Bernie Sanders on Foreign Policy

Democratic primary challenger; Independent VT Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


Address root causes to end these endless wars

Q [to V.P. Biden]: A national security official said that there was constant pressure from the Obama White House to produce figures showing the troop surge was working, "despite hard evidence to the contrary." What do you say to that?

Joe Biden: Since 2009, I was on the opposite side of that with the Pentagon. I can speak to it now is because it's been published. I'm the guy, from the beginning, who argued that it was a big, big mistake to surge forces to Afghanistan, period. I argued against it constantly.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Joe, you're also the guy who helped lead us into the disastrous war in Iraq. What we need to do, is I think, rethink the entire war on terror. We have lost thousands of our own men and women, brave soldiers. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, have been killed abroad or forced to leave their countries. It is time right now, that we bring this world together, to try to end these endless wars and address the root causes, which are causing these wars.

Source: Newshour/Politico/PBS December Democratic primary debate , Dec 19, 2019

Venezuela's Madura is a vicious tyrant

Q: You admit that Venezuela does not have free elections, but still you refuse to call Nicolas Maduro a dictator--Can you explain why?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, let me be very clear. Anybody who does what Maduro does is a vicious tyrant. What we need now is international and regional cooperation for free elections in Venezuela so that the people of that country can make-can create their own future.

Secretary Julian CASTRO: I'll call Maduro a dictator, because he is a dictator.

Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston , Sep 12, 2019

Talk to adversaries but we need more than photo ops

I have no problem with [Trump] sitting down with Kim Jong-un in North Korea or any place else. But I don't want it simply to be a photo opportunity, the whole world's media was attracted there. What's going to happen tomorrow and the next day? He has weakened the State Department. If we're going to bring peace to this world, we need a strong State Department, we need to move forward diplomatically, not just do photo opportunities.
Source: ABC This Week 2019 interview , Jun 30, 2019

Address source of problem with Mexico & Northern Triangle

On day one, we rescind every damn thing on this issue that Trump has done. We've got to look at the root causes. You have a situation where Honduras is a failing state. Massive corruption. You've got gangs who are telling families that if a 10-year-old does not join that gang, that family is going to be killed. What we have got to do on day one is invite the presidents and the leadership of Central America and Mexico together. This is a hemispheric problem that we have got to address.
Source: June Democratic Primary debate (second night in Miami) , Jun 27, 2019

Even-handed Mideast policy; open to moving Jerusalem embassy

Q: Would you move embassy out of Jerusalem, if you thought it was a way to get a peace deal?

A: I can't give you a definitive answer, but yeah. Whether it is Iran and Saudi Arabia, whether it is Israel and the Palestinians, the United States needs to bring people together, needs an even handed policy. We'll take that one step at a time. We are the most-powerful country on Earth. Let's bring people together and try to bring peace.

Source: Meet the Press 2019 interview of 2020 presidential hopefuls , May 19, 2019

Must support human rights, even with trading partners

Q: What about relations abroad?

A: Donald Trump supports authoritarian governments all over the world. I believe we have to support democracy and human rights. I think we have to deal with trade issues. But I think it should be known that we cannot allow -- we have to stand up and oppose, governments that are doing terrible things to minorities.

Q: Are humanitarian reasons enough to use military force?

A: It depends. Obviously, you have to look at case by case.

Source: Meet the Press 2019 interview of 2020 presidential hopefuls , May 19, 2019

Promote democracy, but don't use military for regime change

There are a lot of awful things happening in the world. As someone who fervently believes in human rights and democracy, we have got to do everything that we can. But I think sometimes you have unintended consequences when a powerful nation goes in and tells people who their government will be. I think we have got to do everything that we can to create a democratic climate. But I do not believe in U.S. military intervention in those countries.
Source: CNN Town Hall on 2020 Democratic presidential primary , Feb 25, 2019

Binding referendum on Guam's political status

Bernie recognizes the specific needs facing Guam and the responsibility of the federal government to lend a helping hand. Bernie supports the right of the people of Guam to control their own destinies. All Guamanians are entitled to fair representation at the Federal level and should be empowered to choose their own political future.

Bernie believes that the people of Guam have the right to self-determination. Bernie supports the efforts of the people of Guam to hold a binding referendum on their desired future political status. This is a decision that should be made by the people of Guam without interference from the federal government.

Bernie believes that the people of Guam should have the same rights as any other American, including the right to vote for president and to have fair representation in the U.S. Congress. He supports the current efforts by the We the People Project to extend equal rights to all Americans who live in the U.S. Territories.

Source: 2018 Vermont Senate campaign website BernieSanders.com , Nov 1, 2018

Binding referendum on Puerto Rico statehood vs. independence

Empowering the People of Puerto Rico to Decide Their Own Destiny: There must be a U.S. congressionally-sanctioned and binding referendum where the Puerto Rican people would be able to decide on whether to become a state, an independent country, or to reform the current Commonwealth agreement. This is an issue that should be decided by the Puerto Rican people.
Source: 2018 Vermont Senate campaign website BernieSanders.com , Nov 1, 2018

Gaza is humanitarian disaster; Israelis shouldn't over-react

Q: You have been critical of the Israeli government's decision to use lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators, killing 15, wounding over 700. The Trump administration has stopped short of calling on Israel for restraint. Should they explicitly do so?

SANDERS: Yes, they should. Look, Gaza, as I think everybody knows, is a humanitarian disaster. The unemployment rate there is beyond comprehension. And there is just enormous unrest. What the function of the United States government should be right now is to sit down with the Israelis, sit down with the Palestinians and figure out how we can rebuild Gaza.

Q: We should note, the Palestinian Authority did boycott a meeting at the White House recently to talk about rebuilding Gaza.

