Elizabeth Warren on foreign policy

The Globe asked Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown a series of questions about their foreign policy stances. Below are Warren’s answers.

1. Under what circumstances should Congress declare war?

Our troops are smart, resourceful, and courageous, which is why it is so important that elected officials make good decisions about when to engage in conflict abroad.  Americans deserve leaders who will ask whether our security and national interests are at stake, whether we have exhausted all other options, whether the problem can be solved with military intervention, and whether we have a strategy for the successful conduct of the war and for the shape of the peace. If we do choose to go to war, we must have an exit strategy that will protect our troops and our interests.  Every situation will be different, but these factors are crucial to consider before declaring war.


2. Do you agree with Mitt Romney that Russia is our number-one geopolitical foe? How would you engage and/or compete with Russia?

No, I do not agree with Mitt Romney’s approach to Russia. Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, we have important objectives on which we cooperate with Russia –from keeping nuclear materials from getting into the hands of terrorists to Russia’s role in dealing with North Korea, Iran, and Syria. We must continue our diplomatic efforts to work with the Russians on these and other issues. At the same time, when Russia fails to meet its responsibilities – globally, or to the democratic rights of its own citizens – we should stand up, vigorously.  In short, we have interests, and they have interests. We work together where we can, and we pursue a separate course where it makes sense for us.

3. Are you in favor of supplying arms to the rebels in Syria? If arms are not enough, would you impose a no-fly zone? If that is not enough to stop the bloodshed, would you send in ground troops?


The ongoing killing of civilians in Syria is a terrible tragedy, and President Bashar al-Assad has to go. The question is how to accomplish that goal. The Administration is pursuing a range of actions, including supplying non-lethal assistance such as humanitarian aid and communications gear. The President has also indicated that we have a red line when it comes to the possible use by the Syrian government of biological or chemical weapons. That is appropriate, and I support the President’s position. Options such as providing lethal support such as weapons, establishing humanitarian zones, or setting up a no-fly zone must be carefully considered.  We cannot take such action without a clear sense of what we are getting into and what we need to do to succeed.  Because lethal assistance can have complex and unintended consequences, we should not act unless we are confident that we can do more good than harm and that we have a clear plan and achievable goals.

4. Whose fault is it that we haven’t had peace between the Israelis and Palestinians? Why has the Obama administration not gotten more done in advancing peace between the two? What new strategies should be pursued?

This Administration, like previous Administrations, has worked to find a formula that will lead to lasting peace.  This Administration, like previous Administrations, has found that to be a difficult undertaking.

I am a strong proponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I believe to be in the interest of Israel and the United States, with a Jewish, democratic state of Israel and a state for the Palestinian people. The U.S. can and should continue to play an active role in promoting a diplomatic resolution that is agreed to by the parties, but I do not believe that a lasting peace can be imposed from the outside.  I also believe that unilateral steps - such as the Palestinians' application for UN membership - move the parties further away from negotiations. The role of U.S. legislators is to make it clear that the United States will support those who support peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.


The U.S.-Israel relationship is rooted in shared values and common interests, based on a commitment to liberty, pluralism, and the rule of law. These values transcend time, and they are the basis of our unbreakable bond. As a United States Senator, I will work hard to ensure Israel's security and success, and I will support active American leadership to help bring peace and security to Israel and the region.

5. What steps would you take that the Obama administration has not taken to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon? Is it worth going to war to prevent that? If Israel requests bunker busters, refueling assistance, or direct cooperation in a strike, what would you say?

A nuclear Iran would be a threat to the United States, our allies, the region, and the world. I believe the United States must take the necessary steps to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and I support the approach President Obama – joined by a bipartisan consensus in Congress – has taken in working to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I support the Administration’s policy of a tough bilateral and multilateral sanctions regime.  We have the toughest sanctions we have ever had against Iran, and I will work to make them even tougher.  That not only means developing new sanctions, it means vigorously enforcing existing ones. I also support strong diplomacy to try to resolve the situation through negotiations. Like President Obama, I believe that we must not rush to war, and like the President, I wouldn’t take any options off the table


Israel and the United States are steadfast, trusted, and unbreakable allies. Israel must be able to defend itself from the serious threats it faces from terrorist organizations to hostile states, including Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said he can’t remember a time of closer US-Israeli security cooperation, and that he is confident that the U.S. has Israel’s back when it comes to Iran.

6. How would you prevent a Cold War with China? Do you believe, as Romney does, that the US should declare China a currency manipulator, which would allow the US to impose tariffs on products?

