Pat Buchanan Answers Questions on Foreign Policy

by Patrick J. Buchanan – December 16, 1999
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, DC

Are sanctions ever justified?

I’ve told folks I was out at the “battle of Seattle” for four or five days disguised as a sea turtle. And after it was over, I went down to Portland for a gathering there, and I went down to my favorite bookstore, Powell’s, and got out a book called “The Road To War,” written in 1935, about the run-up to World War I.

And in it he discusses something called the declaration of London in 1909, which laid out rules even for warfare between western nations, how food was not a weapon and how blockades could be used in certain instances and could halt contraband and ships could be seized. In other words, there were rules of civilized nations even when waging wars with each other. And of course the British violated them on the first day, and the Germans with a submarine blockade answered it, and the British had their starvation blockade, and that took us down the road basically to starving innocent people to defeat hostile nations.

I think in this area of sanctions we ought to move even to make war conform to the Judeo-Christian traditions and the conditions for a just war.

So I find it hard to believe that there is any situation I can conceive of other than an all-out war to the death where you ought to be denying food to innocent people, where you ought to, quite frankly directly bombing innocent people.

If we take the way we fight our wars, I noticed in Owen Herries magazine, The National Interest, the first article this month, the lead article noted that on two days in 1945, early ’45, the winter, the American Air Force going over Tokyo slaughtered more men, women and children in 48 hours than all the American soldiers killed in 10 wars — excuse me, 10 years of Vietnam and Korea. And we were in Vietnam, fighting in Vietnam, Mr. Nixon was accused of murder bombing, but only something like 1,800 people died in the 13 days of the Christmas bombing.

While you may disagree with the war against Serbia and against Iraq, clearly the Americans are trying to minimize civilian casualties when we go to war. I think we ought to apply those same principles to the use of sanctions.

Should NATO be enlarged?

I am against NATO expansion. I opposed the expansion that took place, the three new countries, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary coming in. I believe the proper expansion should be of the European Union eastward eventually to bring in Russia. But I do not believe the United States can credibly give permanent war guarantees deep into Eastern Europe when a future generation of Americans very probably will not honor those guarantees.

You know, I used to write the captive nations resolutions in a number of White Houses, and some of us were astonished and considered it almost miraculous when those captive nations — Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and even, for heaven’s sakes, Ukraine — became free. That is one thing. And we ought to deal with the Russians directly to try to maintain that liberty and independence for those regimes. But you cannot go so far as to say that if Russia goes back into Estonia, for example, which it could do in 48 hours under some nationalistic regime, that automatically the United States is at war with Russia.

We had a number of great Cold War presidents. Eisenhower in 1956 and the Hungarian revolution. Mr. Johnson in 1968 at the time of the convention when the Russians went into Czechoslovakia. Mr. Reagan when the Solidarity was crushed in 1981.

None of those presidents even considered going to war against the Russians when they moved in brutally into the captive nations of Eastern Europe, not because they approved of what was being done, it was appalling, it was atrocious, but because they saw America’s national interest, basically vital interest stooped at the Elbe River. And so they would not give war guarantees and they would not go to war beyond that. And I think any reasonable American president should adopt that position, but we should try, quite frankly, to bring Russia and all those countries into the European Union so that there is no chance of war.

What should the United States’ role in the United Nations be?

My view is that, with regard to multilateral organizations, I disagree profoundly with Clinton’s multilateralism and the neoconservatives’ interventionism all over the world. In my view, the men who rose up at Lexington and Concord do so for one reason: they wanted to make the decisions about the destiny of the United States forever right here in the United States of America.

And that liberty, that independence, should never be given up or surrendered to any institution of the new world order. And among those is the World Trade Organization, among those is the United Nations.

I notice another think tank, AEI, has a paper that came out recently, a brief one on the Kofi Annan doctrine, where he declared that the only justification for the use of force or violence in the world, prior to that you have to win the approval of the UN Security Council. That’s the Annan doctrine. That is outrageous. And I believe the United States should retain its independence and freedom of action forever. That does not mean that we should not enter alliances. But Washington told us no permanent alliances. Jefferson said no entangling alliances.

