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John McCain on Foreign Policy

Republican nominee for President; Senior Senator (AZ)


Ukraine now in Putin’s sights; penalize Russian aggression

Q: How can we apply pressure to Russia for humanitarian issues in an effective manner without starting another Cold War?

McCAIN: First of all, we’re not going to have another Cold War with Russia. But have no doubt that Russia’s behavior is certainly outside the norms of behavior that we would expect for nations which are very wealthy, as Russia has become, because of their petro dollars.

Now, long ago, I warned about Vladimir Putin. He has surrounded himself with former KGB apparatchiks. He has gradually repressed liberties, and he has exhibited most aggressive behavior, obviously, in Georgia.

I said before, watch Ukraine. Ukraine, right now, is in the sights of Vladimir Putin, those that want to reassemble the old Soviet Union. We’ve got to show moral support for Georgia. We’ve got to show moral support for Ukraine. We’ve got to advocate for their membership in NATO. We have to make the Russians understand that there are penalties for these this kind of behavior.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against Barack Obama Oct 7, 2008

Nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel

Q: How big a threat is Iran to the US?

A: If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is an existential threat to the State of Israel and to other countries in the region. We cannot have a second Holocaust. Let’s just make that very clear. I have proposed a League of Democracies, a group of countries that share common interests, common values, common ideals, they also control a lot of the world’s economic power. We could impose significant meaningful, painful sanctions on the Iranians that I think could have a beneficial effect.

The Iranians have a lousy government, so therefore their economy is lousy, even though they have significant oil revenues. So I am convinced that together with the French, with the British, with the Germans and other countries, we can affect Iranian behavior.

But have no doubt, but have no doubt that the Iranians continue on the path to the acquisition of a nuclear weapon as we speak tonight. And it is a threat not only in this region but around the world

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain Sep 26, 2008

Preconditions required for talks with rogue states

OBAMA: We are going to have to engage in tough direct diplomacy with Iran and this is a major difference I have with Sen. McCain, this notion by not talking to people we are punishing them has not worked.

McCAIN: Sen. Obama said he would sit down with Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Raul Castro without precondition. Here is Ahmadinejad, who is now talking about the extermination of the State of Israel, and we’re going to sit down, without precondition, to give a propaganda platform, and therefore then giving them more credence in the world arena and therefore saying--because you will sit down across the table from them--that will legitimize their illegal behavior. Throughout history, whether it be Ronald Reagan, who wouldn’t sit down with [the USSR] until Gorbachev was ready with glasnost and perestroika, or whether it be Nixon’s trip to China, which was preceded by Henry Kissinger, many times before he went. I’ll sit down with anybody, but there’s got to be pre-conditions.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain Sep 26, 2008

Russian aggression in Georgia is wrong; I see KGB in Putin

Q: How do you see the US relationship with Russia?

A: I looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes, and I saw three letters, a “K,” a “G,” and a “B.” And their aggression in Georgia is not acceptable behavior. I don’t believe we’re going to go back to the Cold War. I am sure that that will not happen. But I do believe that we need to bolster our friends and allies. And that wasn’t just about a problem between Georgia and Russia. It had everything to do with energy.

I think the Russians ought to understand that we will support the inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. We also ought to make it very clear that the Russians are in violation of their cease-fire agreement. We want to work with the Russians. But we also have every right to expect the Russians to behave like a country who respects international boundaries and the norms of international behavior.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain Sep 26, 2008

Sit down with any leader, but only with pre-conditions

McCAIN: Throughout history, whether it be Ronald Reagan, who wouldn’t sit down with Brezhnev, Andropov or Chernenko until Gorbachev was ready with glasnost and perestroika, or whether it be Nixon’s trip to China, which was preceded by Henry Kissinger, many times before he went. I’ll sit down with anybody, but there’s got to be pre-conditions.

OBAMA: Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who’s one of his advisers, who, along with five recent secretaries of state, just said that we should meet with Iran--guess what--without precondition. This is one of your own advisers.

McCAIN: My friend, Dr. Kissinger, who’s been my friend for 35 years, would be interested to hear this conversation and Senator Obama’s depiction of his -- of his positions on the issue. I’ve known him for 35 years. And I guarantee you he would not -- he would not say that presidential top level.

OBAMA: Nobody’s talking about that.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain Sep 26, 2008

FactCheck: Obama sought restraint in Georgia; so did Bush

McCain called Obama’s initial statement on the conflict in Georgia “naive.” It’s worth noting Obama’s words echoed those of the White House. McCain claimed, “I was interested in Senator Obama’s reaction to the Russian aggression against Georgia. His firs statement was, ‘Both sides ought to show restraint.’ Again, a little bit of naivete there. He doesn’t understand that Russia committed serious aggression against Georgia.”

