South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, nominated by President-elect Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, testified at her confirmation hearing on Wednesday before the Senate, expressing support for the U.S.’s traditional allies such as Israel and NATO.
She criticized the Obama administration for failing to veto a U.N. resolution which condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. The U.S. abstained from the U.N. vote, allowing it to pass.
Haley stated, “I would never abstain. That was the moment we should have told the world that we stand with our ally Israel. It was a real kick in the gut that we didn’t.” She also expressed support for Trump’s promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move would be a further sign of the U.S.’s commitment to Israel and its sovereignty over its territory.
She condemned Russian actions in seizing Crimea and its other incursions into Ukrainian territory, as well as its support of Syrian president Bashar Assad, stating that the Russians cannot be trusted. However, she also asserted that Russian support was needed in combatting ISIS in the Middle East. It will be a difficult line to walk in resisting Russia’s territorial ambitions on the one hand, while also seeking their cooperation in other areas. Russia has been flexing its muscles in Eastern Europe, attempting to re-assert the influence which it had lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent years where it struggled financially and militarily. Russia, now on the rise, will be one of the many issues with which the Trump administration, and Haley as ambassador to the U.N., will have to contend.
Another issue “gifted” to the incoming administration by the outgoing Obama administration is that of Iran and its nuclear program. Haley sparred a bit with Senator Tim Kaine (Hillary Clinton’s running mate for Vice President). Haley criticized Obama’s agreement with Iran regarding nuclear weapons, stating that the U.S. gave Iran billions of dollars which will help fund its nuclear program and that the agreement would not ultimately prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. Kaine contested this point, stating that the agreement does not allow this. “I would encourage you to read the agreement,” he said. It is an interesting contrast between those, like Haley, who believe that international relations are ultimately a question of power and those, like Kaine, who believe that paper agreements are able to keep in check the rising strength of other countries.
In fact, Haley seemed interested in using her position as ambassador to the U.N. as a way to further U.S. interests in the world, arguing for a reduction in the U.N.’s activism and an increased role for the U.S. as the world’s “moral compass.”
Trump has previously expressed his low regard for the United Nations and NATO, but Haley maintained that she would work to change his mind and stress to him “the importance of alliances.” It will be interesting to see how the foreign policy of the Trump administration develops as it seeks to deal with the international issues left it by the previous administration.