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    This is How the 2016 US Presidential Candidates Feel About Russia

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    The 2016 presidential primaries and caucuses are taking place across the United States. Candidates are seeking to win delegates in each state to capture their party’s nomination for the presidency. Some of them have withdrawn. Currently, six candidates – two democrats and four republicans – are running for president.

    One of the hottest topics of the ongoing campaign is US foreign policy, including posturing against Russia strengthening its positions in the global arena. The candidates have avidly discussed relations with Moscow during the campaign.

    Here is what Russia means for each of the 2016 US presidential hopefuls.

    Bernie Sanders

    Sanders is the most distinctly leftist candidate for the US presidency since the 1970s. He has called for radical reforms, including free health care and education (following the example of Scandinavian countries) and income taxes of up to 70 percent on the rich.

    As for foreign policy, Sanders is not that radical though, as he does not plan to dissolve NATO or abandon nuclear weapons. He has proposed a course very close to liberal interventionism, which means that the US should play an even more active role in the international arena, but first of all with diplomacy, not wars.

    Bernie Sanders has a long relationship with Russia. Back in 1988, he visited Yaroslavl, as part of a delegation from Burlington, to promote friendship and cooperation. He used to ironically notice that he had to spend his honeymoon in the Soviet Union. He also met with Yaroslavl activists who then visited Sanders’ hometown of Vermont. Sanders has already gained a large number of supporters in Russia.

    US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders smiles after winning at his 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire February 9, 2016.
    © REUTERS / Rick Wilking
    US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders smiles after winning at his 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire February 9, 2016.

    However, this has not stopped Sanders from criticizing Russia after the Crimean referendum. He also urged President Barack Obama to strengthen sanctions against Moscow.  At the same time, Sanders warned against a military solution to the "Russian problem," instead calling for serious discussions. In November, he proposed to form a new version of NATO that included Russia and other countries in order to fight terrorism.

    For Sanders, foreign policy is a peripheral issue because his campaign is targeting the dominance of Wall Street and major banks. If Sanders is president he will probably focus on domestic issues and address only major global events.

    Donald Trump

    In a manner, Trump is unique phenomenon in US politics. A billionaire shouting populist mottos, Trump has managed to lead the campaign and – what is more – has significantly changed it. He has also been credited as the most pro-Russian candidate. In fact, he is not. While other candidates are competing for who has the most anti-Russian rhetoric Trump’s balanced approach is worth mentioning.

    It is no surprise that he has repeatedly called for normalizing ties with Moscow. According to Trump, diplomacy and respect should be the key points in ties between the US and Russia.

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015.
    © AP Photo / Nati Harnik
    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015.

    Trump has also supported the Russian aerial campaign in Syria and opposed support for Ukraine.

    "If Russia wants to go and fight ISIS [Daesh/Islamic State], you should let them," he said.

    If Trump wins the primaries and then becomes president there is hope that dialogue between Washington and Moscow will resume. The removal of sanctions – especially those over the Ukrainian conflict – also seems possible. Trump is also the only candidate who, in theory, could recognize the Crimean referendum. However, this would require certain concessions from Moscow.

    Hillary Clinton

    Former US first lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is probably the best-known candidate in Russia. In 2009, it was Clinton who presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a "reset" button, symbolizing a possible new start in US-Russia relations after the war in Georgia in 2008.
    Currently, Hillary Clinton is a hawk and essentially holds the views of a neo-con in her position toward Moscow.

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) smiles with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after she gave him a device with red knob during a meeting on March 6, 2009 in Geneva.
    © AFP 2019 / FABRICE COFFRINI/POOL
    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) smiles with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after she gave him a device with red knob during a meeting on March 6, 2009 in Geneva.

    At the same time, her position has lacked consistency. In October, she voiced for cooperation with Russia on Syria, but a week after abandoned the idea. According to her, the US had to stand up to Russia’s "bullying," specifically in Syria. But two months later she once again reaffirmed her intention to work with Moscow on the Syrian conflict.

    She has also pledged that Russia will not be able to undermine American leadership in the global arena if she is president.

