Updated: Apr 7, 2020
by Cassandra Varanka
President Donald Trump at the 2018 United Nations General Assembly
This week launched the 73rd session of the United Nations General Debate. While Twitter users may have gotten stuck on the opening two minutes of President Trump’s speech in which the UN General Assembly openly laughed at the President — and by extension, America — there were moments of far greater significance for the future of nuclear nonproliferation and international peace that warrant some time and attention. President Trump put his cards on the table as he stood before the General Assembly: under his leadership, America stands alone and is spoiling for a fight.
As in so many of President Trump’s speeches, one of the overarching themes was America first. President Trump emphasized America’s sovereignty and announced to the world that the United States would not and could not be constrained by international norms and cooperation. President Trump touted the increases in the United State’s military spending, promising that our military will be more powerful than it has ever been before, while also noting that “we expect other countries to pay their fair share for the cost of their defense.” Our aggressive military spending is for the benefit of our sovereignty, and no one else’s.
The focus on the utmost sanctity of the sovereignty of the United States felt particularly uncomfortable when paired with President’s comments about Iran. After trashing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it was unsurprising that President Trump failed to acknowledge Iran’s continued adherence to the nuclear deal or our allies’ continued support for it. President Trump then shamelessly advocated for regime change in Iran. He attempted to justify this attack on Iran’s sovereignty by basing it in some great concern for the Iranian people. This coming from the same president that banned Iranians from obtaining visas for entry to the United States.
President Rouhani of Iran also addressed the General Assembly yesterday, and he wasted no time in responding to the comments by President Trump. He noted, “it is ironic that the US government does not even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks.” President Rouhani questioned how the international community could continue to engage with a country that fails to uphold agreements. The theme of what to do with a rogue United States was also present in today’s United Nations Security Council Meeting.