The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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VP Debate: Joe Biden and Paul Ryan Tackle Foreign Policy

by Newsteam Staff
October 12, 2012

GOP vice-presidential nominee Ryan and U.S. Vice President Biden chat at the conclusion of the U.S. vice presidential debate October 11, 2012. (Michael Reynolds/Courtesy Reuters) GOP vice-presidential nominee Ryan and U.S. Vice President Biden chat at the conclusion of the U.S. vice presidential debate October 11, 2012. (Michael Reynolds/Courtesy Reuters)

Vice President Joe Biden and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan faced off in the only vice presidential debate of the campaign 2012, covering international topics from Iran to Syria to Afghanistan in what turned out to be a foreign-policy heavy discussion (NBC). Here’s what they had to say on Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan.

On Iran

Biden on sanctions:

The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. The ayatollah sees that there are 50 percent fewer exports of oil. He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into free fall, and he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon…Let’s all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. It was on the ascendancy when we took office.

Ryan on sanctions:

Mitt Romney proposed these sanctions in 2007. In Congress, I’ve been fighting for these sanctions since 2009. The administration was blocking us every step of the way.

Only because we had strong bipartisan support for these tough sanctions were we able to overrule their objections and put them in spite of the administration. Imagine what would have happened if we had these sanctions in place earlier. You think Iran’s not brazen? Look at what they’re doing. They’re stepping up their terrorist attacks. They tried a terrorist attack in the United States last year when they tried to blow up the Saudi ambassador at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.

On Syria

Biden on the administration’s policy:

We are working hand in glove with the Turks, with the Jordanians, with the Saudis and with all the people in the region attempting to identify the people who deserve the help so that when Assad goes and he will go, there will be a legitimate government that follows on, not an al-Qaida-sponsored government that follows on.

And all this loose talk of my friend, Governor Romney, and the congressman about how we’re going to do, we could do so much more in there, what more would they do other than put American boots on the ground? The last thing America needs is to get into another ground war in the Middle East requiring tens of thousands if not well over a hundred thousand American forces.

Ryan on what a Romney administration would have done differently:

How would we do things differently? We wouldn’t refer Bashar Assad as a reformer when he’s killing his own civilians with his Russian-provided weapons. We wouldn’t be outsourcing our foreign policy to the United Nations, giving Vladimir Putin veto power over our efforts to try and deal with this issue. He’s vetoed three of them. Hillary Clinton went to Russia to try and convince him not to do so; they thwarted her efforts. She said they were on the wrong side of history. She was right about that. This is just one more example of how the Russia reset’s not working.

On Afghanistan

Biden on the troop pullout:

The fact is we went there for one reason: to get those people who killed Americans, al-Qaeda. We’ve decimated al-Qaeda central. We have eliminated Osama bin Laden. That was our purpose. And in fact, in the meantime, what we said we would do, we would help train the Afghan military. It’s their responsibility to take over their own security. That’s why, with 49 of our allies in Afghanistan, we’ve agreed on a gradual drawdown so we’re out of there by the year — in the year 2014.

My friend and the governor say it’s based on conditions, which means it depends. It does not depend for us. It is the responsibility of the Afghans to take care of their own security. We have trained over 315,000, mostly without incident. There have been more than two dozen cases of green on blue where Americans have been killed.

Ryan on the troop drawdown:

Now, we’ve disagreed from time to time on a few issues. We would have more likely taken into account the recommendations from our commanders, General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, on troop levels throughout this year’s fighting season. We’ve been skeptical about negotiations with the Taliban, especially while they’re shooting at us. But we want to see the 2014 transition be successful. And that means we want to make sure our commanders have what they need to make sure that it is successful so that this does not once again become a launching pad for terrorists.

Read the full transcript here.

Read what Obama and Romney are proposing for a number of major foreign policy topics in these CFR Issue Trackers.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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