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Senate GOP Candidates Debate Foreign Policy

Republican National Committee

Wednesday’s Debate for the State featured two of the Republican candidates for Senate confronting each other on different parts of their platform.  Two important issues that were brought up were foreign policy and US policy in the Arctic. KDLG’s Chase Cavanaugh has more.

Alaska Public Media held its Debate for the State on Wednesday.  The last debate before the primary election, it featured two Republican Senate Candidates: Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller.  The third challenger, Dan Sullivan, did not participate.

Among the issues debated by the two men were how the US should respond to two international crises, specifically the resurgence of Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, and Russia’s aggressive stance toward Ukraine, including its annexation of Crimea. 

On Iraq, both candidates said that the President needed to abide by the War Powers Resolution, which requires congressional approval for military force in use for more than 60 days.  Miller went a step further, saying that while action needed to be taken because of ISIS, the US should only intervene in these situations when it has a clear strategic interest, and unlike the occupation under Bush and Obama, should be limited in scope.

“I think that there should be limited use of force, obviously against those that are creating those terrible things. I think that what we really have to do though is make sure that when we address these threats, we do it in a laserlike fashion. I’m a combat vet from the first Desert Storm. That was a war where we did it properly. We had a threat, we saw what the threat was. We addressed it. We got in, we got out.”

Treadwell admitted that the US made mistakes in Iraq, such as dismantling the Iraqi army, as well as not setting up a concrete agreement on military bases.  The latter he contrasted with the American occupation of Japan.  He also cautioned against too limited an involvement overall.

“It’s not that I’m looking to see American power just extended forever. I just believe that you cannot expect a peace to happen overnight. In this particular case, you have so many people who actually stood up for the United States, and may be losing their lives because they did.”

On Russia, both Treadwell and Miller said that Obama made a mistake in attempting to “reset” relations, as according to them, it left a vacuum of US leadership.  Treadwell said while targeted economic sanctions are an appropriate tool against Putin, he said something even more focused was needed to change Putin’s behavior.  

“The unified sanctions right now do show the US means business. I think the Russians will step aside and live by them. I don’t see it changing his behavior. I think the real problem is that you’ve got to figure out what economically can get them to do that, and I don’t think seafood is gonna do that with us back, it may do it with energy if we got Europe, but Europe’s too hooked on their energy.”

Miller, by contrast, favored a more direct show of force.

“We have to have a strong military, we have to have a strong defense to stand up to that aggressive tendency. More than anything else, standing with our allies is something that sends a clear signal to the Russians that they can’t be expansionistic in their approach.”

Neither candidate expressed concern about the effect of Russia’s import restrictions on Alaska seafood.  

A related issue was the extent of America’s role in the Arctic.  Both candidates agreed that the US should increase Coast Guard presence in the area as well as build and deploy more icebreakers.  However, where they differed is on how the US should respond to regulations within the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.  For Miller, the treaty is too broad and enacts limits that would harm US national interests, particularly with regards to Arctic exploration.

“I think that in order to explore adequately, the bilateral treaty is the best way to go, so I think we need to push back against that.”

Miller also pushed for increased regional power projection, especially to counter Russian and Chinese territorial challenges in Arctic waters. 

While Treadwell agreed that UNCLOS is flawed, he said the US benefits from certain provisions within it, and those should be pressed when in the country’s best interest.

“We need to figure out what our role is in relation to the other nations claims.  The 200 mile limit gave us a multibillion dollar fishery and that is something that was allowed by the Law of the Sea Treaty.  Freedom of navigation in the Arctic is very important.  Russia and Canada are saying that Arctic seaways are internal waters.  The treaty says no, you’ve got freedom of navigation there and it’s very important we press that point.”

The United States did not ratify UNCLOS, but recognizes all of its articles as customary law except for part 11, which deals with undersea mineral exploitation. 

Miller, Treadwell, and Sullivan will be competing in the Alaska primary election, which takes place on August 19th.  The winner is likely to face Mark Begich, their preeminent Democratic opponent.