Donald Trump’s First General Assembly Address Strikes Belligerent Tone

In a marked departure from previous American Presidents, Donald Trump delivered a highly belligerent speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

Trump General Assembly

During his campaign for President and at several points during his still-young Presidency, Donald Trump has proven to be a sharp critic of the United Nations. As has often been the case with Republican candidates for President, for example, Trump criticized the organization as being too bloated and bureaucratic and argued that the United States was bearing an unfair portion of the financial burden of financing U.N. organizations. He also followed the standard conservative practice of claiming that the organization was acting in a manner contrary to American interests and of being unfair to American allies such as Israel in many of its policy positions. During campaign speeches, he would often threaten to withhold or cutback on the amount of money the United States provides to U.N. operations and asserted an “America First” policy that seemed to reject the idea of working together with allies or in concert with international organizations such as the U.N. For those reasons and more, his first speech as President before this year’s United Nations General Assembly has been greatly anticipated.

Trump delivered that speech this morning and to say it raised eyebrows is something of an understatement:

NEW YORK — President Trump warned the United Nations in a speech Tuesday that the world faces “great peril” from rogue regimes with powerful weapons and terrorists with expanding reach across the globe, and called on fellow leaders to join the United States in the fight to defeat what he called failed or murderous ideologies and “loser terrorists.”

“We meet at a time of immense promise and great peril,” Trump said in his maiden address to more than 150 international delegations at the annual U.N. General Assembly. “It is up to us whether we will lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.”

The president’s address was highly anticipated around the world for signs of how his administration would engage with the United Nations after he had criticized the organization during his campaign as being bloated and ineffective, and threatened to slash U.S. funding.

Trump offered a hand to fellow leaders but also called on them to embrace “national sovereignty” and to do more to ensure the prosperity and security of their own countries. Over and over, he stressed the rights and roles of “strong, sovereign nations” even as they band together at the United Nations.

“I will always put America first just like you, the leaders of your countries, should put your countries first,” Trump said, returning to a campaign theme and the “America First” phrase that has been criticized as isolationist and nationalistic.

The president warned of growing threats from North Korea and Iran, and he said, “The scourge of our planet is a group of rogue regimes.”

The North Korean delegation was seated, by chance, in the front row, mere feet from the U.N. podium.

Trump praised the United Nations for enacting economic sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. But he emphasized that if Kim Jong Un’s regime continued to threaten the United States and to destabilize East Asia, his administration would be prepared to defend the country and its allies.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said, before calling Kim by a nickname he gave the dictator on Twitter over the weekend. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

Trump added, “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.”


Trump also called the U.N.-backed Iran nuclear deal “one of the worst and most one-sided” agreements ever, and “an embarrassment” to the United States. His voice rising, Trump strongly hinted that his administration could soon declare Tehran out of compliance. That could potentially unravel the accord. Trump and his top aides have been critical of Iran for its support of terrorism in the Middle East.

“I don’t think you’ve heard the end of it,” Trump said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu beamed as he and his wife, Sara, listened to Trump speak. The Israeli leader, an opponent of the international nuclear deal with Iran, was also addressing the world body later Tuesday, a day earlier than usual because he is leaving the gathering in time to spend the Jewish holy days in Israel.

In his speech, Trump pledged that his administration would support the United Nations in its goals of pursuing peace, but he was sharply critical of the organization, and its member nations, for not living up to the promise of its founding in 1945.

“We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, values or systems of government,” he said. “But we do expect all nations to uphold their core sovereignty and respect the interests of their own people and rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution and the foundation for cooperation and success.”

The president also focused on the growing threats of “radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase he had left out of other recent speeches, including a prime time address to the nation on his Afghanistan strategy. He declared that his administration would not allow “loser terrorists” to “tear up our nation or tear up the entire world.”

Daniel Larison is particularly critical of Trump’s speech:

U.S. foreign policy already suffers from far too much self-congratulation and excessive confidence in our own righteousness, so it was alarming to hear Trump speak in such stark, fanatical terms about international affairs. Paired with his confrontational rhetoric directed towards North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and Syria, Trump’s choice to cast these states as the “wicked few” portends more aggressive and meddlesome policies and gives the leaders of all of these governments reason to assume the worst about our intentions. It was similar to Bush’s foolish “axis of evil” remarks in 2002. The statement itself is also rather odd in that it talks about the many being righteous, when religious texts normally present the righteous as being the relatively few and embattled against the wicked multitude. If the “wicked” are so few, they must be badly outnumbered and don’t pose as much of a threat as Trump claims elsewhere. It also strains credulity that Trump speaks on behalf of righteousness when he embraces so many abusive despots and enables Saudi-led coalition crimes in Yemen.