It’s true, as McCain said, that during the conflict between Georgia and Russia, Obama said, “Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war” in his first statement on the conflict. But so did the White House. Press secretary Dana Perino said on Aug. 8, “We urge restraint on all sides--that violence would be curtailed and that direct dialogue could ensue in order to help resolve their differences.” We pointed this out when New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani mischaracterized Obama’s response to the crisis during the GOP convention.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 first Presidential debate Sep 26, 2008

I’m prepared for the dangerous threats in this world

We have dealt a serious blow to al Qaeda in recent years, but they’re not defeated, and they’ll strike us again if they can. Iran remains the chief state sponsor of terrorism, and is on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons. Russia’s leaders, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals and the obligations of a responsible power. They invaded a small, democratic neighbor to gain more control over the world’s oil supply, intimidate other neighbors, and further their ambitions of reassembling the Russian empire. And the brave people of Georgia need our solidarity and our prayers. As president, I’ll work to establish good relations with Russia so that we need not fear a return of the Cold War. But we can’t turn a blin eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people. We face many dangerous threats in this dangerous world, but I’m not afraid of them. I’m prepared for them.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention Sep 4, 2008

1994: Worked with John Kerry to normalize Vietnam relations

In 1993, McCain, working with Senate Democrat (and fellow Vietnam veteran) John Kerry, urged Clinton to lift US trade sanctions against Vietnam. In 1994, McCain and Kerry sponsored a resolution to lift the embargo, against the opposition of veterans' groups and prominent Republican senators like Bob Dole and Phil Gramm. The two would continue to work with the president to accelerate the normalization of trade relations with the country.
Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 62 Mar 25, 2008

No circumstances where president can disregard treaties

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, is the president, when operating overseas as commander-in-chief, free to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified?

A: I know of no circumstance. Again, it goes back to what the law says--if there is a treaty that the Congress has ratified, we have chosen to make it the law of the land, and it must be obeyed under the terms that it was ratified.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

Maintain Cuban embargo; indict Castro

Q: Cuban dictatorship has survived nine U.S. presidents. What would you do differently, that has not been done so far, to bring democracy to Cuba?

A: Of course we need to keep our embargo up. Of course we cannot allow economic aid to flow to Cuba. And if I were president of the United States, I would order an investigation of the shoot-down of those brave Cubans who were killed under the orders of Raul and Fidel Castro, and, if necessary, indict them.

Source: 2007 Republican primary debate on Univision Dec 9, 2007

Situation in Pakistan very serious, but not nuclear threat

Q: Pakistan appears to be on the brink. Tremendous political instability, raging Islamic terrorism. How serious a threat to US interests if Pakistan is destabilized?

A: It’s very serious. Waziristan, where I have visited, is clearly at least partially under the control of Taliban and Al Qaida military units who are launching attacks into Afghanistan. The Pakistani army has not been successful, and they made this unholy truce with them which has led to attacks into Afghanistan.

Q: So what happens to us if the country is destabilized?

A: It’s a nuclear nation. I am convinced that there are some military people within Pakistan who are more Islamic than the present leadership--radicalized, I mean. What the US should be doing is encourage the reconciliation between Bhutto and Musharraf. I would hope that we would be able to defuse some of the situation. But it would have to be a very, very radical regime to take over for it to be a nuclear threat.

Source: FOX News Sunday, 2007 presidential interviews Oct 21, 2007

We need bigger army for more militaristic foreign policy

McCain envisions a more militaristic foreign policy than any US president in a century. He wants to continue the surge in Iraq, wished it could have been much bigger, and he refused to publicly contemplate any kind of future withdrawal aside from warning at every opportunity that the "consequences of failure" would be genocide in Iraq and Al Qaeda inside America. He imagines US forces in Baghdad and beyond for at least another half-century, arguing that "we've had troops in South Korea for 60 years, and Americans are very satisfied with that situation." He famously sang "Bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" at a campaign event (and thereafter had his staff play "Barbara Ann" before his appearances); and continues to call that country's nuclear program the "single greatest" threat to the US besides the War on Terror. He has advocated threatening North Korea with "extinction," agitated for military intervention in Darfur.
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.154-155 Oct 9, 2007

Somalia: alleviating starvation OK; nation-building not

11 days after two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down over Mogadishu, killing 18 and creating the gruesome spectacle of warlords dragging American soldiers through the streets, McCain, who had already been agitating for the troops to come home, did jus what he'd criticized Democrats for doing two decades earlier--tried to cut off funding to precipitate a withdrawal.

