CFR invited the presidential candidates challenging President Trump in the 2020 election to articulate their positions on twelve critical foreign policy issues. Candidates’ answers are posted exactly as they are received. View all questions here.
1. How, if at all, should China’s treatment of the Uighurs and the situation in Hong Kong affect broader U.S. policy toward China?
As an overall approach, I believe American policy, abroad as well as at home, should serve both our long-term interests and be consistent with America’s foundational values of equality, opportunity and fair play. Under my leadership as President, and on the strength of those values, we will rebuild American diplomatic, economic and military power and influence in the world. Instead of bullying or demeaning other countries and peoples, instead of erratic and unpredictable international partnerships, instead of limitless war with limited impact and unclear objective, I believe American leadership in the world should be steady, reliable, firm and consequential.
China’s treatment of the Uighurs, its aggravation of the situation in Hong Hong, and its other human rights and economic abuses must result in the increasing isolation of China on the world stage. To that end, the United States must rebalance power on the global stage with China to ensure that we restore our global leadership in promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The United States should respect China as a global power. But, at the same time, we should work with our allies, old and new, in the region and beyond, to form a collective counterweight to China’s global influence. It is in the long-term interests of the United States to cultivate more robust economic, social and strategic relationships with other nations in Asia, Latin America and Africa, as well as to refresh old alliances with Europe, Canada and Mexico.
China’s human rights’ violations must not be overlooked. The desirability of access to Chinese markets is not a reason to excuse abuses of her people. Accordingly, China should be accountable to the global community for its repression of the members of the Uighur ethnic minority. That accountability may extend to sanctions against the individuals and corporations that enable these appalling acts, and my administration would elevate the treatment of the Uighur minority to the agenda in any trade negotiations.
We will also make clear that the United States and its allies stand in solidarity with advocates of democracy in Hong Kong, including through the implementation of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Our support for Hong Kong’s democratic aspirations will align with our re-commitment to strengthening relationships with the world’s democracies.
2. Would you rejoin the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)? What changes to the existing agreement, if any, would you require before agreeing to rejoin the accord?
The present regime in control of Iran is a threat to the security of Israel, the region, and beyond. Iran’s nuclear capability must be checked. The right way to do so is as part of a coalition with our allies and others in the region and beyond.
The JCPOA was an impressive achievement that should have remained in place. It could have been—and should still be—strengthened in some respects, such as extending the agreement to cover development of ballistic missiles and permitting more intrusive inspections.
The JCPOA promised tangible progress that improved U.S. national and regional security while opening the door to relief for the Iranian people through continued negotiations. Withdrawing from it without an alternative in place has worsened the conditions for regional and national security. The new solution must reflect the changed reality, which might require amendments to the original terms of the JCPOA. We will again work with our global allies to solve this urgent problem.
Our relationship with Iran should be viewed as being part of a comprehensive regional plan for peace and prosperity in the Middle East. Such a strategy involves defending Israel, countering violent extremism, and promoting economic development. We will work with partners in Iraq and beyond to mend the Sunni-Shia rift. We must also counter the threat of a nuclear Iran and, through diplomacy, ease rivalries around the Gulf. We will rebuild strategic alliances to win back the ground we have lost against regional adversaries, including ISIS, after President Trump’s damaging decision to withdraw from Syria. My administration will also work with Congress to pursue a regional development package to strengthen cross-border ties through new, incentive-driven investment in technology, energy and infrastructure.
3. Would you sign an agreement with North Korea that entailed partial sanctions relief in exchange for some dismantling of its nuclear weapons program but not full denuclearization?
Instead of publicity stunts, North Korea and the world should expect meaningful and serious diplomacy from the Patrick Administration with the objective of accomplishing meaningful and serious goals. Working with allies, we must denuclearize the Korean peninsula and end the Korean conflict. We can work toward that goal while remaining clear-eyed about the hurdles we will face along the way.
In my administration, we would consider partial sanctions relief only in exchange for North Korea’s credible, verifiable progress in drawing down its nuclear program on the way to complete denuclearization.
4. What, if any, steps would you take to counter Russian aggression against Ukraine?
The success of Ukraine’s developing democracy is important. The United States should continue to deliver essential military and intelligence assistance to Ukraine without conditions, should explore and develop trade relationships with Ukraine and should maintain our policy that the occupation of Crimea and Donbas are flagrant violations of international law. My administration will work with allies in NATO to strengthen ties between Ukraine and NATO countries through meaningful cooperation in agriculture, cybersecurity, anti-corruption and, critically, energy. We must also work with existing NATO allies to bolster security in other regions within striking distance of Russia to deter Russian aggression and protect NATO countries’ sovereignty.
