Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says the Security Council is failing to live up to its mission of making the world safer, more democratic, and more prosperous. Craft spoke with CBS News in an exclusive interview after a contentious week at the U.N. General Assembly, which is virtual this year.

In pre-taped addresses, President Trump and the leaders of Russia and China traded sharp accusations over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis, as well as global leadership on issues including climate change.

Ambassador Craft, who was sworn in one year ago, defended U.S. leadership despite the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from global initiatives like the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization. She discussed those topics as well as recent U.S. agreements with Gulf Arab states, the standoff over the Iran nuclear deal, and America’s reckoning with racial injustice.

Craft succeeded Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina who is often mentioned as a 2024 Republican presidential candidate. By stepping up the criticism of the U.N. in the middle of the annual General Assembly, Craft took up Haley’s mantle of knocking the institution in which she serves.

Read excerpts of the interview below: 

CBS News’ Pamela Falk:  You had some fighting words for the Security Council. Tell us why you were angry and what you said.

Ambassador Kelly Craft: I am ashamed to even have to tell you about the Council today, because this is supposed to be the Security Council, a group of 15 of us that tries to work together for the good of the world, and if there was any topic today that you would have thought that they would take this mantra to work for the betterment of the world it would have been on COVID — it would have been, how we all are trying to work together to mitigate this virus around the world. And unfortunately, I mean, to my disgust and astonishment, each country used the opportunity to really be very negative about the United States, and I felt like it was a lot about political grudges rather than the issue of what is really critical, that is, the way that COVID-19 has affected the world, the way this pandemic has already affected areas that were in conflict and areas that, you know, are emerging countries. 

Why do you think that happened, and what did you say to them? You said it was disgusting. What kind of things did you say to them?

Craft: Well, I just wanted to remind them that, you know, we’re going to do whatever is the right thing to do. This is not a popularity contest. … This is a moment where we’re going to stand alone, just like we made the announcement on Monday with snapback [of sanctions on Iran]. I’m not looking for a cheering section, but my goodness, they should be cheering us. We are the largest donors to the U.N. We have just contributed $20 billion dollars to combat COVID around the world. And the fact that they had the audacity to take it upon themselves to use this as a political moment — just very disappointing. 

The World Health Organization is the premier organization that deals with world health. Without the U.S. engagement with the World Health Organization, how does the world come together on COVID? 

Craft: Well, you know, let’s talk about how the world came together when we weren’t engaged with WHO. WHO was nothing but a mouthpiece for China. This world suffered because WHO, they were taking China’s remarks and feeding them to the world. China was very aware, because the Taiwanese had disclosed that this virus was transmittable person to person. … Had we known the truth, had the world been told the truth, in the beginning about the virus, when it first happened in China, then we would have all had taken — obviously we are all responsible for our own countries, our own citizens — but you only are able to mitigate something with what information you have. We didn’t have accurate information, we didn’t have the real truth. 

At the U.N. General Assembly 75th, all virtual, several leaders have mentioned indirectly  and certainly Iran, directly  George Floyd and the racial divide in the United States. What do you think? 

Craft: I can tell you is, how fortunate we are in the United States of America to have the rule of law. And while the situation with George Floyd is tragic, you know I’m from the state of Kentucky and we have the Breonna Taylor [case], which is equally as tragic. So what we really want to focus on, the fact that we have a judicial system, we have a rule of law. We will learn our lessons from the past and improve upon ourselves with the racial divide, and that is something that we all have a moral responsibility to do as an individual is to improve upon our understanding of other people.

So turning to Iran: The U.S. has notified the U.N. on the snapback, on the restoration of sanctions against Iran, but the rest of the world has said there was no notification because the United States is no longer in the deal. That includes the U.K., France and European Union. Where do you think this goes next, since the U.S. considers it is a snapback. Will the U.S. start seizing boats? What goes next?

Craft: We have one focus, our single purpose over the past couple months has been driven by world peace, in making certain that we keep the Middle East safe, we keep Israel safe, for this matter now we are keeping the European citizens safe, because of the lack of action from the E3 countries [the U.K., France and Germany, the three European nations in the Iran nuclear deal], which to me is where my disappointment is. We know where Russia and China stand on this. You know, with the E3, you look at Germany, of all the countries in the world, they should know more than any of how important it is to protect Israel. And so you know we don’t mind standing alone.

This is not a popularity contest. I’m not looking for a cheering section because I certainly don’t have it — you can see from today — with the Security Council members. So that’s OK. But what we’re going to do is we’re going to stand for peace. And I think that people listen very closely and they understand that President Trump… any, any nation that violates Resolution 2231 [codifying the Iran nuclear deal into international law] is also going to be subject to restrictions. 

Is there any chance the United States would get back into some kind of global climate issue when we’re seeing so much fire, wildfires and storms in the East Coast, all the things that point to a climate crisis?

Craft: As you well know, what President Trump and we’ve all made it very clear that we don’t have to be part of any agreement in order to make our own strides. We have been very much of a leader of carbon capture, we would prefer to be able to go into countries as we have been doing and taking our technology and make them sustainable in order to keep, you know, to help farmers. Just look right now at what’s going on in the world with it with this dire situation with food hunger. 

If you look, I’m going to compare us to China with the Belt and the Road [program building infrastructure in developing countries] and what they do with their big shiny projects. They give you these big shiny projects but in return, they’re predatory lenders. 



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