NEW YORK - The American Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said Sunday that the United States was now in a leadership role at the world body and that "there's no love" between the US and Russia, adding that she is "beating up" on Moscow even as investigations in Washington scrutinise possible links between the country and associates of President Donald Trump.
"There's no love or anything going on with Russia right now," Haley, which is of Indian ancestry, told ABC News in an interview. "They get that we're getting our strength back, that we're getting our voice back and that we're starting to lead again."
She was responding to a question about the apparent difference between her tough words about Russia and Trump's attitude toward the country and its president, Vladimir Putin.
Trump during the presidential campaign called Putin a stronger leader than then-President Barack Obama. He also publicly expressed "respect" for Putin during a Fox News interview in February. When asked about allegations that Putin has had political opponents killed, Trump responded: "There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country's so innocent?" The president has also dismissed as "fake news" allegations of ties between Russia and his associates.
"He isn't beating up on Russia," anchorperson Martha Raddatz said to Haley on "This Week," asking: "Should he be beating up on Russia?"
“I am beating up on Russia," Haley replied. "[The president] has got a lot of things he's doing, but he is not stopping me from beating up on Russia ... He's not stopping me on how we're working together [with Russia] to defeat ISIS."
Anchorperson Raddatz continued, "President Trump has said he respects Putin, but you say you don't trust him."
"I don't," Haley responded, adding, "President Trump has agreed, and this administration agrees, that Russia's involvement in Ukraine is wrong."
"The president has not once called me and said, 'Don't beat up on Russia' -- has not once called me and told me what to say," she said.
"Look, he's the president," Haley told anchorperson Raddatz. "He can say what he wants, whenever he wants. But the direction we've gotten is to do our jobs, make sure that the United States is strong and that's what we'll do."
Haley said that the US is holding Russia accountable on issues around Syria, Iran and human rights violations.
Speaking broadly about her work at the UN, where she will on Monday take over the rotating presidency of the Security Council, Haley said: "This is not about keeping countries happy. This is about keeping the United States strong and, in order to do that, we have to have the backs of our allies. We have to call out wrongs when we see them ... We're going to say what we think, and we're going to move the ball and that's what this is about."
Haley also emphasised that the US is putting pressure on China to get neighbouring North Korea to end its nuclear programme.
The United States should "no longer take the excuses from China that 'they're concerned,'" she said. "They need to show us how concerned they are ... The only country that can stop North Korea is China, and they know that.”
Haley also claimed that the “Israel bias” has been wiped out at the UN. “We changed the Israel bias that's happening at the United Nations by making sure we call out anyone that focuses on that as opposed to focusing on the conflicts,” Haley said.
Haley denounced the Obama administration’s decision to break with longtime US policy by allowing the UN Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements, which added to the souring relations between then-President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Haley also slammed a UN report that said Israel had established an “apartheid regime” that oppressed Palestinians. “We had that report pulled down. The director resigned,” Haley added.
A UN spokesman originally denounced the report, saying it was released without prior consultation with the top leadership. “We are now changing the culture at the United Nations and with that we're changing the culture in the world in the discussions that we're having,” Haley added.