SANDERS: We should also to tell the Israelis that when you've got tens and tens of thousands of people protesting, they cannot overreact. And the idea of 15 or so people being killed and hundreds being wounded is, to me, unacceptable.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2018 interviews of 2020 hopefuls , Apr 1, 2018

Foreign policy is directly related to military policy

Let me be clear: Foreign policy is directly related to military policy and has everything to do with almost seven thousand young Americans being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tens of thousands coming home wounded in body and spirit from a war we should never have started. That's foreign policy. And foreign policy is about hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan dying in that same war.

Foreign policy is about U.S. government budget priorities. At a time when we already spend more on defense than the next 12 nations combined, foreign policy is about authorizing a defense budget of some $700 billion.

Source: Westminster College speech in Where We Go From Here, p. 92 , Sep 21, 2017

UN is bureaucratic, but does enormously important work

One of the most important organizations for promoting a vision of a different world is the United Nations. It has become fashionable to bash the UN. And yes, the UN needs to be reformed. It can be ineffective, bureaucratic, too slow or unwilling to act, even in the face of massive atrocities, as we are seeing in Syria right now. But to see only its weaknesses is to overlook the enormously important work the UN does in promoting global health, aiding refugees, monitoring elections, and doing international peacekeeping missions, among other things. All of these activities contribute to reduced conflict, to wars that don't have to be ended because they never start.

At the end of the day, it is obvious that it makes far more sense to have a forum in which countries can debate their concerns, work out compromises and agreements. Dialogue and debate are far preferable to bombs, poison gas, and war.

Source: Westminster College speech in Where We Go From Here, p. 98-9 , Sep 21, 2017

Development aid isn't charity; it avoids military later

Development aid is not charity, it advances our national security. It's worth noting that the U.S. military is a stalwart supporter of non-defense diplomacy and development aid. Starving diplomacy and aid now will result in greater defense needs later on.

US foreign aid should be accompanied by stronger emphasis on helping people gain their political and civil rights to hold oppressive governments accountable to the people. Ultimately, governments that are accountable to the needs of their people will make more dependable partners.

Here is the bottom line: In my view, the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples. A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world.

Source: Westminster College speech in Where We Go From Here, p. 109 , Sep 21, 2017

Opposed Monroe Doctrine interventionism in Latin America

Q: Please explain what is the difference between the socialism that you profess and the socialism in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela.

SANDERS: The US was wrong to try to invade Cuba; the US was wrong trying to support people to overthrow the Nicaraguan government; the US was wrong trying to overthrow, in 1954, the democratically elected government of Guatemala. Throughout the history of our relationship with Latin America we've operated under the so-called Monroe Doctrine, and that said the US had the right do anything that they wanted to do in Latin America. So I actually went to Nicaragua and I very shortly opposed the Reagan administration's efforts to overthrow that government. And I strongly opposed Henry Kissinger and the overthrow of the government of Salvador Allende in Chile. I think the US should be working with governments around the world, not get involved in regime change. And all of these actions in Latin America brought forth a lot of very strong anti-American sentiments.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami , Mar 9, 2016

Ending embargo with Cuba is right step

Q: Your position on Cuba?

CLINTON: I told the president that I hoped he would be able to move toward diplomatic relations with Cuba. And there are no better ambassadors for freedom, democracy and economic opportunity than Cuban Americans. I'm looking forward to following the president's trip. I think meeting with dissidents is important. The Cuban people deserve be able to move towards democracy where they pick their own leads. Both Castros have to be considered authoritarian and dictatorial because they are not freely chosen by the people. I hope someday there will be leaders who are chosen by the Cuban people.

SANDERS: I think we have got to end the embargo. I believe that we should move towards full and normalized political relations with Cuba. I think it will be a good thing for the Cuban people. It will enable them, I think when they see people coming into their country from the United States, move in a more democratic direction, which is what I want to see.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami , Mar 9, 2016

Vulture capitalists responsible for Puerto Rican debt

Q: Will you help Puerto Rico restructure its debt in 1st 100 days?

CLINTON: Absolutely. I have been calling for months that the Congress must give authority to Puerto Rico to restructure its debts. Just like it has enabled states and cities to restructure their debt. It's a grave injustice for the Congress to refuse to enact that opportunity within the bankruptcy law. They deserve to be treated as citizens and to be given the opportunity to get back on their feet economically.

SANDERS: When you get to Puerto Rico, there's an issue that we have not talked about. That island is $73 billion in debt and the government is paying interest rates of up to 11 percent. Mmany of the bonds they are paying off were purchased by vulture capitalists for 30 cents on the dollar. What I have said in talking to the leaders of Puerto Rico, we've got to bring people together. Some of these vulture capitalists are going to have to lose money in this process.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami , Mar 9, 2016

America stands for hope; we should take Syrian refugees

CLINTON: This is a humanitarian catastrophe. The US has to support our allies in Europe. We have to provide financial support. We have to provide the NATO support to back up the mission that is going on. And we have to take properly vetted refugees ourselves.

SANDERS: I went to a Turkish refugee camp on the border of Syria. What a sad sight: Men, women, children forced out of their homes. Turkey did a decent thing, providing reasonable housing and conditions for people. Given our history as a nation that has been a beacon of hope for the oppressed, for the downtrodden, that I very strongly disagree with those Republican candidates who say we've got to turn our backs on women and children who left their home with nothing. That is not what America is supposed to be about. I think that the entire world needs to come together to deal with this horrific refugee crisis.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin on Syrian Refugees , Feb 11, 2016

Won't take advice from Henry Kissinger; he assisted genocide

SANDERS: Where the secretary and I have a profound difference, in the last debate, she talked about getting the approval of Henry Kissinger. Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in modern history. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. Kissinger's actions in Cambodia created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the world.

