The upcoming departure of Nikki Haley from the position of the US Ambassador to the UN is an unexpected but logical event. Although the main political imperative is domestic (to prevent a split in the Republican Party on the eve of the next presidential election in 2020), it will have a noticeable impact on the US foreign policy. It will become even more “Trumpist”, and will be determined in its formation by serious strengthening of the Mike Pompeo-John Bolton tandem, who are both loyal to Trump and do not argue with his foreign policy leadership.
Anyway, Haley’s departure was a matter of time. She did not fit into the circle of people with whom Trump would like to be surrounded, and was a big exception in his team. During the 2016 election campaign, she harshly criticized Trump and openly supported his rival Marco Rubio. And while already working as ambassador to the UN, she showed far greater loyalty to the president than, for instance, former Secretary of State Tillerson, but Trump does not forget criticism. Initially, the choice fell on her not because the new president liked Nikki Haley, but on the basis of political expediency at that time: offering the post of ambassador to the UN to a bright representative of the Republican elite and the establishment (and at the same time a relatively young and new politician compared to, for example, Vice President Pence), Trump sought to unite around himself the party and its elite, to force them to accept him as the party leader. Today, with few exceptions, this task is fulfilled.
However, the situation changed in 2018. Having saved and consolidated his electorate and strengthened his position in the Republican Party, Trump began to get rid of disloyal people and surround himself with like-minded officials. Compared to Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, who never publicly contradicted Trump, questioned his status as the head of the country’s foreign policy or tried to overshadow him in the information space, the independent Nikki Haley looked deviant. Of course, she did not allow herself such blatant manifestations of disloyalty as McMaster, who publicly denied some of the president’s statements, and Tillerson, who used obscene words against Trump. In general, her line at the UN corresponded to the priorities of the administration. And yet, Hayley positioned herself too independently: she announced some foreign policy steps (anti-Russian sanctions this spring) before they were finally approved by the president and openly made it clear that she did not need guidance, at least from other Trump subordinates.
In this regard, a new US ambassador to the UN is a priori going to have much less political power than Pompeo and Bolton, and neither desire nor ability to challenge their authority. That is confirmed by the list of the candidates for the post. The position of the US ambassador to the UN is becoming formal and diplomatic instead of political, which is also quite regular for American practice. Under Obama, Susan Rice and Samantha Power, who held this post, were incomparable in terms of their political influence with the Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, accepting their superiority.
Finally, there is a third, purely domestic factor that pushed Trump to the decision to transfer Nikki Haley to another job in his administration. With all her great qualities (the six-year experience of governorship, five years in the House of Representatives, her gender and young age (she is only 46), commitment to conservative values, business skills, charisma, intelligence, etc.) at the time of her present appointment she was already being considered a promising leader for the Republican Party, its new face. While working as Ambassador to the UN and positioning herself as a head of the US foreign policy, independent from the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor, Nikki Haley was constantly in the focus of public attention, so her political authority grew even more. That made the representatives of the elite, still considering Trump a stranger and a source of problems for the Republicans, start talking about her as the desirable leader of the party and a possible candidate for the presidency in 2020.
That threatened a split within the party, which had only recently rallied around Trump, who obviously does not want to quit and will run for re-election in 2020. Considering the likely victory of the Democrats in the November midterm elections to Congress, there was a high probability that the Republican Party elite would blame Donald Trump for the loss and promote Haley as the desirable party leader and presidential candidate of 2020 even more actively. For the Republicans, such a split would have been a disaster capable of destroying the “Grand Old Party.” However, the majority of ordinary party members are still standing for Donald Trump. So, before the mid-term elections to Congress, it was necessary to remove Haley from the center of public attention. It would also be dangerous for the President to part with her completely: having left the Administration, she is likely to become his political rival.