China’s rise as a global presence has been rapid and dramatic.  It is not in our interest to start a Cold War with China, and it is not in their interest to start one with us.  That said, we cannot ignore China when it does not play by the rules.


Both the economies and security of the US and China are in many ways intertwined, as we work together on issues ranging from nuclear proliferation to piracy to preventing a global depression. I support the U.S. government’s efforts to connect with the Chinese government on these issues, and I hope that both governments will continue to build those connections in the future.

We must recognize that we live in a fundamentally transformed world in which countries like China, India, and others have increasingly powerful economies. For America to maintain our leadership in today’s constantly changing world, we need to get focused fast. Internationally, we need a level playing field. That means strong trade agreements that protect workers and the environment and that are strictly enforced. And it means we have to get tough on theft of intellectual property and put pressure on currency manipulators to revise their policies. Since 2005 tough diplomacy has led to an increase in Chinese currency valuation of about a third, making U.S. products more competitive.  Our workers and businesses can compete with anyone if the playing field isn’t tilted against them, and it should be America’s job to make sure the playing field is level.

Here at home, we need to make sure we have the conditions in place for our people and our businesses to stay competitive in the global economy. We need to invest in education, so our kids can be competitive and innovative on the global stage. We need to upgrade our roads, water systems, communications, and energy infrastructure. And we need to invest in the cutting edge scientific and technological research that will keep us on the frontier and let our businesses succeed and grow.  If the conditions are right, Americans can out-compete anyone.

7. What’s your assessment of the current state of the war in Afghanistan? Do you agree with Obama’s timetable for withdrawal? Would you speed it up, or slow it down?

Our men and women in uniform do an incredible job. They are tough, smart, and resourceful, and they fight with courage and honor. All three of my brothers served in the military, so I have a first-hand idea of how much they and their families contribute to our country.

We need to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible, consistent with the safety of our troops. We need to transition to Afghan control because ultimately, it is the Afghans who must take responsibility for their own future.

8. What should the US to do address the change of leadership in North Korea?

North Korea is an oppressive regime that poses a threat to U.S. interests and to our allies in the region. The recent leadership transition in North Korea and its failed missile launch in April 2012 are developments that require continued U.S. monitoring and attention, in addition to close cooperation with our allies and those in the region. If there is to be progress, North Korea must first take action to demonstrate good faith including suspending enrichment, halting missile tests, and allowing international inspectors into the country.

9. How do you assess Obama’s tone on foreign policy? Republicans have accused him of conducting an “apology tour” that set a weak tone at the outset of his term. Democrats say he is trying to repair an image of the US that they say was battered under President George W. Bush.

Non-partisan fact-checkers say that the “apology tour” is completely untrue. Nothing like that ever happened, and Republicans should be called out for making false claims

During George W. Bush’s presidency, Osama bin Laden was running free, the United States was bogged down in a war in Iraq based on faulty intelligence, our country was fighting a neglected war in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda, and, around the world, our leadership was questioned.

Today, under President Obama, Osama bin Laden is dead. The war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is coming to an end. The war against Al Qaeda has seen more high-level terrorists killed or captured than during the entirety of the previous Administration. Our leadership and moral authority around the world has been substantially repaired, and with President Obama, we are once again leading the world successfully and representing the best of America.

President Obama has taken a tough, smart, and pragmatic approach to foreign policy that has not only gotten results but also repaired our image and leadership around the world. I strongly support keeping President Obama as the Commander-in-Chief.

10. Are there any other areas that you believe are particularly important for the Senate to consider in foreign affairs in the next six years? If so, please discuss why you think so, and what your approach would be.

The possibility of nuclear weapons getting in the hands of terrorists is one of the greatest threats to our security. It is very difficult to build a nuclear weapon because of the expense and expertise needed for nuclear material. As a result, the key is to make sure that nuclear materials around the world are secure so they cannot be transferred to terrorists or stolen by terrorists. I strongly support the Nunn-Lugar program, which for years has sought to secure nuclear materials, and I support continued efforts to secure nuclear materials, in order to prevent their acquisition by terrorist groups.

What should the US do in response to the attacks in Libya?

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those whose lives were lost, including the family of Winchester’s Glen Doherty. We should all honor the courage, dedication, and sacrifice of Mr. Doherty, Ambassador Chris Stevens, and the other Americans who gave their lives in the service of our country. As the investigation into this attack by our intelligence and diplomatic communities continues, I support President Obama’s efforts to increase security at our Embassies overseas and his commitment to hold accountable those who were responsible for these senseless attacks.