Read Nikki Haley’s Full Interview With The Atlantic

They got very concerned at that point. They came back and said,” No, no, no, let’s talk. Let’s talk.” Once we got that—and we really pushed it—that was the laborers, which was a huge hit to Russia, huge, and then that’s where we got more refined petroleum; it was really the kicker at the end. When I went to Russia, Russia said, “You can’t keep doing this to us.” They are a strong believer that sanctions don’t work. That was their No. 1 argument to the Security Council: Sanctions don’t work. “All you’re doing is making them more mad.” But I knew that all of the money North Korea was getting, they weren’t using it to feed their people. They weren’t using it to take care of their people. Every dollar they got was going to that nuclear program. And if we could stop the money going to their nuclear program, then we could stop the threat that we were seeing. And so I made the direct correlation between money and the threat.

Russia said, “I’m not gonna do this.” They said, “These are laborers”—they tried to play with it. China at that point tried to be Russia’s friend and say we shouldn’t do laborers, whatever. I just pushed through. I just absolutely pushed it through and said, “We’re gonna do this,” and I shamed them into it. I think after that, for as difficult and complicated as that was, it wasn’t just that alone. You had General McMaster at the NSC [National Security Council], who was doing an amazing job of getting countries to expel their diplomats, closing down embassies, so there was an added pressure there. Between my work with sanctions, the NSC putting pressure on all the other countries’ embassies, and the president’s rhetoric, it was those things that really allowed it to happen.

Friedman: You said, “I don’t know what the president’s gonna do,” and you knew. Were we actually close to war?

Haley: No. Having said that, if they had launched something, if it had come near the U.S., the president totally would have. But at the time, were we gonna instigate something? No.

Friedman: You’ve mentioned that one of your conditions for taking the job was you being able to speak your mind, even when what was in your mind was not in the president’s mind. I’m curious, if you can think of any examples, of when you persuaded the president to come around to your views on a particular issue, or vice versa—when you have changed your views when working with the president and come around to the way he sees things.

Haley: I thought it as governor and I think it now. I think that personal conversations should stay personal. What I can tell you is there have been issues where I felt strongly about something and I picked up the phone or called the president. He was always willing to listen. He was always unbelievably supportive and would always hear me out. I don’t think he gets enough credit for that, because there were many times I pushed back that he could’ve easily said “This is what I’m doing,” and he never did that. He never did that. He would then give his argument or his thoughts, I’d give him mine, and we’d come together in the middle on where we could meet. It has been an amazingly good relationship, and really, I would not have been successful at the UN had I not had the support of the president. Every ambassador knew I had the ear of the president. Every ambassador knew I could pick up the phone at any given time and call him. And that support was monumental in me being able to do my job.

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