And so I believe that the United States can deal with all the countries of the world on a bilateral basis or with the European Union in terms of trade, strict — negotiate directly with the European Union, negotiate with MERCOSUR in South America, but do not give up your sovereignty or independence of action to any global institution.

In the post-Cold War era, I believe the great struggle that is, frankly, you could see it out there in the streets of Seattle, and you can see it everywhere in various countries, is between those who believe in the nation state and those who believe in world government or global government or a new world order. Those who put the country first, and those who put the global economy first. This is the great struggle of our time, and it’s taken place inside every country, and it’s taken place in the United States of America, and I’m on one side of that.

Should higher oil prices justify U.S. sanctions against OPEC?

We should not start starving little kids in Mexico or in Saudi Arabia. And we should not — when I say sanctions, we should not deny them food. We have weapons to deal with the OPEC cartel. Number one, I would oppose any World Bank or IMF loans to any country that participated in an OPEC cartel action to cut production in order to raise prices for American citizens.

Secondly, you can unleash oil from SPR, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that we have down in the Gulf of Mexico.

Third, we ought to take a look at the anomaly, the situation in the Persian Gulf, where the United States of America has 18-, 19- and 20-year-old kids over there defending Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states conspire with Iran and Iraq to raise oil prices to gouge the American consumers whose kids are over there defending them.

Now that’s an absurdity. I remember when Mr. Bush came into office in 1989, Venezuela cut production to help raise prices, and they had riots down in the streets of Venezuela, and Mr. Bush gave them a billion dollars. I would have told the Venezuelans if they arrived, go pump more oil instead of ripping off our consumers.

So, again, I believe in a policy of economic nationalism and economic patriotism. People have a right to form cartels, and we have the ability to fight a cartel. There are any number of weapons we can use, but again, I don’t think you go around denying the sale of food or medicine to the people of Venezuela, even if they vote for Hugo Chavez. I should call it the Bolivarian Republic of South America, which is what it is today, I understand.

What should our policy toward Middle East peace be?

Well, I was very hopeful that there would be a peaceful settlement before General Rabin, whom I met in 1967 after the Six Day War, was assassinated. And I am mildly hopeful. And I think you may very well get an agreement with Syria on the Golan Heights.

It seems to me the prime minister of Israel has clearly made that decision. I believe the Israelis want out of Lebanon, which has been their Vietnam. And I think those two things are highly probable.

I think it is becoming less and less likely that the Israelis and the Palestinians will reach the kind of agreement on the West Bank, Jerusalem settlements that will enable the Palestinians and the Arab countries to approve it.

I think Mr. Barak is moving down the Syrian track, and I think he will be successful there. And my guess is the other could well be put off for a long period of time, because it’s a far more intractable and difficult problem for the Israelis. And so I’m less hopeful there than I am about the Syrian end of it.

But I will say this. I saw a figure in the — I guess it was the Washington Times, of some $18 billion that’s going to be asked or demanded of the United States for a settlement on the Golan Heights. And there are 17,000 I think settlers on the Golan Heights.

And that’s over $1 million a settler, which seems to me a little high in terms of foreign aid. And if that’s the figure, you will hear from me.

What should our policy toward Chechnya be?

Do we have an obligation to intervene on behalf of the Chechens? No we do not. Chechnya has been a part of Russia — the Russian Empire — for a long, long time — for a century at least, or over that. I’m not sure exactly when they took the North Caucasus.

But I believe this with regard to Chechnya: What the Russians are doing, frankly — well let me go back up here. What the United States did in Kosovo and with the attack on Serbia was in my judgment an illegal, unconstitutional war and an unjust war by the United States on a nation that had done us no harm and we now find that no genocide was actually taking place; that even after the 78 days of war, there might only be 2,000 dead Kosovar Albanians or 2,500 or a few more.

