U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft tore into other members of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday for using a COVID-19 meeting to focus on what she called “political grudges” rather than the pandemic – while noting the massive U.S. contribution to the international effort against the virus.
“You know, shame on each of you. I am astonished and I am disgusted by the content of today’s discussion,” Craft said. “I am actually really quite ashamed of this council – members of the council who took this opportunity to focus on political grudges rather than the critical issue at hand. My goodness.”
The Security Council meeting was to discuss challenges related to “Post-COVID-19 Global Governance.” But members veered off onto different topics only tangentially related to the virus, with a number of references that were seen as veiled swipes at the U.S.
The South African president called for an end to unilateral sanctions, apparently referring to those imposed by Washington on Iran, and also called for a Security Council that “better reflects U.N. membership.”
Niger's president, meanwhile, called for major reforms on issues such as climate change, and its ambassador specifically mentioned the Paris Climate accord – from which the U.S. withdrew in 2018.
He also said nations have to “work together to draw lessons and think about reforms necessary for global governance.”
Council member Tunisia, represented by its president, Kais Saied, warned the council about continued divisions. He noted, without calling them out by name, that the U.S. and China had fought over the wording of a resolution sponsored by Tunisia and France for several months before it finally was agreed upon.
He then said such disagreements showed reform of the council was needed to take care of some of the bigger issues, where he also mentioned the “just Palestinian cause.”
Indonesia warned of “escalating political rivalries” that “paralyze international institutions.” Russia and China took a number of not-so-veiled shots across the bow of the U.S. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was “absolutely unfair to attack the U.N.” and praised the World Health Organization – from which the U.S. announced its withdrawal earlier this year – as having acted “professionally” and in a “timely manner.”
Craft, however, brushed off the criticism., saying she was “disappointed on behalf of the people you are trying to reach, by squandering this opportunity for political purposes.”
“President Trump has made it very clear, we will do whatever is right, even if it’s unpopular, because, let me tell you what, this is not a popularity contest,” she said.
She went on to tout the U.S. efforts in responding to the crisis, noting that it had allocated more than $20 billion to vaccine development, therapeutics and medical infrastructure.
In a pointed statement, she compared the U.S. donations to the U.N. response to those who were speaking at length about multilateralism.
“The United States has contributed more than $900 million to the U.N.’s response, by far the most of any country to date. And let me just name a few most recently: Niger, $4.6 million, South Africa, $8.4 million, Indonesia, $5 million, Vietnam, $9.5 million, Tunisia, $600,000,” she said.
Many of those countries are also funded heavily by the U.S., according to U.S. Aid navigator. Niger received $63 million in aid so far in 2020, South Africa received $424 million, Vietnam $134 million, Indonesia $72 million and Tunisia $87 million.
Craft also took aim at China directly, arguing that the Chinese Communist Party’s alleged coverup of the origins of the virus “transformed a local epidemic into a global pandemic.”
“The actions of the Chinese Communist Party prove that not all member states are equally committed to public health, transparency and their international obligations,” she said.
Separately, she said the World Health Organization’s reputation was in “tatters”
The Chinese ambassador shot back in a right of reply, angrily accusing the U.S. of “abusing the platform of the U.N. and its Security Council” and repeating its claim that the U.S “has been spreading political virus and disinformation, and creating confrontation and division.”
“I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said.
The back and forth comes days after President Trump on Tuesday ripped into China and the World Health Organization. He called for the U.N. to hold China “accountable” and touted the benefits of “America First.”
"For decades, the same tired voices propose the same failed solutions, pursuing global ambitions at the expense of their own people, but only when you take care of your own citizens will you find a true basis for cooperation," he said. "As president, I have rejected the failed approaches of the past and I am proudly putting America first. Just as you should be putting your countries first."