All of this belligerent and confrontational rhetoric just raises tensions in several different parts of the world, and it appears to commit the U.S. to more meddling around the world and potentially risks getting the U.S. into more avoidable wars. None of that has anything to do with putting American interests first. Much of Trump’s speech was an assertion of a desire to dictate terms to other states, and as such it is likely to be poorly received by most of the governments of the world.

Larison is largely correct, I think, and it seems clear that what we saw from the President today is unlikely to undo many of the doubts that allies and other foreign leaders have expressed privately and publicly since Trump took office in January. On perhaps the most important foreign policy issue on his plate rate now, for example, Trump seemed to say that nothing short of complete denuclearization on the part of the North Koreans would be acceptable to the United States. As Larison points out in a separate post, this position is both unrealistic and seemingly guaranteed to cause Pyongyang not only ignore Trump’s rhetoric but continue along its current path as far as nuclear weapons development is concerned. For better or worse, North Korea is now clearly a nuclear power. That is a fact that isn’t going to change absent a complete collapse of the Kim regime, which doesn’t seem likely anytime soon. This is especially true given the fact that the North Koreans have no doubt noticed the differences between the fates of nations such as Iraq and Libya, both of which largely gave up their weapons development programs, and what has happened to Iran. In the first two cases, the leaders of both nations were driven from power and ultimately killed after their regimes were toppled. The Iranians, meanwhile, were far enough along in their weapons research program that they were brought to the negotiating table and given a deal that has largely resulted in the removal of any existential threat from the West for the time being. Given those differing results, it would be utterly irrational to expect that the North Koreans would voluntarily give up their nuclear weapons without some guarantee that the territorial integrity of the DPRK will be preserved and the Kim regime would be safe from being targeted.

Trump’s speech this morning was a marked departure from what we’ve come to expect from previous Presidents such as former Presidents Bush and Obama. The speeches that both of these former Presidents gave before the General Assembly during the course of their respective tenures often hit on serious topics and were forceful when it came to issues such as terrorism and the nuclear weapons programs in places such as Iran and North Korea, of course. At the same time, though, both men continued the long tradition of giving addresses that largely embraced the ideals that the United Nations was founded upon and called upon the international community to work together to combat the threats that the world faced from terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Trump, by contrast, spoke far more bluntly and on several occasions made it clear that he believed the United States will to act to protect its interests and its allies without consulting or seeking approval of any kind from the Security Council or any other United Nations body. While there are certainly times when such a position is called for, the extent to which Trump appeared to reject the idea of international cooperation on issues such as North Korea was far different from anything that we’ve seen from an American President in a very long time and it raises the prospect of a world where the United States pursues a far more belligerent foreign policy than we’ve seen in decades.

You can read the transcript of Trump’s speech at the link, or watch the video embedded below:


FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism, United Nations, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    Did he start banging one of his shoes on the podium?

  2. Gustopher says:

    I wonder if “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” was in the speech before he needed to distract from the Manafort news. It’s like Khrushchev’s “we will bury you”, but more threatening (in context, “we will bury you” was much more like “we will outlast you”)

    Also, Rocket Boy would be a much better insulting nickname than Rocket Man — I expect better schoolyard taunts from our unbalanced political leaders.

  3. Stormy Dragon says:


    I’ve read that idiomatically the “We will bury you” in Russian means something more like when English speakers say “Well, it’s your funeral…” No threat implied, just a prediction that whatever the listener is planning is going to turn out badly.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    He’s an international embarrassment.

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    “We will bury you!” (Russian: «Мы вас похороним!», translit. “Muy vass pokhoroneem!”) is a phrase that was used by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev while addressing Western ambassadors at a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow on November 18, 1956. The phrase was originally translated into English by Khrushchev’s personal interpreter Viktor Sukhodrev. WikiP

    Nikita Khrushchev’s shoe-banging incident occurred during the 902nd Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York in 1960. During the session on 12 October, Khrushchev pounded his shoe on his delegate-desk in protest at a speech by Philippine delegate Lorenzo Sumulong.

