President Trump blasted Iran’s “bloodlust” and defended his border crackdown as part of a full-throated defense of national sovereignty Tuesday, telling global leaders to protect their cultural foundations and put their own citizens first.
“The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots,” he told the U.N. General Assembly in a somber speech with dark overtones and zero humor.
Mr. Trump returned to this theme repeatedly, telling nations to resist unfair trade and decrying sponsors of terrorism who meddle in other nations. He criticized “open border” activists in stark terms, saying they have depleted nations and encouraged exploitative traffickers, and told European nations not to extend a financial lifeline to Tehran.
Instead, he said, the U.S. will isolate Iran until it changes its behavior from within.
“No responsible government should subsidize Iran’s bloodlust. As long as Iran’s menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened,” said Mr. Trump, who faced global leaders in New York even as he faced impeachment cries from Democrats in Washington. “Iran’s leaders will have turned a proud nation into just another cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks on a crusade for personal power and riches.”
Trump administration officials have pointed to Iran in determining blame for Sept. 14 drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields.
As the U.S. weighs a response with global partners, Mr. Trump reminded the leaders that he increased military funding to maintain America’s status as the most powerful nation in the world.
“Hopefully, it will never have to use this power,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump called on allies to follow his lead by paying their “fair share” to mutual global defense. He also urged them to resist socialism, echoing his 2020 campaign attacks on Democratic rivals, and told nations to stop criminalizing homosexuality.
“We stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people who live in countries that punish, jail or execute individuals based on sexual orientation,” he said.
It was Mr. Trump’s third address to the United Nations.
Last year, he drew mocking — and unexpected — laughter by declaring that “in less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”
Mr. Trump put North Korea on notice in his first address, threatening in 2017 to “totally destroy” the country if the U.S. was forced to defend itself or its allies from Kim Jong-un’s “suicide mission.” He also debuted his “America First” philosophy on the global stage.
Mr. Trump’s focus on national sovereignty coursed through Tuesday’s speech.
“If you want freedom, take pride in your country. If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty. And you want peace, love your nation,” he said. “Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first.”
Despite his tough rhetoric, the president was subdued as he read from the teleprompter.
Leaders on the receiving end of Mr. Trump’s broadsides sat stone-faced or — in the case of Venezuela’s delegate — read a book while the U.S. leader chastised strongman Nicolas Maduro for preserving his grip on a country in crisis.
Invoking a signature priority, Mr. Trump called on nations to support fair and reciprocal trade rules.
“For decades, the international trading system has been easily exploited by nations acting in very bad faith. As jobs were outsourced, a small handful grew wealthy at the expense of the middle class,” Mr. Trump said.
He called on Congress to pass his rewrite of the 1990s-era North American trade deal, touted a pending deal with Japan and underscored U.S. trade ambitions with the United Kingdom, which is figuring out how to leave the European Union.
He singled out China above all, saying its communist government has “gamed” World Trade Organization rules by claiming to be a developing country. He defended his decision to impose heavy tariffs on Beijing, saying it was the only way China would change its behavior.
“It has embraced an economic model dependent on massive market barriers, heavy state subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping, forced technology transfers and theft of intellectual property — and also trade secrets — on a grand scale,” Mr. Trump said. “As far as America is concerned, those days are over.”
Mr. Trump also said his signature issue, border security, is inseparable from his views on sovereignty.
“One of our most critical challenges is illegal immigration, which undermines prosperity, rips apart societies and empowers ruthless criminal cartels,” Mr. Trump said. “Mass illegal migration is unfair, unsafe and unsustainable for everyone involved.”
Mr. Trump, who is building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, called out migrant advocates in unusually harsh terms, saying they have wrapped themselves in the cloak of “social justice” to the detriment of nations that are unable to sustain the inflow, while bolstering traffickers who impose cruel conditions on their customers.
“When you undermine border security,” he said, “you are undermining human rights and human dignity.”
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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