Kasich urges US action in Syria, Ukraine, Asia – USA TODAY

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WASHINGTON — When Ohio Gov. John Kasich called on an 11-year-old boy at a Pennsylvania town hall last week, he probably did not expect to be grilled on foreign policy.

“In terms of your strategy for defeating ISIS, to what extent would American personnel be involved?” the boy, Jack Shapiro, asked the GOP presidential candidate. The middle-schooler’s question about the Islamic State terrorist group caught Kasich and his audience off-guard.

But then Kasich delivered a sweeping answer, comparing the Islamic State to the Nazis and saying that America has a special responsibility to defeat that kind of evil in the world. He was expected to reiterate that hawkish world view again on Monday, as he and his two remaining Republican rivals pivoted to global threats and America’s role in the world in remarks before a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, AIPAC.

Kasich’s hawkish foreign policy positions have attracted scant attention in a GOP contest dominated more by domestic issues and personality politics. But with the spotlight at least temporarily focused on foreign policy, here’s a look at how Kasich would deal with hot spots around the world if he wins the White House:

Syria and the Islamic State

Kasich is the only Republican candidate still in the race who has called for sending U.S. ground forces into Syria to fight ISIS.

“We’re going to have to be on the ground,” Kasich told Shapiro at the Pennsylvania town hall last Wednesday. “Americans are going to have to be there … ‘cause nobody else is going to do this.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and New York businessman Donald Trump have both said they would expand U.S. airstrikes in Syria and work with a coalition of Arab and Western allies to destroy ISIS. But Kasich has said airstrikes will not be enough to defeat the group.

Kasich has not said how long U.S. forces would be on the ground in Syria, or how many troops he would deploy. But he has argued that the mission would not require a long-term engagement — a position that some foreign policy experts have greeted with skepticism.

“Kasich has not explained why ISIS or a successor group wouldn’t rebound quickly once U.S. troops departed or didn’t succeed at leaving an effective government behind,” James Lindsay, a senior vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in an analysis of Kasich’s views. CFR is a nonpartisan Washington think tank.

Iran and the nuclear agreement

Cruz, Trump, and Kasich have all blasted the multilateral agreement with Iran, which is aimed at preventing that country from producing enough material for an atomic weapon for at least 10 years. The agreement imposes inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites. In exchange, the United States and its partners — England, Germany, France, China, and Russia — agreed to lift tough global sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Kasich has called it a “very bad agreement” that will not stop Iran from securing a nuclear weapon, but that will give that country a cash infusion to fund terrorist groups that threaten Israel.

But while Cruz has said he will tear up the nuclear deal if he is elected president, Kasich says he will abide by it, working to reimpose harsh sanctions if Iran cheats. Kasich says his rivals’ promises to nix the agreement are not realistic.

“That’s just playing to a crowd,” he suggested in July.

Kasich has not explained how reimposing sanctions on Iran would work if other countries, such as the Russians and Chinese, refuse to do the same.

Russian aggression against its neighbors   

“Frankly it’s time that we punched the Russians in the nose,” Kasich said at a Republican presidential debate in December. “They’ve gotten away with too much in this world.”

Kasich has called for a more aggressive response to Russia’s intervention in Syria, where President Vladimir Putin has intervened to bolster the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad. And he has promised stronger American action to counter Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in eastern Ukraine.

Kasich says he would provide training and weapons to Ukraine so that Eastern European country could better fight Russian-backed rebels in its territory. And he has called for putting U.S. forces in Europe to counter Russia’s incursion into Crimea and to bolster Poland and other allies in Eastern Europe.

Cruz has articulated a similar position, according to a Council on Foreign Relations comparison of the candidates.

Trump, meanwhile, has praised Putin, saying he admires his strong-arm style of leadership. “I will tell you in terms of leadership he is getting an ‘A,’” Trump said last fall. Trump has also suggested Russia’s involvement in Syria would be a “positive thing” because they might get “bogged down” in the Middle East.


Kasich has called for “significantly” increasing America’s military might in Asia, vowing to begin submarine patrols and Marine exercises to counter China’s claims to the South China Sea. “We ought to send some forces in there to make it clear that they don’t own it,” Kasich said last summer.

Trump has also endorsed such a proposal, and he has made China-bashing a centerpiece of his campaign, threatening to open a trade war with the Asian giant, among other things.

Cruz has said he would be more outspoken against China’s human rights record and guarding against Chinese cyber attacks, according to the Council on Foreign Relations analysis.


Both Cruz and Trump oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping free trade agreement negotiated between the U.S. and 11 other countries. It is the largest trade agreement since NAFTA, and supporters argue it will knock down barriers for U.S. exports, create American jobs, and make the U.S. more competitive in the global marketplace.

But Trump and other critics say such free trade deals hurt American workers and encourage U.S. companies to move operations overseas in search of cheaper labor. Trump has said he would crack down on China’s unfair trade practices and renegotiate or rip up past trade agreements.

“We need smart negotiators who will serve the interests of American workers – not Wall Street insiders that want to move U.S. manufacturing and investment offshore,” Trump says on his campaign website.

Kasich has said he is for “free trade” but it has to be “fair trade,” saying it’s important for American workers to operate on a level playing field. But he has not offered specifics on what he means by fair trade and he has signaled support for the TPP.

Kasich urges US action in Syria, Ukraine, Asia – USA TODAY}

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