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Henry M. Robert

What Donald Trump kept silent about

Experts comment on US President’s address to UN General Assembly and its implications for Ukraine
28 September, 2018 - 12:21
REUTERS photo

US President Donald Trump addressed the UN General Assemble for the second time during his presidency early in the morning, September 25. During his speech that lasted for almost 40 minutes, he never mentioned Ukraine and referred to Russia only once, in regard to Nord Stream 2: “Reliance on a single foreign supplier can leave a nation vulnerable to extortion and intimidation. That is why we congratulate European states, such as Poland, for leading the construction of a Baltic pipeline so that nations are not dependent on Russia to meet their energy needs. Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course.”

Not a word about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine or about its cyber attacks during the presidential campaign, its actions in Syria, or the nerve gas poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

STRONGER, SAFER, AND RICHER

President Donald Trump started by boasting about his administration’s progress: “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country. America’s – so true.” This was followed by laughter in the audience made up of officials from almost 200 countries and he said: “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay.” This was also followed by laughter and applause. Mr. Trump went on: “America’s economy is booming like never before. Since my election, we’ve added $10 trillion in wealth. The stock market is at an all-time high in history, and jobless claims are at a 50-year low. African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment have all achieved their lowest levels ever recorded. We’ve added more than 4 million new jobs, including half a million manufacturing jobs. We have passed the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history. We’ve started the construction of a major border wall, and we have greatly strengthened border security. We have secured record funding for our military – $700 billion this year, and $716 billion next year. Our military will soon be more powerful than it has ever been before. In other words, the United States is stronger, safer, and a richer country than it was when I assumed office less than two years ago.”

PROGRESS, BUT SANCTIONS STAY IN PLACE

Last year, President Donald Trump declared he would destroy North Korea and referred to its leader, Kim Jong-un, as a “rocket man.” Now his rhetoric is totally different: “The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction. Nuclear testing has stopped. Some military facilities are already being dismantled. Our hostages have been released. And as promised, the remains of our fallen heroes are being returned home to lay at rest in American soil. I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken, though much work remains to be done. The sanctions will stay in place until denuclearization occurs.”

CHAOS, DEATH, AND DESTRUCTION

Mr. Trump went on to say that “Thanks to the United States military and our partnership with many of your nations, I am pleased to report that the bloodthirsty killers known as ISIS have been driven out from the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria. We will continue to work with friends and allies to deny radical Islamic terrorists any funding, territory or support, or any means of infiltrating our borders. The ongoing tragedy in Syria is heartbreaking. Our shared goals must be the de-escalation of military conflict, along with a political solution that honors the will of the Syrian people. In this vein, we urge the United Nations-led peace process be reinvigorated. But, rest assured, the United States will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime.”

Expectedly, the US President lashed out at Tehran: “Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death, and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond... The Iran deal was a windfall for Iran’s leaders. In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget grew nearly 40 percent. The dictatorship used the funds to build nuclear-capable missiles, increase internal repression, finance terrorism, and fund havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen.” He urged other countries to keep the Tehran regime isolated.

UKRAINIAN ISSUE

President Petro Poroshenko’s address to the UN General Assembly was scheduled for Wednesday evening, Kyiv time, but the Ukrainian delegation had wasted no time as Petro Poroshenko addressed another important UN event, urging the world body to deploy an international peacekeeping force in the Donbas, stressing that it would be a crucial factor in stopping the sufferings of the Ukrainian people. He further emphasized the importance of the UN reform: “We also expect that the ongoing reform of the peace and security pillar envisaged by the Secretary-General with the support of the General Assembly, would contribute to the speed and abilities of the Organization to react to the emerging threats to international peace and security.” President Poroshenko met with the leadership of the ethnic Ukrainian community and with Mr. Kurt Volker, United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, EU President Donald Tusk, and Slovak President Andrej Kiska.

Below are The Day’s expert opinions on President Donald Trump address to the UN General Assembly, particularly his silence about Russia vs. Ukraine.

HE FOCUSED ON ISSUES THAT BEST SUITED HIM

Oleksandr TSVIETKOV, Ph.D., expert on North America, Borys Hrinchenko University, Kyiv:

“President Donald Trump avoided the issue of Russia vs. Ukraine because there are UN lobby talks underway between the US and Russia, concerning NATO expansion and security issues. I believe that Ukraine and Syria are also points on the agenda. The US President’s address to the UN General Assembly was meant to demonstrate Washington’s stand in terms of national security priorities, the Middle East, North Korea, Iran, and the conflict in the Middle East. He didn’t mean to address the Ukraine vs. Russia issue, for this would be treading on thin ice. This is an alarming signal, considering that the Ukrainian side isn’t taking part in the UN lobby talks, in this diplomatic haggling. The fact that the situation in the east of Ukraine is on the UN agenda is an achievement, but this issue will be addressed later. As it is, some 160 political leaders across the world are discussing major challenges and the ways of meeting them. Mr. Trump kept his second address temperate. Unlike the first one, he focused on domestic issues that best suited his administration and the media. The divided opinion on his speech is graphic proof. Today’s situation in the United States doesn’t call for taking any drastic steps. The midterm elections will take place in a month, so his address to the UN General Assembly was relatively balanced.”

U.S. FOREIGN POLICY ELITE REMAINS ANTI-RUSSIAN

Peter ZALMAYEV, Director, Eurasia Democracy Initiative:

“Those hoping for a softer, more subdued Trump at the UN assembly came away sorely disappointed. Not only did he reiterate the usual points of his ‘make America great again’ platform, but he went further, doubling down on his belligerent, nation-centric, anti-globalist message. Appealing to the Westphalian ideal of the primacy of ‘nation state’ as the only guarantor of human rights and democracy, Trump announced the cutting of US contributions to UN peace-keeping operations, threatened sanctions against International Criminal Court, ruled out participation in the Global Compact on Migration and congratulated himself on pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council.

“The French president’s speech that followed presented a stark contrast to his American colleague: internationalism vs. nationalism, cooperation vs. unilateralism, engagement vs. isolationism. Alas, the romance between the older American statesman and his much younger French colleague was short-lived. And, judging from Trump’s rosy remarks regarding the North Korean dictator, it is the latter who has replaced Macron in the American president’s heart.

“If Trump were left completely unsupervised, his world vision might spell trouble for Ukraine, so dependent on the Pax Americana for its protection against the Russian bear. As it is, America’s foreign policy elite, including his own administration, remains committed, for now, to countering Russia’s aggression in its near abroad. Perhaps finally aware of the paradox of such a drastic mismatch of his views regarding Putin vs. his aides, Trump practically never mentioned Russia in his UN speech.”

By Nataia PUSHKARUK, Mykola SIRUK, The Day

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