CLINTON: With respect to China, one of the most challenging relationships we have, Kissinger's ongoing relationships with the leaders of China is an incredibly useful relationship for the United States.

SANDERS: Kissinger was one of those people during the Vietnam era who talked about the threat of China. After the war, he opened up relations with China, and pushed trade agreements, resulting in American workers losing their jobs as corporations moved to China.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

Beef up NATO against Russian aggression

Russia's aggressive actions in the Crimea and Ukraine have brought about a situation where President Obama and NATO--correctly, I believe--are saying we're going to beef up our troop level in that part of the world to tell Putin that his aggressiveness is not going to go unmatched. We have to work with NATO to protect Eastern Europe against any kind of Russian aggression.
Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

Key doctrine: We can't do it alone; must work in coalition

Q: You have not proactively laid out a foreign policy doctrine yet. Why?

SANDERS: I did give a speech at Georgetown where I talked about democratic socialism and foreign policy. Maybe I shouldn't have combined the two in the same speech. While it is true that the secretary and I voted differently on the war in Iraq, what is important is that we learn the lesson of the war in Iraq. And that lesson is intrinsic to my foreign policy if elected president, is the United States cannot do it alone. We cannot be the policeman of the world. We are now spending more I believe than the next eight countries on defense. We have got to work in strong coalition with the major powers of the world and with those Muslim countries that are prepared to stand up and take on terrorism. So I would say that the key doctrine of the Sanders administration would be no, we cannot continue to do it alone; we need to work in coalition.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

North Korea is run by nuclear-armed paranoid dictator

North Korea is an isolated country run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one, who seems to be somewhat paranoid. And, who had nuclear weapons. Our goal there is to work and lean strongly on China to put pressure. China is one of the few major countries in the world that has significant support for North Korea, and we got to do everything we can to put pressure on China. I worry about an isolated, paranoid country with atomic bombs.
Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

I worry about Putin in Crimea but worry more about N. Korea

Q: Secretary of Defence Ash Carter said Russia is the most important national security threat. Do you agree?

SANDERS: No I don't. I worry about Putin and his military adventurism in the Crimea, but I worry more about an isolated country. Russia lives in the world. China lives in the world. North Korea is a strange country because it is so isolated, and I do feel that a nation with nuclear weapons, they have got to be dealt with.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Lean on China to deal with North Korea

Q: North Korea claims to have exploded another nuclear bomb, perhaps a hydrogen bomb. If you were in the Oval Office, what would you do about it?

SANDERS: First of all, we're going to have to lean on China. China is North Korea's closest ally. They're gonna have to push North Korea to start adhering to international agreements.

Q: How do we lean on China?

SANDERS: We have a relationship with China. China is equally concerned about what North Korea is doing. North Korea is a paranoid, isolated nation. When you have a hydrogen bomb, if that's true, you're a threat to China as well.

Source: Interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos , Jan 7, 2016

Putin regrets invading Crimea & the Ukraine

Q [to Clinton]: What about Putin's actions involving Russia in Syria [bombing ISIS to defend President Assad]?

CLINTON: We have an opportunity here--and inside the administration this is being hotly debated--to get that leverage to try to get the Russians to have to deal with everybody in the region and begin to move toward a political, diplomatic solution in Syria.

Q [to Sanders]: Putin in Syria?

SANDERS: I think Mr. Putin is going to regret what he is doing.

Q: He doesn't seem to be the type of guy to regret a lot.

SANDERS: I think he's already regretting what he did in Crimea and what he is doing in the Ukraine. I think he is really regretting the decline of his economy. And I think what he is trying to do now is save some face. But I think when Russians get killed in Syria and when he gets bogged down, I think the Russian people are going to give him a message that maybe they should come home, maybe they should start working with the United States to rectify the situation now.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Normalize relations with Cuba; & respect their independence

Bernie believes improving diplomatic relations with Cuba is essential to promoting democratic values in the region and strengthening our economic and cultural ties with its people.

Bernie supports normalizing relations between the two nations and removing the economic embargo, which he argues is costing American businesses billions of dollars. In February 2014, Bernie shared his hope that "Cuba moves toward a more democratic society while, at the same time, the United States will respect the independence of the Cuban people." He was part of a U.S. delegation that traveled to Cuba in 2014 to discuss trade, healthcare, and human rights issues in Havana.

Later in 2014, Bernie applauded President Obama's announcements on discussions with Cuba, and in January 2015, he sponsored the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, which aimed to address the administration's proposal to loosen restrictions on travel to Cuba and remove restrictions on travel-related banking transactions.

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Begrudgingly supports NATO, but no eastward expansion

Although Bernie is generally anti-war, he begrudgingly supported NATO's bombing of Serbia in 1999. He voiced concerns, but did not vigorously oppose NATO's 2011 military intervention in Libya.

Bernie is against the expansion of NATO because it provokes unnecessary aggression from Russia. Moreover, he believes European nations should fund more of the costs of an alliance primarily intended to protect their continent.

Q: What is Bernie's opinion on NATO expansion?

A: He's against it, claiming it is a waste of taxpayer dollars and not geo-politically sound. In 1997, Bernie said: "After four decades of the cold war and trillions of taxpayer dollars allocated to compete in the arms race, it is not the time to continue wasting billions helping to defend Europe, let alone assuming any costs associated with expanding NATO eastward." Bernie opposes eastward expansion because he's not interested in revisiting the Cold War era when Russia and the US were constantly pitted against each other.

