Second McCain, Obama Debate
Excerpt re: Russia
(with additional statement from Obama below)
October 7, 2008
Brokaw: Sen. McCain, this question is for you from the Internet. It's from Alden in Hewitt, Texas.
How can we apply pressure to Russia for humanitarian issues in an effective manner without starting another Cold War?
McCain: First of all, as I say, I don't think that -- 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. I said I looked into his eyes and saw three letters, a K, a G and a B. He has surrounded himself with former KGB apparatchiks. He has gradually repressed most of the liberties that we would expect for nations to observe, 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, this kind of naked aggression into Georgia, a tiny country and a tiny democracy.
And so, of course we want to bring international pressures to bear on Russia in hopes that that will modify and eventually change their behavior. Now, the G-8 is one of those, but there are many others.
But the Russians must understand that these kinds of actions and activities are not acceptable and hopefully we will use the leverage, economic, diplomatic and others united with our allies, with our allies and friends in Europe who are equally disturbed as we are about their recent behaviors.
Brokaw: Sen. Obama.
McCain: It will not be a re-ignition of the Cold War, but Russia is a challenge.
Brokaw: Sen. Obama? We're winding down, so if we can keep track of the time.
Obama: Well, the resurgence of Russia is one of the central issues that we're going to have to deal with in the next presidency. And for the most part I agree with Sen. McCain on many of the steps that have to be taken.
But we can't just provide moral support. We've got to provide moral support to the Poles and Estonia and Latvia and all of the nations that were former Soviet satellites. But we've also got to provide them with financial and concrete assistance to help rebuild their economies. Georgia in particular is now on the brink of enormous economic challenges. And some say that that's what Putin intended in the first place.
The other thing we have to do, though, is we've got to see around the corners. We've got to anticipate some of these problems ahead of time. You know, back in April, I put out a statement saying that the situation in Georgia was unsustainable because you had Russian peacekeepers in these territories that were under dispute.
And you knew that if the Russians themselves were trying to obtain some of these territories or push back against Georgia, that that was not a stable situation. So part of the job of the next commander-in-chief, in keeping all of you safe, is making sure that we can see some of the 21st Century challenges and anticipate them before they happen.
We haven't been doing enough of that. We tend to be reactive. That's what we've been doing over the last eight years and that has actually made us more safe. That's part of what happened in Afghanistan, where we rushed into Iraq and Sen. McCain and President Bush suggested that it wasn't that important to catch bin Laden right now and that we could muddle through, and that has cost us dearly.
We've got to be much more strategic if we're going to be able to deal with all of the challenges that we face out there.
And one last point I want to make about Russia. Energy is going to be key in dealing with Russia. If we can reduce our energy consumption, that reduces the amount of petro dollars that they have to make mischief around the world. That will strengthen us and weaken them when it comes to issues like Georgia.
Brokaw: This requires only a yes or a no. Ronald Reagan famously said that the Soviet Union was the evil empire. Do you think that Russia under Vladimir Putin is an evil empire?
Obama: I think they've engaged in an evil behavior and I think that it is important that we understand they're not the old Soviet Union but they still have nationalist impulses that I think are very dangerous.
Brokaw: Sen. McCain?
McCain: Depends on how we respond to Russia and it depends on a lot of things. If I say yes, then that means that we're reigniting the old Cold War. If I say no, it ignores their behavior.
Obviously energy is going to be a big, big factor. And Georgia and Ukraine are both major gateways of energy into Europe. And that's one of the reasons why it's in our interest.
But the Russians, I think we can deal with them but they've got to understand that they're facing a very firm and determined United States of America that will defend our interests and that of other countries in the world.
Statement re foreign policy and Russia
October 5, 2008
A vice-president needs to step in at a moment’s notice, and last Thursday’s debate showed without any doubt that Joe Biden is ready. Joe Biden won a clear victory because he made a passionate case for change from the disastrous economic and foreign policies of the last eight years.
Joe Biden’s words on foreign policy are backed up by more than 35 years of steadfast support for the nations of Central and Eastern Europe. After the collapse of communism, he championed NATO expansion, helping to bring Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and seven other countries under NATO's security umbrella. He recognized the need for U.S. assistance in Eastern Europe, and fought for passage of critical legislation that has provided billions of dollars for the region's economic and political development. Against fierce opposition, Senator Biden led the fight to save Radio Free Europe, ensuring a vital link to the West for millions of people. In contrast to Republican neglect and distraction, he has continued to make Eastern Europe a strategic priority.
When Russian forces invaded Georgia in August, Joe Biden responded immediately ¬ and in person.
As tanks closed in on Tbilisi, Biden was the first U.S. elected official to travel to the Georgian capital and, as President Saakashvili noted, "the first one to come up with a very concrete program of what should have been done in that very complicated situation." He proposed $1 billion in reconstruction assistance to help the people of Georgia, which has now been adopted as U.S. policy.
Joe Biden and Barack Obama understand what we need to do to keep Russia in check, to keep Eastern European countries free, and to keep the United States secure. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have consistently called for NATO Membership Actions Plans for Ukraine and Georgia, and support their admission to NATO when they are ready.
Unlike John McCain, Barack Obama did not merely denounce Russian aggression after the fact, he repeatedly pointed to the growing danger. Months before the conflict, he warned of Russia’s wrongly-named “peacekeeping” force on Georgian territory, and he called for its replacement by a truly neutral international force. Two weeks before Russian tanks moved in, he drew attention to Russian provocations and warned of Russia’s “determination to challenge Georgia's territorial integrity” in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
While others rushed to pledge their support for Georgian territorial integrity after the war, Barack Obama did so beforehand ¬ and he and Joe Biden will continue to do so. Barack Obama will not fall into the trap of wishful thinking. “We can’t think that by looking into somebody’s eyes that we’re seeing their soul.”
Here is what Barack Obama said in his first presidential debate on September 26:
“…a resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region.
Their actions in Georgia were unacceptable…. They have to remove themselves from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is absolutely important that we have a unified alliance, and that we explain to the Russians that you cannot be a 21st-century superpower or power and act like a 20th-century dictatorship. And we also have to affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region… the Estonians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Poles, the Czechs -- that we are, in fact, going to be supportive and in solidarity with them in their efforts. They are members of NATO.”
This is Barack Obama’s vision for and commitment on our foreign policy challenges: “I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.”