Sen. Joni Ernst, left, discusses foreign policy with former President Mike Pence at a forum sponsored by the Bastion Institute on March 18, 2023 in Des Moines. (Photo by Luke Clausen/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Former Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday in Des Moines that America should continue its support of Ukraine, despite growing reluctance from some members of the GOP.
“I must tell you the war in Ukraine is not a territorial dispute. It is a Russian invasion,” Pence said. “And I believe the United States of America needs to continue to demand that of the free world, too.”
About 1 in 5 GOP senators and 1 in 4 GOP representatives have voted against aid to Ukraine, according to congressional votes on Ukraine aid packages.
Pence was participating in a forum in Des Moines at the Bastion Institute, a new foreign policy think tank. Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also spoke Saturday and the event was moderated by Sen. Joni Ernst and opened by Rep. Zach Nunn.
Ernst and Pence emphasized throughout the discussion how important it was for America to be a leader in the world and how the Biden administration is showing signs of weakness to its adversaries.
Pence said the U.S. can support democracy overseas as well as attend to domestic issues.
“I know some people say that we can’t take care of getting our economy moving again, securing our borders, taking care of things here at home,” Pence said. “But that’s a pretty small view of the greatest nation on Earth. We could do both. We could revive this country. Secure this country. Prosper this country.”
But audience member Rich Evenson of Indianola said he shares some Republicans’ skepticism of major spending in Ukraine.
“Well, I’m not a big fan of spending as much money as we are in Ukraine,” Evenson said. “I think there should be some accountability and I think Europe needs to take the lead because that’s their backyard.”
Other audience members at the forum included House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, Rep. Eddie Andrews, and David Oman, former chief of staff to Govs. Bob Ray and Terry Branstad.
Oman expressed concern about trade under the Democratic administration. “We have to show that we’re willing to do what we need to do to make sure that our security is upheld and that we are allowed to have a good trading relationship,” Oman said. “[The Biden administration] is going to put that all at risk if the Chinese continue the steady approach that they’re making in the Asia-Pacific world.
Former President Donald Trump, in Iowa last week, cited his administration’s achievements, including his tariffs on Chinese imports. Pence on Saturday also touted the trade achievements of the Trump-Pence administration, pointing out that impossible priorities for the Trump administration, such as a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, were possible non-priorities for the Biden administration, therefore hurting the American people.
Hogan pointed to the impact of state-level global engagement.
“You know, there’s decisions on foreign policy that are being made in Washington by our federal leaders, but every governor in America is deeply involved and affected by the decisions that are made on foreign policy,” Hogan said. “So we actually carry those things out on the front lines in our states that impact our economies and invest in a number of jobs in our state.”
Hogan also emphasized the importance of trade in foreign policy and said America needs to completely shift its trade from adversaries like China to allies including Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Japan.
Ernst raises concern about foreign land acquisition
Both Hogan and Pence agreed with Ernst that foreign ownership of wide swaths of land was too far of a reach for other nations to have in America. Many of Iowa’s legislators, both statewide and nationally, have sponsored or introduced bills to ban foreign, especially Chinese, ownership.
Ernst cited a Chinese company’s purchase of property near a North Dakota air base to emphasize the need for increased protections.
Pence also focused attention beyond Russia and China to the Middle East. He said the strategy used during the Cold War with the Soviet Union should be the same strategy used in relations with Iran.
“Just as Ronald Reagan did during the days of the Soviet Union, and 40 years ago this month, described the Soviet Union as the evil empire,” Pence said. “We need to make sure that word continues to reach the Iranian people, that we are with you in your call in your hope for democracy and we are prepared once you throw off these tyrants and the mullahs in Tehran. We are ready to stand with you and build a free democratic and non-nuclear Iran.”
However, Pence said China was America’s biggest threat and that peace through strength, like during the Reagan era, was the best strategy.
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