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Promote democracy in China, but not at expense of US workers

Q: What about a China trade deal?

A: I want to see the people in China live in a democratic society with a higher standard of living. I want to see that, but I don't think that has to take place at the expense of the American worker. I don't think decent-paying jobs in this country have got to be lost as companies shut down here and move to China. I want to see the Chinese people do well, but I do not want to see the collapse of the American middle class take place, and I will fight against that.

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

US should be more selective about using drone strikes

Q: Would you do away with the drone program? You didn't vote for CIA director John Brennan because of the drone program and how it was run.

SANDERS: I think you can argue that there are times and places where drone attacks have been effective, and there are times and places where they have been absolutely counter-effective and have caused more problems when they have solved. When you kill innocent people, the end result is that people in the region become anti-American who otherwise would not have been. So, I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case.

Source: ABC This Week 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Aug 30, 2015

War is a local issue because local youngsters fight and die

Burlington had a foreign policy because, as progressives, we understood that we all live in one world. We understood that just as actions taken outside of our city affected us, we could have an impact on national and international developments. If children in Nicaragua were suffering because of US policy, it was our responsibility to try to change that policy. If children in the US were going hungry because the federal government was spending more than was necessary on the military, we also had a responsibility to work on changing that.

As the mayor of Burlington, and someone committed to grassroots democracy, I saw no magic line separating local, state, national, and international issues. How could issues of war and peace not be a local issue? It is local youngsters who fight and die in wars. Ultimately, if we're going to revitalize democracy in this country, local government will have to assume a much stronger and more expansive role.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 70 , Jun 17, 1997

Bernie Sanders on Mideast

Turkey is not a US ally when they invade & mass slaughter

Q: Is Turkey still a U.S. ally? Should they remain in NATO?

Sanders: No, Turkey is not a U.S. ally when they invade another country and engage in mass slaughter. The crisis here is when you begin to betray people. In terms of the Kurds, 11,000 of them died fighting ISIS, 20,000 were wounded. And the United States said, "We are with you. We're standing with you." And then suddenly one day, after a phone call with [Turkish President] Erdogan, announced by tweet, Trump reverses that policy. Now you tell me, what country in the world will trust the word of the President of the United States? In other words, what he has done is wreck our ability to do foreign policy, to do military policy because nobody in the world will believe this pathological liar.

Source: October Democratic CNN/NYTimes Primary debate , Oct 15, 2019

Supports Israel's right to exist, not Netanyahu

Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly. The goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing, dare I say, racist government. I am 100 percent pro-Israel. Israel has every right in the world to exist in peace and security and not be subjected to terrorist attacks. But the United States needs to deal not just with Israel, but with the Palestinian people, as well.
Source: CNN Town Hall 2020: 5 candidates back-to-back , Apr 22, 2019

1991: We give $7B to feudalistic dictatorships in Mideast

As a freshman congressman in 1991, I voted against the first Persian Gulf War, which laid the groundwork for our future involvement in the Gulf. In one of my earliest speeches in Congress, I went to the house floor and said, "Despite the fact that we are now aligned with such Middle Eastern governments such as Syria, a terrorist dictatorship, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, a feudalistic dictatorships, and Egypt, a one-party state that receives $7 Billion in debt forgiveness to wage this war with us, I believe that, in the long run, the action unleashed last night will go strongly against our interests in the Middle East. Clearly, the United States and its allies will win this war, but the death and destruction caused will, in my opinion, not be forgotten by the poor people of the Third World and the people of the Middle East in particular... I fear that one day we will regret that decision and that we are in fact laying the groundwork for more and more wars in that region for years to come."
Source: Where We Go From Here, by Bernie Sanders, p.88-9 , Sep 21, 2017

Need to look at consequences of removing dictators

CLINTON: Senator Sanders voted in 1998 on what I think is fair to call a regime change resolution with respect to Iraq, calling for the end of Saddam Hussein's regime. He voted in favor of regime change with Libya, voted in favor of the Security Council being an active participate in setting the parameters for what we would do, which of course we followed through on.

SANDERS: Where Secretary Clinton and I disagree is the area of regime change. We can overthrow dictators all over the world. The point about foreign policy is not just to overthrow a dictator, it's to understand what happens the day after. In Libya, Secretary Clinton, as secretary of state, working with some other countries, did get rid of a terrible dictator named Gadhafi. But what happened is ISIS came in and now occupies significant territory in Libya. But this is nothing new. This has gone on 50 or 60 years where the United States has been involved in overthrowing governments.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

We should try and talk to enemies, even Iran

CLINTON: I think we have achieved a great deal with the Iranian nuclear agreement. That has to be enforced absolutely with consequences for Iran at the slightest deviation from their requirements under the agreement. I do not think we should promise or even look toward normalizing relations because we have a lot of other business to get done with Iran. Yes, they have to stop being the main state sponsor of terrorism. Yes, they have to stop trying to destabilize the Middle East, causing even more chaos.

SANDERS: I recall when Secretary Clinton ran against then-Senator Obama, she was critical of him for suggesting that maybe you want to talk to Iran, that you want to talk to our enemies. Iran is sponsoring terrorism in many parts of the world, destabilizing areas. Everybody knows that. But our goal is to try to deal with our enemies, not just ignore that reality.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

Encourage Saudis and Iran to work together, despite distrust

CLINTON: A group of national security experts issued a concerning statement about Senator Sanders's views on foreign policy and national security, pointing out some of the comments he has made on these issues, such as inviting Iranian troops into Syria to try to resolve the conflict there; putting them right at the doorstep of Israel. Asking Saudi Arabia and Iran to work together, when they can't stand each other and are engaged in a proxy battle right at this moment. You are voting for a president and a commander in chief.

