Bill Richardson on Foreign Policy
Democratic Governor (NM); Secretary of Commerce-Designee
Over the course of a 25 year career in politics and diplomacy, Richardson has negotiated the release of hostages, prisoners, and soldiers in Cuba, Iraq, North Korea, and Sudan. In 1994, he traveled to North Korea to secure the release of an American Army pilot, then went back in 1996 to rescue another American hostage. In 1995, he traveled to Baghdad and engaged in lengthy negotiations with Saddam Hussein to garner the release of 2 American aerospace workers who accidentally walked past the Kuwaiti border into Iraq.
In 2007, Richardson traveled to North Korea to negotiate the release of the remains of 6 American soldiers, all of whom were killed during the Korean War.
Richardson told Kerubino that it sounded like the rebels needed help with humanitarian issues such as medical attention and food. Turns out, this is exactly what Kerubino wanted (even though he hadn't asked for it in his original demand). In the end, Kerubino agreed to release the hostages in exchange for vaccines, food, and sanitization of the local water source for the southern Sudan rebels and their community.
Finding common ground won't lead most of us to a life of freeing hostages from hostile dictators, but it always makes a great foundation in one's quest to form lasting relationships.
A: I donít have the details on it. But it sounds like a strategy that makes sense. However, I would want to be sure that Musharraf is doing his bit, because we have given him $11 billion to go after terrorists, to go after Al Qaida, to go after the safe havens on his border, and he has done an ineffective job. Certainly, if weíre targeting terrorists, and Musharraf is not doing his bit, we have got to take whatever action is needed. ,p>Q: You have suggested that Musharraf should step down, that the US should squeeze him to step down as president of Pakistan.
A: What serves the United States best is a broadly-based elected government, a democratic government. Pakistani officials commended me for calling for Musharraf to step aside and to insisting that there be free & fair elections. Al Qaida gets stronger when he still governs
A: Iím very skeptical of this announcement. You canít have democracy halfway. I am extremely concerned that President Musharraf has not delivered, in my judgment, as much as he could on going after Al Qaeda, on disbanding some of the terrorist headquarters that are on the Afghan-Pakistani border. And itís a failure of leadership on the part of the Bush administration. We should be saying to Musharraf very clearly, ďWe give you $10 billion since 9/11. Unless you have free elections and return to democracy, unless you go after Al Qaeda in a determined and effective way, your conditional assistance may be terminated.Ē Thatís what I would do. I think right now we have a failed nation state on our hands.
A: No, because if you play that last card and it doesnít work, then obviously you have no leverage whatsoever. Musharraf, by agreeing to the elections in February is a step forward. I know Musharraf. I know the area. Iíve been to Waziristan. Youíve got to put this situation in the context of the last 20 years. Pakistan was a failed state under Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf came to power to replace a failed state. We should appreciate if Pakistan collapses into a radical Islamic state, then our chances of building democracy and freedom in Afghanistan are in severe jeopardy. So this is a very delicate time. I would be doing intensive behind-the-scenes negotiations to convince Musharraf that the best thing for him, as well as the future of Pakistan, is to move forward with the democratic process. But to issue ultimatums and threats right now that may result in damage to US national security I think is inappropriate.
President Clintonís general principles on world affairs earned enormous respect around the world. He was seen as a both a leader and team player. The vision of stable nations working together to bring peace to troubled nations seemed to be within our grasp. The US was respected around the world, and working at the UN meant making new friends--not new enemies, as we have seemed to do in more recent years--in our concerted program to maintain world peace, protect human rights, and support civil government around the world.
I was excited about the opportunity to use my background in foreign affairs, energy, and Congress to support his international program.
One of the great failings of arrogance is that it fails to inspire others. Why would the rest of the world want to follow an America that wonít inspire, that wonít sacrifice? As a nation, we have sacrificed our young men and women in Iraq, but the President hasnít called on the American people to sacrifice in the national interest--the war, for instance, is a credit-card purchase. Itís different from the first Gulf War, when we collaborated with dozens of countries not only to provide armed forces but also to join in paying the costs. Sacrifice and inspiration are part of Americaís image internationally, and how we think of ourselves too.