McCain said: "Our mission in Somali is over," he said on the Senate floor. "It is time to come home. Our mission is Somali was to feed million starving who needed to be fed. It was not an open-ended commitment. It was not a commission of nation building, not warlord hunting, or any of the other extraneous activities which we seem to have been engaged in. If the President cannot say, 'Here is what we are fighting for in Somalia, that more Americans may perish in service to the goals, and here is why it is worth that price,' then we have no right--no right--to ask Americans to risk their lives in any further misadventures in Somalia.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.161-162 Oct 9, 2007

1970s: Vietnam justified because of Domino Theory

McCain's snap take, as captured in his 1970's U.S. News essay, contained plenty of analysis that went missing in his subsequent statements about Vietnam.

The most interesting of the details McCain left out of all subsequent interviews was his anecdotal evidence lending support to the controversial domino theory--the notion that once Vietnam fell, the communists would sweep through the rest of southeast Asia. It was one of the main justifications for the war, and especially for staying in it long after success seemed unlikely. In the essay, McCain cited the following: "After we liberate South Vietnam we're going to liberate Cambodia. And after Cambodia we're going to Laos, [then] Thailand, [then] Malaysia, and then Burma. We're going to liberate all east Asia." What was McCain's interpretation? "Some people's favorite game is to refute the 'domino theory.' But the North Vietnamese believe it. This is what Communism is all about--armed struggle to overthrow capitalist countries."

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.123 Oct 9, 2007

Naive to exclude nukes; naive to exclude attacking Pakistan

It’s naive to say that we will never use nuclear weapons. It’s naive to say we’re going to attack Pakistan without thinking it through. What if Musharraf were removed from power? What if a radical Islamic government were to take place because we triggered it with an attack?

I believe the reason why we won the Cold War is because of our advocacy and our dedication to the principles that all of us are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

Source: 2007 GOP Iowa Straw Poll debate Aug 5, 2007

We have good reason to expect solidarity of our allies

The Democrats emphasize that military action alone won’t protect us, that this war has many fronts: in courts, financial institutions, in the shadowy world of intelligence, and in diplomacy. They stress America needs the help of her friends to combat an evil that threatens us all, that our alliances are as important to victory as are our armies. We agree. As we’ve been a good friend to other countries in moments of shared perils, so we have good reason to expect their solidarity with us in this struggle
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Speech Aug 30, 2004

Suu Kyi and the people of Burma will rule themselves someday

On the first public appearance following her release from house arrest in 2002, Aung San Suu Kyi apologized to her people. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. But my freedom is not a major triumph for democracy; my freedom is not the object of our struggle.” So she fights on. And she will prevail. The regime must relent eventually. Suu Kyi and the people of Burma will rule themselves someday. The tyrants who have opposed and terrorized them for so long are simply no match for them. They lack their courage.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p.165 Apr 1, 2004

2000: Internationalist vision with populist caution

In the 2000 primary, McCain was the only major candidate to articulate a truly "national" vision for foreign policy. The mystery was why McCain did not fuse the issue of foreign policy with a domestic agenda as part of a seamless package--in effect picking up on Reagan's message of vigilance abroad and less government intrusion at home.

Ultimately, McCain is an internationalist with a populist touch. A former soldier, he shares with Reagan a skepticism about so-called experts, yet McCain's skepticism is leavened by long operational experience. Unlike Bush the elder, McCain is immunized from the charge of being an East Coast internationalist, a Rockefeller Republican. Unlike Bush the younger, McCain has demonstrated a flare for foreign policy, with a capacity to engage in a thrust-and-parry that runs beyond coached lines.

The strength of McCain is that he speaks with a sense of gravity, [and] with the sense of conservative caution in the face of many threats to America's security.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.212-214 Sep 20, 2000

Overthrow “rogue” governments to keep Americans safe

Q: What area of international policy would you change immediately?
A: Our policies concerning rogue states: Iraq, Libya, North Korea-those countries that continue to try to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. I’d institute a policy that I call “rogue state rollback.” I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically elected governments.
Source: GOP Debate on the Larry King Show Feb 15, 2000

Our conscience influences US intervention, as in Rwanda

Q: Would you intervene militarily if human rights abuses were at stake?
A: There are times when our principles are so offended that we have to do what we can to resolve a terrible situation. If Rwanda again became a scene of horrible genocide, if there was a way that the US could stop. But we can never say that a nation driven by Judeo-Christian principles will only intervene where our interests are threatened because we also have values. If genocide is allowed, the consequences later are more severe.
Source: GOP Debate on the Larry King Show Feb 15, 2000