SANDERS: I concede that Secretary Clinton, who was secretary of State for four years, has more experience in foreign affairs. But experience is not the only point, judgment is. In terms of Iran and in terms of Saudi Arabia, of course they hate each other. That's no great secret. But John Kerry, who is I think doing a very good job, has tried to at least get these people in the room together because both of them are being threatened by ISIS.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Move forward with Iran with relations the long-term goal

Q [to Clinton]: Sen. Sanders called for moving as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran. You've criticized him for that. Can you explain?

CLINTON: Absolutely. We have to figure out how to deal with Iran as the principal state sponsor of terrorism in the world. They are destabilizing governments in the region. They continue to support Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon against Israel. If we were to normalize relations right now, we would remove one of the biggest pieces of leverage we have to try to influence and change Iranian behaviour. The president doesn't think we should. I certainly don't think we should. I believe we have to take this step by step to try to reign in Iranian aggression.

SANDERS: I never said that. I think we should move forward as quickly as we can. They are a sponsor of terrorism around the world and we have to address that. A number of years ago, people were saying, "normal relationship with Cuba, what a bad and silly idea." Well, change has come.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Normalize relations with Iran even though we disagree

Q: The nuclear deal with Iran is now in force. Iran is getting its billions of dollars; several Americans who have been held are now going to be heading home. Should we open an embassy in Tehran?

SANDERS: I think what we've got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran. Understanding that Iran's behavior in so many ways is something that we disagree with: their support of terrorism; the anti-American rhetoric that we're hearing from of their leadership is something that is not acceptable. On the other hand, the fact that we've managed to reach an agreement, that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and we did that without going to war. So if your question is, do I want to see that relationship become more positive in the future? Yes. Can I tell that we should open an embassy in Tehran tomorrow? No, I don't think we should. But I think the goal has got to be to warm relations with a very powerful and important country.

Source: 2016 NBC Democratic presidential primary debate , Jan 17, 2016

Think about what happens AFTER we get rid of dictators

CLINTON: [In Syria, we should work with Russia to] turn their military attention away from going after the adversaries of Assad, & put the Assad future on the political & diplomatic track.

SANDERS: I have a difference of opinion with Secretary Clinton on this. I worry that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change without knowing what the unintended consequences might be. Yes, we could get rid of Saddam Hussein, but that destabilized the entire region. Yes, we could get rid of Gadhafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS. Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS. Getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you've got to think about what happens the day after. We need to put together broad coalitions to [avoid having a] political vacuum filled by terrorists. In Syria the primary focus now must be on destroying ISIS and [it's a] secondary issue to get rid of Assad.

Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

Not policeman of the world; focus on ISIS first

Hillary CLINTON: The reason we are in the mess we're in, that ISIS has the territory it has, is because of Assad. We now finally have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS. We finally have a U.N. Security Council Resolution bringing the world together to go after a political transition in Syria. If the United States does not lead, there is not another leader. There is a vacuum. And we have to lead, if we're going to be successful.

SANDERS: Of course the United States must lead. But the US is not the policeman of the world. The US must not be involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East. The United States, at the same time, cannot successfully fight Assad and ISIS. ISIS, now, is the major priority. Let's get rid of Assad later. Let's have a Democratic Syria. But the first task is to bring countries together to destroy ISIS.

Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

I do not believe in unilateral action against terrorism

Our goal is to crush and destroy ISIS. I voted against the war in Iraq because I thought unilateral military action would not produce the results that were necessary and would lead to the kind of unraveling and instability that we saw in the Middle East. I do not believe in unilateral American action. I believe in action in which we put together a strong coalition of forces, major powers and the Muslim nations. One of the heroes in the Middle East is King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

Easy to overthrow a dictator but hard to control aftermath

Where we have a disagreement is that if you look at regime changes, you go back to Mossaddegh in Iran, you go back to Salvador Allende who we overthrew in Chile, you go back to overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It is relatively easy for a powerful nation like America to overthrow a dictator but it is very hard to predict the unintended consequences and the turmoil and the instability that follows after you overthrow that dictator.
Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

Moral responsibility to reach out to Syrian refugees

Q: You've been a little vague on what you would do about the Syrian refugees. What's your view on them now?

SANDERS: I believe that the US has the moral responsibility with Europe, with Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia to make sure that when people leave countries like Afghanistan and Syria with nothing more than the clothing on their back that, of course, we reach out. Now, what the magic number is, I don't know, because we don't know the extent of the problem. But I certainly think that the US should take its full responsibility in helping those people.

Q: Gov. O'Malley, you have a magic number. I think it's 65,000.

O'MALLEY: I was the first person on this stage to say that we should accept the 65,000 Syrian refugees that were fleeing the sort of murder of ISIL, and I believe that that needs to be done with proper screening. But accommodating 65,000 refugees in our country today, people of 320 million, is akin to making room for 6.5 more people in a baseball stadium with 32,000.

Source: 2015 CBS Democratic primary debate on Syrian Refugees , Nov 14, 2015

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar should take charge in Syria

Q: The Pentagon has announced they are no longer doing this training program for the so-called moderate rebels in Syria. Good idea?

SANDERS: Well, it failed. I mean, the president acknowledged that. Syria is a quagmire inside of a quagmire. I think what the president has tried to do is thread a very difficult needle. And that is keep American troops from engaging in combat and getting killed there. And I think that is the right thing to do. So I think we continue to try to do everything that we can, focusing primarily on trying to defeat ISIS. But I am worried about American troops getting sucked into a never ending war in the Middle East and particularly in, you know, Iraq and Syria. I don't think the United States can or should be doi

Source: Meet the Press 2015 interview moderated by Chuck Todd , Oct 11, 2015

Address humanitarian crisis in Syria with allies in region

Q: The UN wants up to 65,000 Syrians placed here. How many refugees do you think the US should take in?