Now whatever you call that — a tragedy and a horrible situation — it is not genocide. And it doesn’t justify what we did to Serbia and what we’re doing to Serbia now. The Russians are using the example of that to justify what they’re doing inside their own country. What they’re doing is brutal. I think it is overdone. I think it is a mistake on their part; that the Chechens are going to come back. I agree with much of what Mr. Huntington said today in the New York Times, that the one winner from this, if anyone’s going to win from it, is going to be the Chechens. The Russians aren’t going to win from this.

The United States is not going to win from this. But I do believe the United States should make its criticism of the Russian misconduct there known. But I don’t think we ought to impose sanctions on the Russians. And I think we have to deal with that.

I mean, there are some things that happen in this world, we don’t like, we’ve got to deal with, and we can’t change them. And I don’t favor any kind of sanctions, as I say, or any cut off in diplomatic relations. As for the IMF money, I never thought that should go in the first place…

I know Ronald Reagan, I believe it was 1982 or ’83, he said if legislation came down to him which required the United States to immediately move its embassy to Jerusalem, he would veto it on the spot. Reagan was a great leader.

In my view, after the final settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis — after it — I think the Palestinians ought to have not only a homeland, a state, a nation and a flag of their own, but an enclave — a Vatican-style enclave — inside Jerusalem, Arab East Jerusalem — that they can call their capital.

At the same time, the Israelis in West Jerusalem can have their capital. And at that point, I would favor recognition and movement of the American embassy both to Israeli West Jerusalem and Palestinian East Jerusalem, although I do believe the city should not be divided again, because the Israelis are dead right. I was in Israel. I was at the wall two weeks after the six-day war, with Richard Nixon, and the Wailing Wall or the Western Wall was being used as common urinal. And it was a disgraceful way it was handled, and the Jewish folks had a legitimate reason to be outraged by it.

But I do think at the end of this, unless you get a claim — unless the Palestinian state has an enclave in Jerusalem it can claim as its capital, I don’t think you will get the Arab countries to agree or to support the peace. And I don’t see how you can get the Palestinians to support the peace unless the Palestinian that signs it would do so at risk of his life.

I talked to former Prime Minister Peres back in 1982 or 1983, and I asked him. I said this is the number one problem. Can you find a solution to Jerusalem, because the Palestinians are going to want a capital there or there going to want to have Arab East Jerusalem? He said he felt they could. And to be serious now, I think that the far more difficult problem, even in Jerusalem now, is going to be the problem of Israeli settlers on the West Bank and the right of return of the Palestinians who were driven into Jordan and then driven into Lebanon and driven overseas — their right of return both to the West Bank and to Israel proper, which I don’t think is going to happen.

But I think that could turn out to be a far more difficult problem than the Jerusalem problem, which seems to me — I see signs that Mr. Barak and others are going to expand the limits of Jerusalem, enlarge the city, as it were, and provide an enclave that’s called “Inside Jerusalem.” So I think that’s soluble — far more so and far less difficult than the other.

What should our policy toward Russia be?

In the Reagan White House, when he came in, he declared in his first press conference, that they have reserved to themselves the right to lie, cheat and steal. And that did not sit well at the State Department. And then, he called them an evil empire. But by the time Ronald Reagan left the White House, he and Gorbachev were walking through Red Square. And Ronald Reagan was a hero in Russia, and the Soviet Union collapsed.

And one of this great achievements was turning the Soviet Union from a hostile nation into a friendly pro-American Russia. Who ever is at fault, somebody has lost Russia. Maybe it’s not entirely our fault, but somebody has lost Russia.

I would make it the first order of business of the United States to repair the relationship with the Russian nation and Russian people — who are proud people. We have no quarrel with the Russian people either historic now or territorial. It is a great nation and a great people. And one of the highest goals of American diplomacy should be to split this emerging Russian-China-Iranian alliance, which is coming together. Because all of them perceive us as driving for some kind of hegemony and rubbing people’s noses in the dirt.