    In 2003, American scholar William Taubman reported that he had interviewed some eyewitnesses who said that Khrushchev had brandished his shoe but not banged it. He also reported that no photographic or video records of the shoe-banging had been found. However, in his biography of Khrushchev, he wrote that he accepted that the shoe-banging had occurred. There is at least one fake photograph, where a shoe was added into an existing photograph.WikiP

  6. CSK says:

    The Trumpkins over at are in ecstasies: “What a man!” “Greatest speech ever!” “At last a president who makes me proud!”

    It’s enough to make a vulture gag.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    I can do no better than drop a link to a Balloon-Juicer’s comment: Visualize Whirled Peas.

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    Since we have conjured up the ghost of Khrushchev we might as well summon up Nixon as well.
    These two give Abbott and Costello a run for their rubles.

    The Kitchen Debate was a series of impromptu exchanges (through interpreters) between then U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow on July 24, 1959. For the exhibition, an entire house was built that the American exhibitors claimed anyone in America could afford. It was filled with labor-saving and recreational devices meant to represent the fruits of the capitalist American consumer market. The debate was recorded on color videotape and Nixon made reference to this fact; it was subsequently rebroadcast in both countries. WikiP

  9. TM01 says:



    Let’s see how often that word used in all the media coverage of his speech now. #Collusion

  10. Moosebreath says:

    I forget whether I made this point here or elsewhere (or both), but as Larison suggests in the second article cited, US actions in this millennium have made it clear that the rate of return for a country agreeing to remove its weapons of mass destruction is negative.

    We have had Iraq under Bush the Younger and Libya under Obama where countries which removed their WMD arsenal at our insistence were later invaded by the US. It looks like Trump is trying to do the same with Iran.

    So why North Korea should be expected to agree to give up their nuclear program is beyond me.

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    …we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

    Old man Pud wasn’t being belligerent. He was just trying to grab them by the pussy.

  12. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Or perhaps he confused a split infinitive with a split beaver.

  13. KM says:

    At this rate, the next President is going to have to go on an apology tour just to keep the allies we have! That’s not talking tough – them’s fighting words Trump tossed out and NK’s itching to take him up on it.

    Trump thinks he’s blustering and NK will back down because Big Bad America is gonna Kick His Ass ™. Problem is, when two arrogant hot-headed bullies get into a pissing match, nobody in the immediate area is safe. Sadly, for two nuclear countries, the immediate area is the whole damn planet. Both egoists are used to getting what they want and throwing their weight around but only one has regular experience with ordering deaths. Kim has no problems killing his own (literally) so what does he care if he ends the world? He wants respect and Donny’s deliberately being an asshat about it.

  14. Scott says:

    Unfortunately, the world has seen enough of Trump that they will view this as small and petty and of no consequence. They know he is an incompetent bully whose bluff could be called in a heartbeat. If everyone there wasn’t so diplomatic and polite, he could be ripped to shreds at the next speech. In fact, I’m waiting for one of our Iran partners to do just that and point by point redely refute his words on Iran.

    It would be great if it was Angela Merkel.

  15. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    …it would be utterly irrational to expect that the North Koreans would voluntarily give up their nuclear weapons without some guarantee that the territorial integrity of the DPRK will be preserved and the Kim regime would be safe from being targeted.

    So, imagine how comforting it is to hear the following from the floor of the UN.

    “I don’t think you’ve heard the end of it,” [apparently referring to repudiation of the Iran Nuclear Deal]

  16. michael reynolds says:

    Let me see if I have this all straight.

    1) North Korea has not attacked the United States since the Pueblo Incident in 1968.

    2) In that same period of 50 years the United States has overthrown the governments of Granada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and made an attempt on governments in Nicaragua and Syria. This is from memory so I’m probably forgetting some. And I won’t even try to recall every country we’ve invaded or sent our SEAL and Delta teams into.

    3) North Korea may or may not have the power to attack the US while the US absolutely has the power to obliterate all life on planet earth.

    4) The last time we made a deal with North Korea, it was we who cancelled same.

    5) Just like we’re threatening to do with Iran.

    6) North Korea has had the capacity to threaten our allies South Korea and Japan for some time now.

    So now, since Kim, who we’ve threatened to overthrow, refuses to negotiate with the people who are busy tearing up treaties and deals left and right, we have to seriously consider exterminating 25 million people in a preemptive attack. Because North Korea is aggressive, militaristic and led by a ruthless dictator who is brutal to. . . the people we’d be exterminating.

    Sure. Makes perfect sense.