SANDERS: I think it's impossible to give a proper number until we understand the dimensions of the problem. What I do believe is that Europe, the United States and, by the way, countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, must address this humanitarian crisis. People are leaving Iraq, they're leaving Syria with just the clothes on their backs. The world has got to respond. The United States should be part of that response.

Q: When it comes to Syria, how much of the problem is the United States' fault, of policy, whether Bush in Iraq or Obama in Syria?

SANDERS: Look, I voted against the war in Iraq; much of what I feared would happen, in fact, did happen: Massive destabilization in that region. The issue now is not who is at fault. The issue is now what we do. And what we do is bring the region together.

Source: Meet the Press 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Sep 13, 2015

Two-state solution for Israel & Palestine

Bernie has described the entrenched conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as both depressing and difficult, and considers the conflict one of the most important issues in the Middle East. He acknowledges that there is no magic solution to the problem. Bernie sees many other conflicts in the Middle East as exacerbating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

We have to negotiate with others, even Iran

Q: Do you support the Iranian nuclear deal?

SANDERS: We have got to go through every possible effort in order to make sure that we achieve that goal of Iran not having a nuclear weapon without going to war.

Q: So, do you support the agreement?

SANDERS: Yes, I do. Look, I'm not going to tell that you this is a perfect agreement. And every agreement can be better.

Q: What about hard-liners chanting death to America in Iraq making common cause with the opponents of this deal?

SANDERS: I wouldn't frame it that way. But this is the way I would frame it. It's so easy to be critical of an agreement which is not perfect. But the US has to negotiate with other countries. We have to negotiate with Iran. And the alternative, you know what it is? It's war. Do we really want another war, a war with Iran? I think we go as far as we possibly can in trying to give peace a chance, if you like, trying to see if this agreement will work. And I will support it.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2015 coverage:2016 presidential hopefuls , Aug 9, 2015

Bernie Sanders on Voting Record

Focus on domestic needs instead of international conflict

A longtime anti-war activist, Sanders voted against the Iraq war resolution in 2002. He has regularly called for the US to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq as soon as possible. Regarding the Islamic State, Sanders has said the US should not lead the fight. In general, he believes the US should focus less on international conflict and more on the domestic needs of the middle class.

Sanders backs President Obama's negotiations with Iran and sharply criticized Republican senators who signed a letter warning Iran against a potential deal. In a statement, the Jewish senator pushed back against the idea of tougher sanctions and was critical of Netanyahu's speech to Congress. Sanders was the first senator to announce he would not attend the speech.

Source: PBS News Hour "2016 Candidate Stands" series , Apr 30, 2015

Voted NO on cooperating with India as a nuclear power.

Congressional Summary:US-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. HOWARD BERMAN (D, CA-28): Integrating India into a global nonproliferation regime is a positive step. Before anyone gets too sanctimonious about India's nuclear weapons program, we should acknowledge that the five recognized nuclear weapons states have not done nearly enough to fulfill their commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, including making serious reductions in their own arsenals, nor in the case of the US in ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. BARBARA LEE (D, CA-9): In withholding my approval, I seek not to penalize the people of India but, rather, to affirm the principle of nuclear nonproliferation. Jettisoning adherence to the international nuclear nonproliferation framework that has served the world so well for more than 30 years, as approval of the agreement before us would do, is just simply unwise. It is also reckless.

Approval of this agreement undermines our efforts to dissuade countries like Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. By approving this agreement, all we are doing is creating incentives for other countries to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Reference: US-India Nuclear Agreement; Bill HR.7081 ; vote number 2008-S211 on Oct 1, 2008

Voted YES on deterring foreign arms transfers to China.

To authorize measures to deter arms transfers by foreign countries to the People's Republic of China, A YES vote would grant the President the ability to place sanctions on any individual or country that violates the arms embargo, including:
Reference: East Asia Security Act; Bill HR 3100 ; vote number 2005-374 on Jul 14, 2005

Voted NO on reforming the UN by restricting US funding.

To reform the United Nations, by limiting the US contribution to the UN by up to one-half by the year 2007, if the following reforms are not made:
Reference: United Nations Reform Act; Bill HR 2745 ; vote number 2005-282 on Jun 17, 2005

Voted YES on keeping Cuba travel ban until political prisoners released.

Stop enforcing travel restrictions on US citizens to Cuba, only after the president has certified that Cuba has released all political prisoners, and extradited all individuals sought by the US on charges of air piracy, drug trafficking and murder.
Bill HR 2590 ; vote number 2001-270 on Jul 25, 2001

Voted NO on withholding $244M in UN Back Payments until US seat restored.

Vote to adopt an amendment that would require that the United States be restored to its seat on the UN Human Rights Commission before the payment of $244 million in funds already designated to pay UN back dues.
Reference: Amendment sponsored by Hyde, R-IL; Bill HR 1646 ; vote number 2001-107 on May 10, 2001

Voted YES on $156M to IMF for 3rd-world debt reduction.

Vote on an amendment that would transfer $156 million from foreign military financing to the Highly Indebted Poor Countries [HIPC] Trust Fund. The HIPC Trust fund is designed to help debtor countries pay off the money they owe to multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Reference: Amendment sponsored by Waters, D-CA; Bill HR 4811 ; vote number 2000-397 on Jul 13, 2000

Voted NO on Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.

