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American Diplomat John Negroponte Reacts To Nikki Haley's Resignation As U.N. Ambassador


All right. With us now to talk more about Ambassador Haley's departure is John Negroponte. He was President George W. Bush's United Nations ambassador. Welcome to the program.

JOHN NEGROPONTE: Thank you very much.

CHANG: So Ambassador Haley recited a pretty long list of things in her resignation letter that she says are accomplishments from her tenure - more than a billion dollars' worth of budget cuts from the U.N., the U.S. withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, sanctions getting imposed on North Korea. I want to take a look at a couple of those things. First, sanctions against North Korea. She says they pushed the regime towards denuclearization. Do you agree with that?

NEGROPONTE: Well, they certainly increased the sanctions, and I think they've brought more pressures on individual members of the Korean regime. Is this going to be a decisive factor in North Korea's behavior? I'm not sure. But it's certainly consistent with an approach which says until you decide to rejoin the international community and reap the benefits of the engagement with the rest of the world, you're going to pay a price.

CHANG: And what about the Iran nuclear deal? Is the departure of the U.S. from that agreement a positive thing for the U.S. and the global community?

NEGROPONTE: Well, that's the administration's view. You know, Ms. Haley has been faithful to the administration's position.

CHANG: What's your view?

NEGROPONTE: My own view is that there were flaws in the agreement negotiated by the previous administration, particularly allowing Iran to resume certain activities, like missile testing and stuff like that, after a certain number of years. And I think the expiry date has always bothered people. But probably what bothered this administration more than anything else - and it is a troublesome factor - is that the agreement didn't do anything to curtail Iran's aggressive behavior throughout the region.

CHANG: How would you assess Nikki Haley's time at the U.N.? Has she been successful in advancing U.S. foreign policy goals?

NEGROPONTE: I think, as defined by the president of the United States and the current administration, yes. That'd be my first point. The second is I think she was very well-suited for the job. She's an outgoing politician. It's quite a political aspect to being ambassador to the United Nations. You've got to go schmooze with other delegates. You've got to walk around, get to know everybody.

I think she also got interested - very interested, in fact - in the substance of the work, and she was proactive. And it was at the time, I think, a marked contrast to the secretary of state, Mr. Rex Tillerson, who was really kind of a shrinking violet and closeted himself in his office and didn't establish much of a public persona nor much of a relationship with his environment.

CHANG: One claim, though, that Nikki Haley made is that the U.S. is now more respected at the U.N. Do you think that that's a fair characterization? Is that accurate?

NEGROPONTE: Look, I think we've always been respected. You know, maybe in one respect or another, you might be able to point to that, but I prefer to view it as the fact that we're the most powerful country in the world. We still have the largest...

CHANG: She's suggesting that the status of the U.S. has been elevated under her tenure at the U.N.

NEGROPONTE: You know, she can make that argument. I'm not going to quibble with her. But I'm also going to say that I think for a long time, in fact, since the end of World War II, the United States has been the largest economy, the largest military and the most influential country in the world. I think she's taken seriously the responsibility of trying to maintain our influence at the United Nations. She hasn't laid back. She's been forceful. She's been a bit forward on her skis. But I think she's taken seriously the idea of playing a leadership role on behalf of the United States at the U.N., and for that I commend her.

CHANG: What do you think President Trump should be looking for when considering, as he's considering a replacement for Nikki Haley?

NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, I think presidents should always consider people who they are going to be comfortable working with. Secondly, ideally somebody with some international experience of whatever kind, whether it's international business, or a think tank, or a politician, somebody who's got a mind that, you know - OK, America first, but America not alone. And one of the people most responsible for taking care of the not alone part is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. You're dealing with almost 200 countries. It's international relations 7-by-24 up there, and it's got to be somebody who's got an appetite for that.

CHANG: John Negroponte was an ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

NEGROPONTE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.