    We would be done in Asia. Done. Even if it doesn’t all expand into a US-China war. China would move into NK in the guise of humanitarian relief, and South Korea would have a border with powerful China rather than weak North Korea. We would be a pariah state in the wider world, a rogue nation. There’d be an excellent chance of a worldwide depression if things got ugly between us and China and the whole monstrous mess could cost hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars, millions of lives in NK, and potentially hundreds of thousands if not millions in South Korea and Japan.

    But hey, Trump needs a distraction from his treason and his corruption. So what the hell. MAGA, amiright?

  17. Slugger says:

    Trump stood at a podium at the UN, but he was addressing his base and was successful in doing so. The governments of the world consists of people who don’t care much about unemployment in the US, who would not applaud the return of manufacturing to the US, and who are not totally enthusiastic about record military spending. The Trump base has seen Obamacare survive, no pesos for a Mexican wall, no coal jobs, no prospects for tax reform, etc. At the same time, the White House with Spicer, Priebus, Scaramouche, and Bannon has been a total farce. I was going to say clown show, but ICP and the Juggaloos turned out much more respectable than the Trumpites.
    Calling Iran terrorists means nothing to the other signatories of the nuclear deal. They know that Iran is in compliance. They know that Islamic terrorism is Sunni. They know that Iran is successfully fighting ISIS. Calling Kim ” Rocketman” is sad; the actions of a puny soul stuck in third grade. The world is divided between our enemies who are laughing and our friends who are appalled. However, the base is happy. This is what they like.
    Good job, Don.

  18. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Wow. I’ve seen butt hurt before, but when that butt hurt leads you to start taking the side of a government responsible for not just vicious oppression but literally starving hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of people to death…that’s a lot of butt hurt.

    It kind of sums things up when the people who stood by and allowed an evil regime like North Korea to become a nuclear power are allegedly the “smart ones.”


  19. DrDaveT says:


    […] leads you to start taking the side of a government responsible for […]

    Apparently the comment you’re replying to didn’t show up on my feed. I only saw the one where mr explained how Kim most likely views the US’s recent history of behavior, and why. Could you repost the one that has mr actually taking Kim’s side, so I can see it? Thanks.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    Have you had a lobotomy? Those people you’re worried about? Your idiot president is threatening to nuke them. Try to keep up, huh?

    And aside from threatening a crime against humanity he’s got precisely fwck-all.

  21. Mister Bluster says:

    It was a quarter-century of norm-trashing by our elites that made Trump’s election possible in the first place.

    Come on Bungles. One thing at a time.
    We are all still waiting for you to provide examples that would support this claim.

    Maybe I can help. Remember the five years that your boyfriend Citizen Pud spent lying through his teeth about how President Obama was not a natural born American citizen? That’s a good example of norm-trashing by an elitist sexual pervert.

  22. B. R. Bong says:

    President Barack Obama delivered a stern warning to North Korea on Tuesday, reminding its “erratic” and “irresponsible” leader that America�s nuclear arsenal could “destroy” his country.

    Mr Obama gave warning of the possible consequences. “We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals,” he told CBS News. “But aside from the humanitarian costs of that, they are right next door to our vital ally, [South] Korea.”

    Was that a Was Crime too?
    Or are you all just bloviating again because Trump?

    Funny how people who largely ignored everything the previous President said now hang on every little utterance of the current one.

  23. Mister Bluster says:

    …hang on every little utterance of the current one.

    The current one is bat shit crazy. Obama was not.

  24. drj says:

    @B. R. Bong:

    You fool.

    Obama obviously said that he would NOT attack North Korea, because of the millions of casualties in both North and South Korea such an action would cause:

    But it’s not something that lends itself to an easy solution,” Mr. Obama said. “We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals. But aside from the humanitarian costs of that, they are right next door to our vital ally, Republic of Korea.

    You just refuted your own point!

  25. Franklin says:

    I’m chuckling to myself today as Trump blames Hillary for the North Korea situation. It seems like the perfect time to throw back the standard Trump supporter response to anything, which is: “Trump won, Hillary lost!” Because I believe that makes Donald the President, no?

  26. Mikey says:


    Could you repost the one that has mr actually taking Kim’s side, so I can see it? Thanks.

    He’ll have to finish packing the straw into the mannequin first.

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @B. R. Bong:

    Oh cut it out. Trump threatened ‘fire and fury’ if Kim kept making threats. Guess what? Kim kept making threats.