Vote to give permanent Normal Trade Relations [NTR] status to China. Currently, NTR status for China is debated and voted on annually. The measure contains provisions designed to protect the United States from Chinese import surges and the administration would have to report annually on China's compliance with the trade agreement. The bill establishes a commission to monitor human rights, labor standards and religious freedom in China.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Archer, R-TX; Bill HR 4444 ; vote number 2000-228 on May 24, 2000

Voted YES on $15.2 billion for foreign operations.

Vote on a bill to provide $15.2 billion for foreign operations in FY 2000. Among other provisions, the bill would provide $1.82 billion over three years for implementation of the Wye River peace accord in the Middle East. In addition, the measure would provide $123 million in multilateral debt relief and would contribute $25 million to the United National Population Fund.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Callahan, R-AL; Bill HR 3196 ; vote number 1999-572 on Nov 5, 1999

Allow Americans to travel to Cuba.

Sanders co-sponsored allowing Americans to travel to Cuba

OnTheIssues.org explanation: The US government has forbidden US citizens from traveling to Cuba since the 1960s. Try booking a trip from Mexico City to Havana on travelocity.com (or any travel website) and it says, "Due to a U.S. government travel restriction we are unable to book this reservation." You can, however, purchase that same ticket while in Mexico City, or anywhere else in the world. Sanford's bill attempts to undo this long-standing situation.



LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME: Referred to the House Committee on the Western Hemisphere; never called for a House vote.

Source: Cuba travel bill (H.R.4471) 00-HR4471 on May 16, 2000

Member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

Sanders is a member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus

The Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC) is a bipartisan group of Members of Congress in the United States House of Representatives that works to raise awareness about and combat human rights abuses throughout the world.

The caucus keeps members and their staff informed of opportunities to help through briefings on human rights topics and letter initiatives.

Source: Congressional Caucus Web site 01-CHRC0 on Jan 8, 2001

Multi-year commitment to Africa for food & medicine.

Sanders co-sponsored the Hunger to Harvest bill:

    In an effort to reduce hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, urges the President to:

  1. set forth five-year and ten-year strategies to achieve a reversal of current levels of hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, including a commitment to contribute an appropriate U.S. share of increased bilateral and multilateral poverty-focused resources for sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on health (including HIV-AIDS prevention and treatment), education, agriculture, private sector and free market development, democratic institutions and the rule of law, micro-finance development, and debt relief; and

  2. work with the heads of other donor countries and sub-Saharan African countries and with private and voluntary organizations and other civic organizations to implement such strategies; and calls for

  3. Congress to undertake a multi-year commitment to provide the resources to implement those strategies; and

  4. the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to report on such implementation.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HCR102 on Apr 4, 2001

Urge China to respect religious freedom.

Sanders co-sponsored a Congressional Resolution condemning China:

Title: Condemning the Government of the People's Republic of China for its poor human rights record.

    Summary: Expresses the sense of Congress that:

  1. the Government of the People's Republic of China should stop persecution of all religious practitioners and safeguard fundamental human rights; and

  2. the U.S. Government should continue to insist that China adhere to such rights.

  3. Urges the Chinese Government to release from detention all religious practitioners, Falun Gong members, and prisoners of conscience and end torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment;

  4. allow the Chinese people to pursue their personal beliefs; and

  5. adhere to the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HCR68 on Mar 20, 2001

Impose sanctions and an import ban on Burma.

Sanders co-sponsored imposing sanctions and an import ban on Burma

A bill to impose sanctions on officials of the State Peace and Development Council in Burma, to prohibit the importation of gemstones and hardwoods from Burma, & to promote a coordinated international effort to restore civilian democratic rule to Burma.

(The two Senate versions currently differ in wording). The Saffron Revolution Support Act states that it is U.S. policy to:

  1. support the democratic aspirations of Burma's people;
  2. condemn the repression carried out by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC); and
  3. hold accountable individuals responsible for the repression of peaceful political activity in Burma.
Directs the President to submit to the appropriate congressional committees a list of:
  1. SPDC officials who play or have played a substantial role in political repression in Burma or in the commission of human rights abuses;
  2. Subjects persons so identified to U.S. entry prohibition and financial sanctions.
  3. Amends the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 to prohibit the importation into the US of Burmese gems, teak, or other hardwood timber.
  4. Prohibits any U.S. person or corporation from investing in Burma.

Introductory statement by Sponsor:

Sen. McCAIN. The world has reacted with horror and revulsion at the Burmese junta's recent brutal crackdown against peaceful demonstrators. In crushing the Saffron Revolution, killing hundreds and jailing thousands, including countless Buddhist monks, the junta has left no doubt about its blatant disregard for basic human decency. We, as Americans, stand on the side of freedom, not fear; of peace, not violence; and of the millions in Burma who aspire to a better life, not those who would keep them isolated and oppressed. Our response must go beyond statements of condemnation, and the time to act is now. This legislation imposes meaningful and effective punitive action against the cruel, thuggish, and illegitimate Burmese government.

Source: Burma Democracy Promotion Act (S.2257 & S.2172) 07-S2257 on Oct 29, 2007

Remove African National Congress from terrorist list.

Sanders co-sponsored removing African National Congress from terrorist list

A bill to exempt the African National Congress from treatment as a terrorist organization. [The ANC is now the ruling party of South Africa; as head of the ANC, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years by the apartheid government before becoming President of South Africa].

Source: S.2979 08-S2979 on May 6, 2008

Implement Darfur Peace Agreement with UN peacekeeping force.

Sanders co-sponsored implementing Darfur Peace Agreement with UN peacekeeping force

Source: S.RES.455 08-SR455 on Feb 14, 2008

Seeds of Peace: promote coexistence in regions of conflict.

