Saturday, November 3, 2007

Recap of Nuke and Nonpro Issues from Recent Republican Debate

It’s a little past its prime, but I thought I’d recap some key points from the Fox News-sponsored Republican presidential debate in Florida on October 21.

After lengthy battles over who is more conservative, gay marriage, abortion, health care, education, defeating Hillary Clinton, Medicare and Social Security, the debate finally turned to Russia and missile defense.

To make a long story short…
  • The “first thing” Sen. John McCain would do is “make sure that we have a missile defense system in place in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and I don't care what [Putin’s] objections are to it.” (Note: The proposed radar component is set to be located in the Czech Republic, not Czechoslovakia, which split into two countries in 1993).
  • Rep. Duncan Hunter supported discussing Putin’s recent proposal involving sea-based missile defenses, but, after praising a recent intercept test, also noted, “We've got to keep missile defense strong.”
  • Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani agreed with McCain, stating “we should move as quickly as we can to build missile defense.”
Giuliani was also later asked whether the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran worries him more than the prospect of going to war with Iran. His answer? A nuclear-armed Iran.

Provided below are the excerpted highlights of the debate as they regard to nuclear weapons and nonproliferation. Key points are bolded. The full transcript can be found here.

CAMERON: Senator McCain, it's been some time since the first debate question on foreign policy was about Russia and not the Middle East. But let's do that.

Vladimir Putin has announced just in the last 24 hours that he plans a new, quote, grandiose, nuclear weapons program to counter the U.S. missile defense system. President Bush just recently described President Putin as wily.

Are we headed back to a new Cold War, or has the Bush administration been naive in dealing with Mr. Putin?

MCCAIN: I don't know about naive, but I do know that when I looked into Mr. Putin's eyes, I saw three letters: a K, a G and a B.

And I'm not saying we will have a return of the Cold War, because Russia doesn't have the kind of capabilities, the territory nor other things. But have no doubt, the problems they are causing us are severe.

And the United Nations Security Council assisting Iran as they continue to develop nuclear weapons, as he continues to consolidate power as he attempts to restore the old Russian empire.

And he bullies his neighbors and he wants to get a control of the energy supply of Western Europe.

This is a dangerous person. And he has to understand that there's a cost to some of his actions.

And the first thing I would do is make sure that we have a missile defense system in place in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and I don't care what his objections are to it.

And he's going to cause us to set up a league of democracies to address issues from Darfur to Burma to Iran and others, because he and the Chinese are blocking meaningful action to keep us in a peaceful world in the United Nations.

It's going to be some tough times ahead.

CAMERON: Congressman Hunter, did you have a comment there?

HUNTER: Yes, just one comment.

You know, President Putin did give us one opening, and I think we should exploit it. And that is that he offered to work with us on sea-based missile defenses. The throat of the -- of missiles launched from Iran at western Europe would go over the Black Sea.

I think we should undertake an initiative with Putin's people and discuss the prospects of putting our Aegis missile defense cruisers in the Black Sea, ask them if they're interested in an partnership that would protect Western Europe, also protect us.

But, lastly, you know last month, we had a successful intercept above the Pacific Ocean with a missile coming out from Alaska with an interceptor coming up from Vandenberg. And we hit it 100 miles above the surface of the Earth. That was a demonstration of the new success of what Ronald Reagan started with missile defense. We've got to keep missile defense strong.

CAMERON: Mayor Giuliani, do you agree with the idea that now is the time to start working with Russia on missile security?

GIULIANI: You know, I think now is the time to make it clear to Putin that America can speak softly and carry a big stick. We want to engage...

We want to engage Russia. We want to continue to commercially engage them.

But at the same time, the senator is absolutely right; we should move as quickly as we can to build missile defense.

I think this would be a heck of a good time to expand NATO. NATO needs a little revitalization. I think we could look to countries like Australia; we could look to Japan; we could look to expand it, geographically.

It's certainly the time to make sure we shore up our relationships with the Eastern European countries that have emerged into being free market countries, democracies.

Ukraine isn't quite there yet. Ukraine is in a struggle, internally. They need us. They need us to support them to -- they'd be a good hedge against Russia.

And at the same time, I think we should make it very, very clear that we understand that we can both engage a country, commercially, like we are doing with Russia, or at the same time, we can be very, very firm in our own defense.

Ronald Reagan gave us the best answer to how to deal with these situations.

The answer is a very, very strong military that no other country on earth would ever consider challenging.

According to Gorbachev, in his book, he says that Ronald Reagan spent the Soviets out of existence. Right now, an increase in military spending, increasing the size of our military in all aspects in a sensible way, would send a heck of a signal both to Russia and to China to not think about challenging us down the road.


GOLER: Mayor Giuliani, given our experience in Iraq, does the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iraq worry you more than the prospect of going to war with Iran?

GIULIANI: There's no question that the idea of going to war with Iran, or even taking military action against Iran would be very dangerous. It would be something you would not want to do. It would be a last resort.

But if you're asking me the question, which is more dangerous, a nuclear-armed Iran is more dangerous.

And it should be the clear position of the United States government that we will not allow them to become -- to become nuclear.

And I honestly believe -- and, again, I think this comes from the wisdom of Ronald Reagan -- if we can be clear about this, and our allies can understand this, and China and Russia can understand that we would take action to stop them from becoming nuclear, in our judgment, you know, when that has to happen, if they thought we were very serious about that, I think the chance of the sanctions working -- direct, indirect, disinvestment from Iran, I think the sanctions working would work much more effectively.

China and Russia have, obviously, economic interests in dealing with Iran. What they have to see is that America would act. And if America acted, that would be inconsistent with what would be good for them.

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