WASHINGTON — Incoming President Donald Trump’s pick for United Nations ambassador, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, questioned whether the United States is getting what it pays for from the international body during her Senate confirmation hearing.
“We contribute 22 percent of the UN’s budget, far more than any other country. We are a generous nation. But we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution,” testified Nikki Haley before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday, echoing President-elect Trump’s staunch criticism of the United Nations.
She argued that the United States can use its funding of the UN as “leverage” to accomplish goals that benefit the American people.
“To your credit, the Congress has already begun to explore ways the United States can use its leverage to make the United Nations a better investment for the American people” declared Haley.
“The time has come for American strength once again,” she also said, later adding, “My goal for the United Nations will be to create an international body that better serves the interests of the American people.”
The South Carolina-born daughter of Indian immigrants, who became the country’s youngest governor in January 2011 at age 38, stressed the need for “fundamental changes” at the UN.
Although she acknowledged the successes achieved by the multinational organization through its health and food programs — as well as weapons monitoring efforts and, to some extent, peacekeeping missions — she noted, “Any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers.”
“Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel… Meanwhile the world’s worst human rights abusers in Syria, Iran, and North Korea received far fewer condemnations. This cannot continue,” Haley said.
Her comments come in the wake of a controversial abstention by the United States during the UN Security Council’s vote on UN Resolution 2334 last month. That resolution urged Israel to stop building settlements.
The decision by the administration of President Barack Obama to miss the vote, allowing the resolution to pass, has drawn sharp criticism from Israeli leaders and American politicians such as President-elect Trump.
“Last month’s passage of UN Resolution 2334 was a terrible mistake, making a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians harder to achieve,” Haley told lawmakers.
The prospective UN ambassador joined other Trump nominees in taking a tough line against Russia.
She noted that the UN has failed Syria, adding that the Russian-backed regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has committed “atrocities” that amount to war crimes.
In her prepared remarks, Haley acknowledged that she is new to the international diplomacy arena.
“There is much I am learning about the intricacies of the UN and its associated agencies,” she added. “I don’t claim that I know everything or that leadership at the UN is the same as leading South Carolina.”
However, she went on to say, “diplomacy itself is not new to me” and cited her experience as governor in uniting “those with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and objectives behind a common purpose.”
“Like most government agencies, the United Nations could benefit from a fresh set of eyes,” said Haley.