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Trump's Choice For UN Ambassador Says U.S. Can't Trust Russia

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's choice as ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Donald Trump's pick for United Nations ambassador delivered sharp criticism of Russia on January 18, saying Moscow cannot be trusted, but added that Washington will nonetheless need the Kremlin's cooperation on counterterrorism efforts and other challenges.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's testimony at a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing comes amid badly strained bilateral ties with Russia over Moscow's role in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as alleged Kremlin meddling in the American presidential election.

Trump, who has said he wants to improve those relations, has drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats that he is soft on Moscow's aggressive foreign policy.

The 44-year-old Haley told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russia is trying to "show their muscle" and that Moscow knows "no boundaries."

"I don't think that we can trust them," she said.

Haley left room for cooperation with Russia, however, on the condition that the Kremlin is willing to give ground.

"I think that we have to make sure that we try and see what we can get from them before we give to them," she said.

Haley, who criticized Trump during the campaign, has little experience in international affairs and has not spoken much in public about her foreign policy views.

If confirmed by the Senate, she would succeed Samantha Power -- a vocal critic of Russia's invasion and illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula, of its backing for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, and of Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Speaking a day before Haley's confirmation hearing, Power said Russia's actions "are not standing up a new world order. They are tearing down the one that exists."

Haley said in her January 18 hearing that she considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine -- a position backed by more than 100 UN member states in a resolution.

She said that Washington should not lift the sanctions it imposed against Russia over its interference in Ukraine until Moscow changes course.

"I think that Russia has to have positive actions before we lift any sanctions on Russia," she said.

Haley also said that she believes Russia is responsible for "terrible atrocities" in Syria, including war crimes in Aleppo.

She added, however, that while Washington must voice its displeasure about Russia's actions in Ukraine and Syria, it will also need to seek the Kremlin's support to confront terrorism and on other pressing issues.

"We're also going to tell them that we do need their help with ISIS and with some other threats that we all share," Haley said, using an acronym for the extremist Islamic State group.

Haley's confirmation hearing also comes in the wake of what U.S. intelligence official say was a Russian hacking and public-opinion manipulation campaign directed by President Vladimir Putin to influence the U.S. presidential election.

The Kremlin rejects the charge, and Trump had repeatedly cast doubt on the assessment before publicly saying in January that Russia was likely behind computer hacking that targeted his opponent in the election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Trump insists Russia's hacking and public opinion manipulation campaign had no impact on the outcome of the election.

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