Russia is an important country in the region and the world. But we must address the broader issue of Russian aggression, including its continuing interference in our own democracy. There are economic, social, educational and military actions we can and should take alongside our allies to contain Russian efforts to destabilize democracies. Enhancing our cyber defense capabilities is a critical piece of that strategy.
5. Would you commit to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of your first term, or would you require certain conditions be met before doing so?
As recent reporting has indicated, longstanding U.S. policy in Afghanistan is broken. President Trump’s incoherent approach to negotiations with the Taliban and the Afghan government have made the situation worse. I will restart these talks with the goal of full withdrawal, but not without credible guarantees for the prosperity of the Afghan people and the security of the United States.
A prompt and orderly troop withdrawal would be my objective. But without receiving expert guidance from our military, intelligence and foreign policy professionals, I cannot responsibly commit in advance to a specific timeframe.
6. Given the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the civil war in Yemen, what changes, if any, would you make to U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia has been a longstanding and important historic ally. The United States has significant military and economic relationships with Saudi Arabia, which I will respect as President. Nevertheless, we cannot, consistent with the values stated above, accept Saudi misconduct on the world stage. Saudi Arabia’s official complicity in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi and the Kingdom’s war in Yemen, with its indiscriminate targeting of civilians, are appalling and risk disqualifying the Kingdom from membership among civilized nations.
We must reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. My administration will cease supplying Saudi Arabia with arms and support for the Yemen campaign. We will engage in a strategic re-assessment of our relationships in the Gulf to better align those relationships with our historic commitment to democracies. My administration will deploy the power of the United States selectively and thoughtfully to protect our national interests and project our values in the region.
7. Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, if so, how would you go about trying to achieve it?
Israel’s right to exist is beyond question. Israel is also a vital democratic ally in the Middle East. At the same time, the Palestinians’ right to self-determination within a democratic framework must be acknowledged and addressed. For that reason, I support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and would press for that with all of the diplomatic, educational, economic and social leverage available to the United States. Pressing for a two-state arrangement is essential to securing Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state as well as Palestinians’ right to nationhood and an end to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The United States should be prepared, in coalition with our allies, to guarantee the security of Israel. We should also be prepared to guarantee the integrity of the negotiated borders of a democratic Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.
Independent Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty, during my administration, will form part of a comprehensive strategy in the Middle East that involves defending Israel, countering violent extremism, and promoting economic development and collaboration. We will work with partners in Iraq and beyond to mend the Sunni-Shia rift. We must also counter the threat of a nuclear Iran and, through diplomacy, ease tensions around the Gulf. We will rebuild strategic alliances to win back the ground we have lost against regional adversaries, including ISIS, after President Trump’s damaging decision to withdraw from Syria. I will also work with Congress to pursue a regional development package to strengthen cross-border ties through new, incentive-driven investment in technology, energy and infrastructure.
8. What, if any, additional steps should the United States take to remove Nicolás Maduro from power in Venezuela?
The United States’ response to the calamity in Venezuela under Maduro suffers from the failure over many years to build stronger alliances throughout the region with countries throughout the region. Under our administration that will change. Diplomacy is essential to isolating the Maduro regime and securing lasting peace. I will work to build a regional coalition including Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay—plus interested foreign partners like Norway and the Vatican—to provide international backing in favor of restoring Venezuelans’ democratic sovereignty over their own affairs. That coalition will press for free and fair elections in Venezuela, and hold out the prospect that a freely and fairly elected democratic leader will enjoy meaningful partnership with the United States and its allies in helping to rebuild a prosperous and fair democratic society for all Venezuelans.
My administration will continue to recognize the interim presidency of Juan Guaidó until Venezuela can hold credible elections—which should occur as soon as is feasible. We will continue to stand with the people of Venezuela in their support not only of genuine democracy but also the provision of basic government services. As necessary, I will step up sanctions against leaders in the Venezuelan government and humanitarian aid packages in coordination with Colombia to address the inability of the Venezuelan state to provide for its citizens. I will immediately grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan refugees, and would aim to resolve the permanent status of such refugees through a comprehensive reform of our immigration systems.