    Trump threatened ‘blah blah blah like the world has never seen’ if Kim kept running tests. Guess what? Kim kept running tests.

    Then Trump threatened to cut off trade with any country violating sanctions. Guess what? He evidently didn’t realize that meant China and that he was basically threatening American economic suicide.

    Trump has made round after round of loud, belligerent threats, has done nothing to follow-up. Obama did not do that, because Obama isn’t an idiot man-child.

    And at no time did Obama, or Bush Jr. or Bush Sr. or Bill Clinton threaten to launch a preemptive nuclear war of annihilation. So, no, we aren’t just picking on Trump, your president is a reckless, amoral amateur bumbling around trash talking like he’s at a wrestling match and making a fool of himself and this country.

  28. Margaret Edgington says:

    “Belligerent” is too mild a word. The word is: bonkers, raging bonkers, that’s it.

  29. teve tory says:

    It kind of sums things up when the people who stood by and allowed an evil regime like North Korea to become a nuclear power are allegedly the “smart ones.”

    North Korea’s first nuclear test was on October 3, 2006.

  30. Terrye Cravens says:

    @MBunge: Why is it that Trump supporters and apologists are always whining about someone being “butt hurt” when that person disagrees with them?

    BTW, speaking of butt hurt…that is what we heard from Trump yesterday, a temper tantrum from a bully.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    @MBunge is sinking deeper into the cult. I think he may be up to OT III now, getting those Thetans under control.

    When you’re in the cult you have to speak cult lingo. Cuck, MAGA, butthurt, we won and snowflake are their magic power words. They think those words hurt us. (Shhh, don’t tell Mike we just laugh.)

  32. KM says:

    @michael reynolds:

    They think those words hurt us.

    It’s not even their lingo – all of those words were stolen from other groups!!

    One of the hardest things about this is the appropriation of some of those terms by the nuts and how it’s affected spontaneous insults. Calling people snowflakes has been an thing for while – it makes it kind of awkward now as it now has unfortunate Pepeist connotations. Same with butthurt. Where I work, there’s plenty of under-40’s who had them as regular items in their vocabulary and now have to cut themselves short least they say something unintentionally political. Talking to the interns now can be quite amusing, especially since they’re searching for viable replacement insults. My suggestions were “pissant” and “short-bus bastard” to see if any got the references. (Sadly, they have not)

  33. michael reynolds says:


    It’s not even their lingo – all of those words were stolen from other groups!!

    We’re not exactly talking about the creative class here.

    I’ve tried to engage honestly at times with Trumpies but they are unreachable. It’s a cult. They’re as dense and impenetrable as Scientology or Branch Davidians. It’s a form of self-inflicted lobotomy and it’s disturbing to watch because @MBunge wasn’t always an idiot. He’s made himself into an idiot. I suppose there’s some emotional hole he needs to fill and maybe the only alternative was fentanyl or suicide.

  34. Tyrell says:

    “I am prepared to wait for an answer until hell freezes over” Adlai Stevenson at UN, 1962
    “Requiring a full retaliatory response” President Kennedy, 1962

  35. michael reynolds says:


    Key word: retaliatory. That’s the difference. Kennedy was saying, “If you attack us, we will annihilate you.”

    Trump is saying, “If you don’t do what we want, we will annihilate you.”

    One is punching back, self-defense. The other is a threat to murder millions who have done nothing to hurt us. One is justified, the other is something more suited for Adolf Hitler or Genghis Khan.

  36. KM says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’ve been asking the pro-nukers (usually Trumpkins) if they’d be OK with the following scenario:

    Hillary Clinton WON!!! and you feel it’s the worst thing ever. She’s ruining America in your opinion. She then gets into a pissing match with Kim. He’s threatening to nuke all of the US to get rid of our “horrible leader”. Are you OK with you and your family dying in a sea of nuclear fire because another country has a problem with a leader you hate? Would you think it was acceptable to have everything you’ve worked for, everyone you love annihilated because of a leader you didn’t choose, don’t want and would gladly see that back of?

    Pro-nukers act like they’re virtuous because they’re getting rid of an evil man. See the recent article about the musicians being executed by anti-aircraft guns and how the comments are filled with “see libs support this nut!!”. What they fail to realize is the young woman who told this story would be *DEAD* in their scenario, as would any other musicians they claim need saving. As far as they are concerned, death by Dear Leader and death by Orange Asshat aren’t all that different. Both scenarios end with with in bloody pieces.