The polls from most nations, including some of our closest allies, show that approval & trust of the US is at an all-time low. Itís not just that the US has abdicated its leadershi role as the leader of the free world. Itís also unsettlingly true that our leaders have alienated people around the world.
I donít believe this is a situation that will take long to correct. The people of the world want to believe we are responsible & compassionate, that we are committed to freedom and basic rights, and that we want to participate constructively in world affairs. Visionary leadership and visionary action to implement a new role for the US, will turn the situation around quickly, and America will find itself surrounded by friends and allies once again.
The key to regaining our leadership role will not be the war on terror: it is the creation of a new energy future that provides hope and prosperity for the US and other nations.
Jaw-boning isnít military, it isnít regulatory, it isnít strategic. Itís a tactic we use to change perception, to create publicity or a sense of obligation, & to begin signaling that we are starting to take action.
The Administration has refused to jaw-bone on oil prices, saying it prefers private dialogue with oil producers. My view is that jaw-boning canít really be effective unless itís public. The pric of oil is about triple what it was when Bush took office. My jaw-boning effort was successful. Oil prices settled back down by the end of 2000, as we were leaving office. Our actions to secure northeast heating oil supplies in the late summer paid off.
A: For one, I would pay attention to Latin America if Iím president. This president does not. Number two, weíve got to fix the immigration issue. That is central not just to Mexico but Central America. Number three, weíve got to deal with the Cuba issue. What we need there is possibly start lifting the embargo but only after Fidel Castro releases political prisoners and their democratic freedoms. Then I would have a new alliance for progress with Latin America like John F. Kennedy that would improve contacts in renewable energy, and microlending, and human needs. I would try to associate myself, too, with democratic populist movements like that are taking place in Brazil, in Argentina, in Chile, but most importantly recognize that what happens in Latin America is key to Americaís future. A kid here in Miami has more contact and more opportunities in Latin America than anywhere else.
A: China is a strategic competitor. And weíve got to be tougher on China when it comes to human rights and trade. Weíve got to say to China: Stop fooling around with currency. Find ways to be more sensitive to your workers, and youíve got to do more, China, in the area of human rights around the world, like put pressure on the Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur. We have to have a relationship that involves both strategic competition and common interests.
A: This is what I would do: Itís diplomacy. Itís getting UN peacekeeping troops and not African Union troops. Itís getting China to pressure Sudan. Itís getting the European Union to be part of economic sanctions in Sudan. Itís called leadership. A no-fly zone, I believe, would be an option. But we have to be concerned about humanitarian workers being hurt by planes, being shot.
Q: You say UN troops. Does that mean American troops?
A: UN peacekeeping troops, and that would primarily be Muslim troops. We need a permanent UN peacekeeping force, stationed somewhere. Genocide is continuing there; 200,000 have died; close to 2 million refugees in that region. America needs to respond with diplomatic leadership.
A: We always forget about Africa. I spent a lot of time on African issues as UN ambassador. In a recent trip to Darfur, where thereís genocide, a refugee who had lost her husband said, ďWhen is America going to start helping?Ē So I pledge to you that in my foreign policy, I will care about Africa, about AIDS, malaria, refugees. I will care about a continent that has been ignored.
RICHARDSON: You know, in the last debate I upset some people because I said we should use the levers on China, on them hosting the Olympics, to do something on Darfur. You know, I believe that fighting genocide is more important than sports. So what I would like to do is, one, a no-fly zone. Get economic sanctions backed by the Europeans. We need to find ways to stop the massive rapes. I was in Darfur three months ago. Today a report by Refugees International laid out a plan to deal with that. We should not forget about Africa. American policymakers should take stands not just on the Middle East and Iraq.
EDWARDS: I agree, a no-fly zone; a security force on the ground; sanctions; pressure on the Chinese. But Darfur is part of a bigger question for America: how do we re-establish ourselves after Iraq as a force for good in the world?
