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Preview: Trump To Address United Nations About America's Role


And we have this new Russia development just as President Trump is getting ready to address the United Nations General Assembly today. This is his first speech before that body, and this is a chance for world leaders to size him up and for the president to explain his view of America's role in the world. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us. Hey there, Tam.


GREENE: So America first. Those are two worlds - two words that I know a lot of world leaders have thought a lot about, and I think they're looking for the president to clarify what he means today, right?

KEITH: And he will. His message is likely to be similar to things that he has said before around the world that America first does not mean America alone, but then he goes on to say that, you know, every country should put their own people first. Then a senior aide who briefed us reporters says that we can expect to hear the president argue that nations putting their own interests first does not mean that they won't also work together, that they will in their own self-interest find a need for global cooperation to counter the world's most pressing issues. Those issues, as President Trump sees them, are aggression from North Korea and Iran and also terrorism. The aide said nations cannot be bystanders to history. Together, responsible nations have an obligation to counter these threats.

GREENE: Well, you talk about North Korea and Iran. This is certainly a setting where the president has an opportunity to really single them out. Do we expect that to happen?

KEITH: Yes. And we also expect him to single-out Venezuela, where the Trump administration has been highly critical of anti-democratic actions by President Maduro there. As for Iran, the aide who briefed us said that the speech would get into one of the greatest threats to the endurance of the status quo in Iran, being the people of Iran itself and their desire to create a future that they want, in theory. The speech will tell us a little more what he means by that. He's also, you know, President Trump has been very critical of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by President Obama but hasn't yet taken action to pull out of it. As for North Korea, the aide who helped write the speech says the president will speak in tough terms about the, quote, "North Korean menace" as well as about countries that he says are enabling North Korea.

GREENE: Isn't all of this awkward? I mean, the president giving this big speech at the U.N., which is a body that he has been so critical of?

KEITH: Sort of, yeah. (Laughter). So at one point yesterday, a reporter asked President Trump about his message to the General Assembly, and he said, quote, "I think the main message is make the United Nations great. Not again. Make the United Nations great."

GREENE: That's telling.

KEITH: Exactly. He says there's tremendous potential, and he has put a real focus starting yesterday and, well, before that, but here is something he said really putting a focus on his desire for reform at the United Nations.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We must ensure that no one and no member's state shoulders a disproportionate share of the burden. And that's militarily or financially. We also ask that every peacekeeping mission have clearly-defined goals and metrics for evaluating success.

KEITH: And those are common themes. He said much the same thing at NATO.

GREENE: All right. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith getting us ready for the president's speech at the U.N. today. Tam, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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