying to cover up his misbehavior with a political smear.
“Trump’s doing this because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum and is using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me,” he told reporters in Iowa on Saturday.