I’ve said before over at the Cato Institute, I think this idea of us moving into the Caucuses and trying to build a pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia over to Turkey, cutting out both Iran and Russia — the two great powers in the region — is a mistake. It is a provocation. And to see Mr. Clinton over there in Istanbul toasting this, while his energy secretary calls it a great victory over the Russians, is just a provocation.

And I think the most important thing Americans need to do in this world where we seem to be so dominant is start to see ourselves as others see us. But clearly, the — repairing the relation with Russia should be a first order of business.

What should our policy toward China be?

You are looking at one of the 10 surviving members of Richard Nixon’s original trip to China. Even though Henry Kissinger almost left me in Shanghai considering my performance on that trip.

My view with regards to China is this — we are not — we’ve been repeatedly the United States suffers from over doing it one way. The great China market and how wonderful China is. And the other way, that China is the great yellow menace or the beast that threatens us.

Clearly, post-Tiananmen Square, China has become increasingly belligerent, increasingly indifferent, if not insulting to the United States in the way it deals with political dissidents and religious dissidents and Christians and Tibetans.

We read — again in the Washington Times — that they’re putting together these short and medium range missiles and building up to a force of 600 targeted on Taiwan. They’re building long range missiles and targeting them on the United States.

But we have a great peaceful weapon. We have the ability to make China succeed or make China fail. China today — this year, I would guess, is going to sell the United States something like $80 billion to $85 billion in exports which is probably eight or nine percent of its gross national product, which is its entire economic growth, which is responsible for all the hard currency it piles up.

If the United States should close our market tomorrow to Communist Chinese goods, its currency would collapse, its economy would collapse and China would be set back for years. We would miss nothing. We would miss next to nothing because we sell China something like one-fifth of 1.0 percent of our GDP. The sales are $14 billion or $16 billion at most. We sell more to Singapore than we do to China.

So what I would do is bring the Chinese Communist minister and their Mr. Zhu Rongji, and we’d close the door. And I would say, we’ve got something that you want very badly, it’s WTO, it is permanent MFN. And if you want that, here are the conditions by which we’re going to give it to you.

I would reestablish linkage — that’s what Henry Kissinger — Henry Kissinger was right about that. Reestablish linkage and get what we want in terms of security for Taiwan, in terms of building down missiles targeted on us, in terms of easing up on the persecution of Christians, and because we don’t — nobody wants a war with China.

We don’t a war with Russia, we don’t a cold war with China, we don’t want a hot war, we don’t want to have to contain China — we’ve done all that. But I think this administration with the embrace of China as a, quote, “strategic partner,” it was naive in the extreme.

Should the U.S. construct a ballistic missile defense shield?

I am in favor of a ballistic missile defense for the United States, I am in favor of testing and when the testing is complete, deploying such a defense. I am in favor of extending it to American allies — and that certainly includes Japan and South Korea.

With regard to Taiwan, if it’s a ship-based defense by the United States, I don’t think that would give the Chinese any problems.

But I will say this: I think that the United States, even though our treaty obligation lapsed — or Mr. Carter abrogated it back in 1979 — we have a moral obligation to the people of Taiwan not to let them go under as a consequence of Chinese belligerence or hostility or war. And we have to impress upon the Chinese that everything is at stake if they should attempt that.

Or with regard to a ballistic missile defense, I do believe we ought to talk to the Russians, and we have to talk turkey with them. Again, I was in the White House when we negotiated the ABM Treaty and SALT I, and I think that — first we negotiated with the Soviet Union, not Russia; secondly, the Soviet Union cheated with a giant internal radar at Krasnoyarsk, and they cheated in various other ways.

So I think the United States is on sound legal grounds in saying the treaty does not exist. But we should sit down with the Russians and I think negotiate with them and talk with them, but inform them that the bottom line is, we’re going to do whatever is necessary for the national security of the United States of America in getting back to multilateralism.

No nation and no institution can stand above our right to do what is essential to defend our country.