With North Korea, we were able to push the North Koreans, possibly, to start reducing their nuclear threat, and we did bring home the remains of six American servicemen from the Korean War.
The situation is similar to the Middle East. This president broke Iraq. The next president needs to know how to use diplomacy to fix it. My world view is different from my colleagues. In my career, Iíve been able to get results not with harsh words but hard work. You talk to your adversaries. You listen. And with clarity comes cooperation. Itís how I have approached foreign policy. Itís how I have approached governing. And itís how Iíll serve, hopefully, as your president.
Israel today is our strongest ally in the Middle East, but it is less safe with the policies of the president. Iíd bring a Middle East peace envoy to try to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together.
A: I would assess what our strategic interests are. What would I want from Russia?
A: We need to find ways to deal with a post-Castro Cuba. I would bring Cuban-Americans into the dialogue. I would change the Bush administration policy which is limiting family visits, which is limiting remittances from Cubans. We should be re-evaluating the embargo. Also finding ways that we ensure that Cuba becomes democratic, with trade unionism, with free elections. And we should be engaged in a policy right now.
President Clinton used to send me around the world to talk to dictators, either to get American service men out or to get American prisoners out. He used to say, ďBad guys like Richardson, so Iím sending him there.Ē
I was just in Darfur. At a refugee camp, a mother who had lost a child asked me, ďWhat has taken so long for America to help us in this tragedy?Ē
Foreign policy should not be just about power. It should be about doing something about eliminating poverty and dealing with AIDS and dealing with refugees and sicknesses. Thatís how we regain our moral authority.
I would do what Yitzhak Rabin used to say, the great Israeli leader. He said you donít make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies.
A: In any foreign policy decision, I would use diplomacy first. The last thing we need in the Muslim world is another action like Iraq, which is going to inflame the Muslim world. With Pakistan, here is a potentially failed nation-state with nuclear weapons. What a president must do is have a foreign policy of principles and realism. And the Bush foreign policy, with Musharraf, we get the worst of all worlds. He has not gone after Al Qaida in his own country, despite the fact that weíve given him $11 billion. And heís also severely damaged the constitution. Heís basically said that he is the supreme dictator. I would ask Musharraf to step aside.
Q: Ask him to step aside?
A: Yes. We have the leverage to do that. There is a provision in the Pakistani constitution for a caretaker government of technocrats. This happened when a previous prime minister died.I would send a high-level envoy to ask him to step aside.
In Feb. 1994, I became the first non-family member permitted to visit Aung San Suu Kyi since her arrest. I urged the military junta leader to open a dialogue with her, and I volunteered to mediate. She is the key to Burmaís reputation in the international community, I said, particularly in the US. I said at a press conference that she should be released without condition. She was released in July 1995 and since then has been in and out of house arrest--mostly in.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the Nelson Mandela of the Burmese people, and one day, she will lead a new democracy movement in her country.
At that time, Cuba charged $600 for exit documents. This was prohibitive to thousands who wanted to leave. The ďRichardson AgreementĒ cut that figure in half for up to 1,000 Cubans per year who could demonstrate financial hardship. Castro suggested, without making a promise, that we could build on this agreement, perhaps leading to the relaxation of restrictions in other areas. I also succeeded in returning home with several imprisoned dissidents.
I am no fan of Castroís politics and the repression he has visited upon Cubans for the past 46 years. But all in all, he was probably the best-informed foreign leader I met during that period in the mid-1990s.
North Korea did have one claim to modernity that earned it the enmity of the US and other Western countries: It had a fairly sophisticated uranium-enrichment program dating back to the 1980s that was not limited to uses permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By the early 1990s, in fact, it was clear that North Korea was prepared to produce nuclear weapons and might even have made a couple of them.
Pres. Bill Clinton engaged North Korea in a long and arduous set of negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear-weapons program. In Oct. 1994, the two countries signed an agreement to freeze and eventually unplug the North Korean nuclear facilities that were capable of making atomic weapons.
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