(CNSNews.com) – Donald Trump said during Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate that as president he would talk to and “get along with” Russian President Vladimir Putin, but rival Carly Fiorina she “wouldn’t talk to him at all.”
“Having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn’t talk to him at all,” the former Hewlett-Packard CEO said. “We talked way too much to him.”
Instead, Fiorina said she would send the Russian leader a clear message, by rebuilding the Sixth Fleet – whose area of responsibility covers Europe, the Atlantic, and most of Africa – pursuing missile defense in Poland and conducting “regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states.”
“Russia is a bad actor, but Vladimir Putin is someone we should not talk to, because the only way he will stop is to sense strength and resolve on the other side, and we have all of that within our control,” she said.
How – and even whether – the next U.S. president should deal with foreign adversaries featured during the CNN debate, relating not just to Putin but also to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the Iranian regime.
Asked about Russia’s deepening military involvement in Syria, Trump characterized the problem as one of a lack of respect for U.S. leadership, saying that Putin has “zero” respect for President Obama.
The entrepreneur and GOP campaign frontrunner said he would talk to Putin and “would get along with him. I believe – and I may be wrong, in which case I’d probably have to take a different path. But I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) disagreed with Fiorina’s pledge not to talk to Putin.
“Think if Reagan had said that during the Cold War? We continued to talk with the Russians throughout the Cold War which is much more significant that where we are now,” he said.
But one person on the stage at the Ronald Reagan President Library who Paul made clear he did not want to see talking to Putin or other world leaders was Trump.
“Do we want someone with that kind of character, that kind of careless language to be negotiating with Putin?” Paul asked, after Trump took a sideways swipe at him. “Do we want someone like that to be negotiating with Iran?”
‘We need to be strong against China’
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s repeated an earlier call for President Obama to cancel a planned Sept. 25 state dinner for Xi because of Beijing’s currency manipulation and cyber-attacks.
“Why would we be giving an official state visit to a country that’s been involved in a massive cyber-attack against the United States?” he asked. “That’s not just a visit, that’s a 21 gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Both Paul and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sounded unconvinced.
“I don’t think we need to be rash, I don’t think we need to be reckless, and I think need to leave lines of communication open,” Paul said, referring to relations with both the Chinese and Russians.
“We do need to be engaged with Russia. It doesn’t mean we give them a free pass, or China a free pass, but, to be engaged, to continue to talk. We did throughout the Cold War, and it would be a big mistake not to do it here.”
Asked whether canceling the state dinner would be the right approach, Bush replied, “No, I don’t think so, but we need to be strong against China.”
“There’s many other tools that we have without canceling a dinner,” he added, citing sanctions and a deterrent of “offensive tactics” relating to cybersecurity.
Tear up the Iran deal?
How America’s next president should deal with Iran and the nuclear deal which Obama has reached with the regime was another area of difference among some of the candidates.
After outlining his reasons for opposing the Iran agreement, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) reiterated that “If I am elected president, on the very first day in office, I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has said that anyone threatening to tear up the agreement was playing to the crowd, stressed that he too thought it was a bad deal.
But Kasich said it would be better to work together with America’s allies, and that if Iran cheats, “we slap the sanctions back on.”
Bush, too, disagreed with Cruz’ threat.
“It’s not a strategy to tear up an agreement,” he said. “A strategy would be: how do we confront Iran? And, the first thing that we need to do is to establish our commitment to Israel which has been altered by this administration. And, make sure that they have the most sophisticated weapons to send a signal to Iran that we have Israel’s back.”
Paul also opposed his fellow senator’s approach to the Iran deal.
“Should we continue to talk with Iran? Yes. Should we cut up the agreement immediately? That’s absurd. Wouldn’t you want to know if they complied?”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) pushed back on calls to wait and see if the Iranians honor their commitments under the deal, saying that “anyone who is paying attention to what [supreme leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei says knows that they will not comply.”
Two other candidates who argued for trashing the Iran deal on their first day in office were former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Walker.
“We must, simply, make it very clear that the next president – one of us on this stage – will absolutely not honor that agreement, and will destroy it and will be tough with Iran, because otherwise, we put every person in this world in a very dangerous place,” said Huckabee.
“I’d love to play cards with this guy,” said Walker of the president, “because Barack Obama folds on everything with Iran.”
Fiorina said on her first day as president she would both assure Israel of America’s strong support and present Iran with an ultimatum.
“On day one in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to [Israeli Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel.
“The second, to the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections – by our people, not his – we, the United States of America, will make it as difficult as possible [for Iran] to move money around the global financial system.”