Sanders co-sponsored Seeds of Peace: promote coexistence in regions of conflict

A resolution recognizing the 15th anniversary of the founding of Seeds of Peace, an organization promoting understanding, reconciliation, acceptance, coexistence, & peace in the Middle East, South Asia, and other regions of conflict.

Legislative Outcome: Related bill: H.CON.RES.337; agreed to in Senate, by Unanimous Consent.
Source: S.RES.536 08-SR536 on Apr 28, 2008

Rated +2 by AAI, indicating pro-Arab pro-Palestine voting record.

Sanders scores +2 by AAI on Arab-Israeli issues

The Arab American Institute has compiled a Scorecard to catalogue the voting record of the 112th Congress on issues of importance to the Arab American community. Though not comprehensive, we have attempted to provide a snapshot of legislation concerning many of the primary issues concerning Arab Americans. For the Senate, we have included 10 items: two bills on the Arab Spring, three on Palestine, one on Lebanon, one regarding civil liberties, and two for immigration reform.

  1. S. Res. 44: (+) calls on former President Hosni Mubarak to immediately begin a peaceful transition to a democratic political system
  2. S. Res. 109: (+) honoring and supporting women in North Africa and the Middle East
  3. S. Res. 138: (-) calling on the United Nations to rescind the Goldstone report, formally known as the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which accused the Israeli government of targeting Palestinian civilians.
  4. S. Res. 185: (-) reaffirming the commitment of the US to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and calling for a US veto of any UN resolution on Palestinian statehood without a settlement.
  5. S. Con. Res. 23: (-) supporting Israel in maintaining defensible borders, and against Israel returning to the armistice lines that existed on June 4, 1967
  6. S. 558: (+) the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act, to limit the use of cluster munitions in areas normally inhabited by civilians.
  7. S. 1125: (+) greater judicial review of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and greater protections to individuals being monitored or gag-ordered by the FBI.
  8. S.1038, the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act, in opposition of PATRIOT Act extension.
  9. S. 723: (-) The Birthright Citizenship Act, limiting citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants born in the US.
  10. S. 952: (+) the DREAM Act, allowing undocumented minors to become US citizens, provided they meet certain conditions, including good moral character
Source: AAI website 12-AAI-S on May 2, 2012

CC:Keep alliance with Israel.

Sanders supports the CC survey question on supporting Israel

The Christian Coalition Voter Guide inferred whether candidates agree or disagree with the statement, 'The US Should Continue to Support and Stand with the Nation of Israel Against her Enemies ' Christian Coalition's self-description: "Christian Voter Guide is a clearing-house for traditional, pro-family voter guides. We do not create voter guides, nor do we interview or endorse candidates."

Source: Christian Coalition Surve 18CC-17 on Jul 1, 2018

Condemn violence by Chinese government in Tibet.

Sanders co-sponsored condemning the violence by Chinese government in Tibet

A resolution condemning the violence in Tibet and calling for restraint by the Government of the People's Republic of China and the people of Tibet. Calls for:

  1. a dialogue between the government of China and His Holiness the Dalai Lama on religious and cultural autonomy for Tibet within China; and
  2. release of peaceful protesters.
    Calls on the PRC to:
  1. respect the right of the people of Tibet to speak of the Dalai Lama and possess his photograph;
  2. respect basic human rights;
  3. allow international journalists free access to China; and
  4. provide a full accounting of the March 2008 protests in Tibet.
Urges that the agreement permitting the PRC to open further diplomatic missions in the United States should be contingent upon establishment of a U.S. government office in Lhasa, Tibet.
Source: S.RES.504 2008-SR504 on Apr 7, 2008

Allow travel between the United States and Cuba.

Sanders signed Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act

Prohibits the President from regulating or prohibiting travel to or from Cuba by U.S. citizens or legal residents or any of the transactions ordinarily incident to such travel, except in time of war or armed hostilities between the United States and Cuba, or of imminent danger to the public health or the physical safety of U.S. travelers.

Source: S.428&HR.874 2009-S428 on Feb 12, 2009

Other candidates on Foreign Policy: Bernie Sanders on other issues:
2020 Presidential Democratic Primary Candidates:
V.P.Joe Biden (D-DE)
Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NYC)
Gov.Steve Bullock (D-MT)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN)
Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Sen.Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Gov.Deval Patrick (D-MA)
Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

2020 GOP and Independent Candidates:
Rep.Justin Amash (Libertarian-MI)
CEO Don Blankenship (C-WV)
Gov.Lincoln Chafee (L-RI)
Howie Hawkins (Green-NY)
Gov.Larry Hogan (R-MD)
Gov.John Kasich (R-OH)
V.P.Mike Pence (R-IN)
Gov.Mark Sanford (R-SC)
CEO Howard Schultz (I-WA)
Pres.Donald Trump (R-NY)
Gov.Jesse Ventura (I-MN)
V.C.Arvin Vohra (Libertarian-MD)
Rep.Joe Walsh (R-IL)
Gov.Bill Weld (L-NY,R-MA)
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

External Links about Bernie Sanders:

2020 Withdrawn Democratic Candidates:
State Rep.Stacey Abrams (D-GA)
Sen.Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Sen.Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Secy.Julian Castro (D-TX)
Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NYC)
Rep.John Delaney (D-MD)
Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen.Mike Gravel (D-AK)
Sen.Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Gov.John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
Gov.Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Mayor Wayne Messam (D-FL)
Rep.Seth Moulton (D-MA)
Rep.Beto O`Rourke (D-TX)
Rep.Tim Ryan (D-CA)
Adm.Joe Sestak (D-PA)
CEO Tom Steyer (D-CA)
Rep.Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
Marianne Williamson (D-CA)
CEO Andrew Yang (D-NY)

Page last updated: Feb 24, 2020