Africa: Money for AIDS would be lost to corruption

Q: Should we appropriate $300 million out of the surplus to help fight AIDS in Africa?
A: I would do anything in my power to stop this terrible affliction. But we have corrupt governments; we have organizations that don’t treat the people. So before I spent our taxpayers’ money on that, I would have to make sure that it would go to the recipients and those of these poor people who are afflicted with this terrible disease. Frankly, in a lot of parts of Africa today, I do not have that confidence.
Source: GOP Debate in Michigan Jan 10, 2000

Concern over Chechnya spreads to Caucasus oil reserves

McCAIN [to Forbes]: I want to talk to you about Russia. We’re concerned about Chechnya. We’re concerned about the Caucasus and Georgia and the oil and gas reserves that are there, and I’m particularly interested in your views of Mr. Putin and what we can expect and how you would handle our relations with Russia at this particular moment.

FORBES: I think that our relations with Russia today are another prime example of the lack of a foreign policy of the Clinton-Gore Administration. The way they’re applauding this coup that just took place with the thieving oligarchs of the Kremlin, told Yeltsin get out and we’ll let your family keep their illegal gains, and this way we can move the election up. Have the war fever from Chechnya. The war in Chechnya is simply an election ploy. It’s also, I fear, part of the first step of the old Russian nationalist of reestablishing the old Soviet empire. Chechnya today, perhaps Georgia tomorrow, Armenia after that. It’s a disaster.

Source: Republican Debate in West Columbia, SC Jan 7, 2000

Russia: Sanctions until Putin exits Chechnya

McCain says acting Russian President Vladimir Putin should be urged to end the conflict with Chechen militants under threat of sanctions, as issue he would talk about “every day” as president. “I’d state unequivocally that there would be no more US Export-Import Bank loans, that the US would not support any furhter IMF funding until this thing is brought to some kind of reasonable conclusion,” he said.
Source: Associated Press, in The Enterprise (Brockton MA), p. A9 Jan 4, 2000

IMF’s Russia policies bad, but agency is OK

A spokesman for John McCain saif the Senator “generally would not call” for eliminating the IMF but has criticized the agency’s work in Russia, where there are accusations that IMF loans were misused and that the government misled the IMF about its finances.
Source: Boston Globe, p. A14 Oct 5, 1999

Urge Japan to open economy to ensure Asian recovery

Asia’s economic recovery will not be sustained over time, and its markets will not recover their former profitability for American goods and services, unless the greatest economy of Asia - Japan’s - is freed from the market distorting restraints that are inherent in its unique political economy. If it is to thrive once again, Japan must commit to systemic reforms that are politically difficult for powerful constituencies, among them, Japanese farmers and banks.
Source: Speech to National Press Club, 5/20/99 May 20, 1999

Clinton abandoned framework of “assertive multilateralism”

A conceptual framework establishes the relationships among our many interests in the world, provides the basis for prioritizing those interests, and obliges us to integrate policies to serve those priorities. Early on, Clinton [supported] a conceptual framework: “assertive multilateralism.” But it fell apart in Somalia & Bosnia, and assertive gave way to passive multilateralism, where we act in concert with other nations when they determine it necessary to safeguard their security.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Position Papers” 4/30/99 Apr 30, 1999

Korea: ease starvation, but avoid war during death throes

[Five years ago,] the US promised North Korea food and energy support, [plus] nuclear reactors, in exchange for the cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. A firmer response might have triggered a war; refusing to help ease the deprivations in the North, and hastening the collapse of the regime might have also resulted in war. North Korea is still inexorably nearing total collapse, and its leaders remain quite capable of launching in their country’s death throes one final, glorious war.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Position Papers” 4/30/99 Apr 30, 1999

Cuba: No diplomatic and trade relations

McCain believes that the US should not have diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba.
Source: Project Vote Smart, 1998, www.vote-smart.org Jul 2, 1998


John McCain on China

Support the One-China policy, don’t weaken it

Q: If Taiwan moves towards declaring independence from China, would you try and stop them?
A: Of course I would. There has been “strategic ambiguity,” but Clinton destroyed that policy, when he went to China and called the Chinese his strategic partner. He destroyed the delicate balance of ambiguity, which is causing many of these problems now. Of course I would tell the Taiwanese that they should observe the one China policy which calls for peaceful reunification.
Source: GOP debate in Los Angeles Mar 2, 2000

$1M political donations by Chinese Army should not be legal