9. By 2050, Africa will account for 25 percent of the world’s population according to projections by the United Nations. What are the implications of this demographic change for the United States, and how should we adjust our policies to anticipate them?
Population growth is not the only reason why the United States should refresh our policies in and relationships with African nations. As someone who has lived and worked in Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa in various capacities over many years, the nations of Africa have always struck me as among the most fertile, yet under-appreciated environments for economic, social, educational and security relationships with the United States in the world today. The Patrick Administration will develop these relationships into the robust opportunities for sharing prosperity and spreading justice they should have been all along.
We must start now to build strong commercial partnerships with Africa’s emerging economies. My administration, working with allies, will lead development investments in infrastructure, education, healthcare and governance. We will also strengthen African countries’ access to global markets through regional trade agreements in the spirit of partnership, and expand efforts to counterbalance China’s growing economic and political influence across the continent. Terrorist activity in African hot spots, such as northern Nigeria, must be checked. I will also leverage our influence in international institutions to reflect the realities of Africa’s growth, such as by promoting more inclusive decision-making in the United Nations and international financial institutions.
10. Under what circumstances, if any, would you support the United States joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), formerly the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Our decision not to enter the TPP undermined the critical strategic goal of creating an economic, security and diplomatic counterweight to China in the Asia-Pacific region and throughout the world. As a progressive Democrat, I supported the TPP because I was—and remain—convinced that it would raise wages, create jobs, protect the environment, and empower workers at home and abroad. The reduction in regulations and tariffs on small businesses was a particular benefit. The countries that joined the CPTPP are already reaping the benefits of those protections. Leading economists have predicted that, by not signing the TPP, the United States has not only lost the economic benefits of closer, more constructive trading partnerships but is now worse off than it was before by continuing to trade outside that framework.
My administration will seek to reclaim these benefits by joining and negotiating to improve the existing trade partnership. The CPTPP lacks some of the critical features of the TPP, such as protections for intellectual property and avenues for investors to bring disputes against foreign governments. We will seek to reestablish these protections as well as others that will protect American workers, such as improved labor standards.
The United States must use our substantial leverage in trade negotiations as the world’s largest economy to build alternative, more constructive trade partnerships in the Pacific rim as China expands its trading influence across the same region. We will seek to achieve this goal and substantial gains for American workers in a renewed agreement.
11. How would you discourage the proliferation of coal-fired power plants in developing countries?
Just as the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone, our reliance on coal and other carbonized sources of power will end because we have a better idea. Alternatives that meet the same needs for developing countries, as well as developed ones, must be encouraged to expand.
Evolving new industries around alternative energy sources and pressing forward on energy efficiency will be key areas of focus for my administration. We were able to demonstrate that in Massachusetts that you could close coal-fired power plants and at the same time bring a clean energy industry online, and I plan to show that the same can be done nationally and globally.
To effectively persuade, we need to model that behavior by jump-starting the clean-energy economy here at home. We will lead by example by promoting the green economy in the United States by in turn decreasing our energy consumption while increasing our capacity for clean energy with the goal of carbon neutrality by 2040. We will do so by re-investing in the American economy to improve and create new technologies and millions of good-paying jobs. We must also, of course, seize global leadership and re-join the Paris Climate Agreement.
We have to demonstrate that viable alternatives are available that will not prevent developing countries from increasing their prosperity. Beyond expanding our domestic clean-tech industry, I will work to bridge the funding gap by promoting technology transfer and investment around the world. I will also create incentives for countries to adopt clean climate plans by prioritizing trade partnerships with those partners that have made robust commitments to combat greenhouse gas emissions.
12. What has been the greatest foreign policy accomplishment of the United States since World War II? What has been the biggest mistake?
The greatest achievement in U.S. foreign policy since World War II is the Marshall Plan. It is not just an achievement to be celebrated but a model for how we should conduct ourselves on the world stage—as a member of a global community with a stake in our neighbors’ needs and struggles as well as our own. What the Marshall plan did abroad, we can do at home—investments we can make today that will yield benefits in peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren.
We must end our obsession with short-term gains and government by slogan. Our biggest mistakes abroad and at home tend to come from that. When we do things for short-term political gain — like prolong the war in Vietnam or start the one in Iraq, or cage child refugees in sub-human conditions at our southern border — we diminish our power and influence, and squander the heroism of our military men and women.
This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.