    At the moment, it is obvious that unlike Sanders Hillary will pay much attention to foreign affairs. Keeping in mind the reset plan which de-facto has failed, Clinton will likely follow the same path that Barack Obama has, including keeping sanctions in place and, perhaps, introducing new measures.

    While in office, she is bound to be beholden to the special interest of the military industrial complex, sparking conflict around in the world in an effort to preserve American hegemony. She, more than any other candidate, will engage in and provoke more conflict across the globe than any other candidate.

    Marco Rubio

    Rubio, a young Florida Senator, is close to Hillary in some respects when it comes to foreign policy, however,  Rubio is an avid neocon, voicing for aggressive use of US power across the world. According to his doctrine, Washington should counter Iran, China and Russia at the same time as well as wage war on Daesh. He advocates the deployment of US troops to Syria and Iraq. He pledges to protect Eastern Europe from Russia and Southeastern Asia from China.

    Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks at Rastrelli's Tuscany Special Events Center in Clinton, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015.
    © AP Photo / Andrew Harnik
    Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks at Rastrelli's Tuscany Special Events Center in Clinton, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015.

    One the chapters in Rubio’s plan was devoted to countering Russia (it was entitled "Rolling back Putin’s aggression"). The principles of his doctrine are: return Crimea back to Ukraine, expand anti-Russian sanctions, support Russian journalists and, finally, lead the diplomatic isolation of Moscow. All of this is closely tied to what Hillary plans to do as well. 

    In his rhetoric, Rubio has often spoken harshly about Russia. He has called Vladimir Putin a "gangster" or a "thug." At the same time Rubio does not want worsening ties with Kremlin and the Russian people, saying this would be dangerous.

    Ted Cruz

    The son of a Cuban immigrant, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is not like the other republican candidates. Cruz is the most conservative candidate since Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964.

    Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, with his wife Heidi.
    © AP Photo / Jim Cole
    Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, with his wife Heidi.

    His approach marries conservative views in economy and social issues with a balanced stance in the foreign policy. For instance, Cruz has repeatedly described the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a mistake.

    As for relations with Russia, Cruz supports Republicans’ traditional views – he called Putin a "KGB thug" and stands for pressuring Moscow over the Ukrainian conflict. According to him, Vladimir Putin has taken advantage of Obama’s weakness in the global arena. Cruz has pledged to expand the Magnitsky Act, resume the deployment of air defense to Eastern Europe and begin supplying shale gas to Europe. On Syria, Cruz is ready to work with Putin since both politicians share a pragmatic approach to President Bashar Assad.

    John Kasich

    The governor of Ohio John Kasich can hardly be mentioned among the leaders of the campaign, but many expect him to be appointed Vice President. Traditionally, the US vice president has paid more attention to foreign affairs than the president.

    Republican presidential hopeful Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to supporters February 22, 2016, at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia.
    © AFP 2019 / PAUL J. RICHARDS
    Republican presidential hopeful Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to supporters February 22, 2016, at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia.

    Kasich is known as a moderate politician, including his views on foreign policy. Nevertheless, he pledges that if elected the US will not live "in fear of Russia."  He said the US would shoot down the first Russian jet if it violated his proposed no-fly zone in Syria.

    "Well you don’t fly in a no-fly zone. That’s just the way it goes. You tell people, don’t fly into our no-fly zone. If they flew in once, maybe I’d let them fly out, but they wouldn’t fly out a second time," he said in December.

    During debates in December, he also said he would "punch Russia in the nose."

    Kasich has also harshly criticized Trump for his series of compliments about Putin and Russia. His team has launched a spoof website, saying that Trump’s real slogan should be "Make Tyranny Great Again."

    All in all, no candidate is completely amicable to Russia. Cold war biases still remain even 30 years later as Russia has grown to be a larger and more integral part of the global economy. The candidates running for US president, like many others in the government, cannot see the benefit of working with Russia to effectively fight terrorism, counter growing Iranian power and keeping North Korea in check.

    All of these geopolitical issues are second-rate in the face of Russia’s "aggression." They all should take into account their hypocrisy what the United States has done in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and a multitude of other countries before they launch tirades against any others for "aggression."

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    Tags:
    Primaries, US Presidential Campaign, military conflict, diplomacy, NATO, Daesh, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton, Vladimir Putin, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Syria, United States, Russia
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