Nikki Haley, now the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., has dropped hints that she may present a challenge to supporters of U.S.-Cuba normalization. The first was in her testimony regarding Cuba before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The second was in her initial appearance at the U.N. on January 27.
Appearance Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee
On January 18, 2017, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held Nikki Haley’s confirmation hearing, and at the hearing or thereafter in writing she provided the following testimony regarding Cuba.
- Question: “Do you agree that the U.S. should help support private entrepreneurs in Cuba with training or other assistance, so they can build businesses, market their products and services, and compete with state-owned enterprises?”
Answer: “Unfortunately, Cuba does not have private entrepreneurs and working independently is not a right but a privilege granted only to supporters of the regime.”
- Question: “Do you agree that after more than half a century the U.S. embargo against Cuba has failed to achieve any of its principal objectives?”
Answer: “We should be clear about a few things. The goal of the embargo was never to cause regime change, but rather to raise the costs of the Cuban government’s bad behavior.”
- Question: “Will you continue the recent practice of abstaining to the UN General Resolution pertaining to the statutory U.S. embargo on Cuba?”
Analysis: “Too bad. Ambassador Samantha Power’s speech when the U.S. abstained on the embargo resolution last year was a truly great moment.”
- Question: “Do you support continued diplomatic relations with Cuba?
Answer: She submitted an 85-word response that according to the CDA, didn’t directly answer the question.
On January 24, the Committee approved her nomination, 11-2 (with negative votes from Democratic Senators Coons (DE) and Udall (NM)).
Action by the Senate
The full Senate followed suit the same day, 96-4 (with negative votes from Coons and Udall plus Democrat Senator Heinrich (NM) and Independent Senator Sanders (VT)) .
The Committee Chair, Senator Bob Corker (Rep., TN) supported the nomination with this statement: “Governor Haley is a fierce advocate for American interests. As South Carolina’s Governor, Nikki Haley is a proven leader. I believe she has the instincts that will help her achieve reform. Having run a state government, she has dealt with tough management and budgetary issues. I believe that experience will serve her well, and I strongly support her nomination.” He added, “I believe she knows the United Nations needs reform and change. We have a right to demand value for our money. I think our nominee has said she will demand that. . . . Experience shows that when we have strong U.S. leadership at the U.N. we can get results. As South Carolina’s Governor, Nikki Haley is a proven leader. . . . I believe she has the instincts that will help her achieve reform. Having run a state government, she has dealt with tough management and budgetary issues.”
The nomination also was supported by Senator Benjamin Cardin (Dem., MD), the Committee’s Ranking Member, who said, ““What Governor Haley lacks in foreign policy and international affairs experience, she makes up for in capability, intelligence, and a track record of building coalitions in South Carolina. Her nomination was surprising to many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but I have been impressed by her forthrightness on core American values, her willingness to admit what she does not know, and her commitment to seeking the facts and speaking truth to power, whether within the Trump Administration or with an intransigent Russia and China in the Security Council.”
Ambassador Haley’s Initial Appearance at the U.N.
On January 27, only three days after her confirmation, she made her very first appearance at the U.N. General Assembly and delivered a blunt warning to every nation in the world. She said, “You’re going to see a change in the way we do business. Our goal with the administration is to show value at the U.N., and the way we’ll show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure our allies have our back as well. For those who don’t have our back, we’re taking names; we will make points to respond to that accordingly.”
First, her lack of knowledge regarding Cuba may not be surprising since her prior experience has been in state government, but it is a troubling sign that she may not be committed to normalization.
Second, her statement that she would not abstain on the forthcoming U.N. General Assembly resolution against the U.S. embargo (blockade) of Cuba is also troubling by itself. It is even more troubling when coupled with her recent statement at the U.N. that the U.S. would be taking the names of those countries that do not have the U.S.’ back and responding accordingly. That suggests that the U.S. may seek to take some kind of action against virtually every country in the world that supports that resolution.
 Press Release, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approved Nomination of Nikki Haley to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (Jan. 24, 2017); Press Release, Corker Votes to Confirm Nikki Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (Jan. 24, 2017); Press Release, Corker Statement on Haley Vote (Jan. 24, 2017); Press Release, Cardin Statement on Haley Vote (Jan. 24, 2017); Assoc. Press, Senate Confirms Trump’s Nominee for US Ambassador to UN, N.Y. Times (Jan. 24, 2017); Carney, Senate confirms Trump’s UN ambassador, The Hill (Jan. 24, 2017).
 Sengupta, Nikki Haley Puts U.N. on Notice: U.S. Is ‘Taking Names,’ N.Y. Times (Jan. 27, 2017).