McCain lays out international policy priorities
December 1, 1999
Web posted at: 3:13 p.m. EST (2013 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Arizona Sen. John McCain laid bare his vision of a principled American global policy on Tuesday, saying the same type of character that Americans should expect from their next president should also be expected of the manner in which that president oversees the preservation of U.S. interests worldwide.
Sen. John McCain delivered Wednesday the first in a series of five "issues speeches."
McCain, speaking before a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, pilloried the Clinton Administration for displaying blatant "strategic incompetence" and transparent "self doubt" to friend and foe alike during its seven-year tenure.
Wednesday's speech was the first in an expected series of five "issues speeches" the Arizona Republican will deliver this year.
President Bill Clinton, McCain said, has presided over a "feckless, photo-op foreign policy" that has sent mixed signals to allies, and unmistakable signs of hesitancy and indecision to adversaries.
"...Sound foreign policy is more than arms control, foreign aid and paying (United Nations) dues," McCain said. Such practices, he argued, are characterized by "triviality and an escapist quality," and serve only to "placate our foreign critics."
Watch McCain's global policy speech.
In an uncertain post-Cold War world, McCain said, the United States must set firm priorities to deter threats to national security and core values, "or we will adequately protect neither."
First and foremost, McCain said, the United States must strive to preserve its position as the world's most dominant power, but other nations must be assured that moves to maintain U.S. pre-eminence will not include any action to outrightly impose U.S. military, economic or cultural strengths on the rest of the globe.
"We appreciate our allies and respect our rivals," he said.
Speaking primarily of the U.S. role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), McCain added that an effective alliance leader "must treat our partners as equals, not political and cultural inferiors."
"We should exhibit no self doubt to our friends," McCain continued. "Credibility is a strategic asset."
The fast-rising presidential hopeful touched upon his notions of how a McCain Administration might cope with troublesome U.S. relations with a chaotic Russia, and a rapidly strengthening China.
Russia, McCain said, must be dealt with firmly, in a "realistic" manner that takes the actions of the Russian government into account, rather than the personalities of its leaders.
"The Russian people are being told by their leaders that democracy and free-market reforms have resulted in their country's decline," he said. "Nothing could be further from the truth.
The problem with Russia, McCain surmised, is a system of government tainted by "corrupt, weak leaders and militant nationalists." The U.S. must insist on top-to-bottom reform, and a reciprocal policy that compensates for Russia's actions both inside and outside its borders -- specifically, its handling of the situation in Chechnya, and its reported covert operations in a number of central Asian republics.
"As long as Russian bombs fall on Chechen villages, we should extend no aid, no credits," he said to a round of applause.
McCain also said he would insist on strategic missile defense as a national priority, inevitably leading to a reworking of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia. If Russia refuses to alter the treaty, McCain said he would not hesitate to withdraw the U.S. from the accord.
The U.S. must become accustomed to the notion that China is a rising world power, McCain said, "whether we like it or not."
McCain said he has long supported the concept of engaging China, unlike some of his Republican counterparts, but engagement "is not surrender."
"We must do a better job of explaining to China how her actions threaten her own interests," he said, while remaining vigilant against the willingness of Chinese leaders to do anything "to pursue their own interests."
Speaking of the longstanding U.S. relationship with Taiwan -- which China has regarded as a rogue province since Beijing's Communist central government was established in 1949 -- McCain said he would not stand by idly if China attempted a forced reunification the island.
"China should know that the use of force would be a serious mistake with grave consequences." He did not elaborate.
Playing to his audience, McCain said as president, he would insert himself into the Middle East Peace Process in a way that assures Israel is dealt with equitably.
"I will never ask Israel to sacrifice tangible land in exchange for intangible promises," he said. "Israel has bargained on good faith and received little in return."
Written by Ian Christopher McCaleb