fbpx

What did we learn about foreign policy from the first US Republican debate in Milwaukee?

In the first Republican debate of many, only two foreign policy issues broke through – US relations with China, and the continuation of support for Ukraine.

In the first Republican debate of many, only two foreign policy issues broke through – US relations with China, and the continuation of support for Ukraine. Marking the official start of the 2024 election season, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley and Chris Christie scored highest. Vivek Ramaswamy seized attention on the undercard. But most commentators agree Pence had the best night overall, with his poised foreign policy perspective playing a key role in his performance. 

“The Chinese are engaging in an act of war against us, killing our citizens"

Donald Trump ducked the debate with the eight Republican aspirants in Milwaukee to appear with Tucker Carlson instead. All nine of the candidates are tough on China – one of the only consistent postures during the debate. It was linked by Christie to another of the key talking points – the fentanyl crisis. The discussion around China tended to intersect in this way with a variety of issues, rather than any one candidate setting out a defined policy.

“The way we win the cold war with China is by growing our economy and through innovation.”

These issues also included energy, technology competition and climate change. There were calls to bring home jobs from China by Tim Scott, and to push China to lower its emissions from Nikki Haley, but the key talking point linked to China was aid for Ukraine.

I went to Ukraine because I wanted to see what Vladimir Putin's army was doing to the free Ukrainian people...If we don't stand up to this kind of autocratic killing in the world, we will be next."

Christie, Haley and Pence all sat on the Reaganite side of the fence, arguing weakness in Ukraine would translate to an emboldened Beijing. The three were staunchest in their support for Ukraine, and called upon dichotomies of democracy and authoritarianism – the audience’s applause for these statements demonstrated appetite for the US to play into its global leadership role.

“Anyone who thinks we can’t solve problems here in the US and be the leader of the free world has a pretty small view of the greatest nation on earth.”

The ‘walk and chew gum’ argument was articulated best by both Mike Pence and Asa Hutchinson. Ramaswamy’s proposal to divert military equipment currently going to Ukraine to the southern border was a soundbite designed for a social media clip rather than the real world – reallocating anti-tank or air-defence missiles would be ludicrous in a border security context. The idea that US resources dedicated to Ukraine could be better spent rejuvenating US cities was also challenged – the audience were expected to forget that the majority of US resources, namely military kit taken out of deep storage, had any relevance to the desperate resource needs of many US cities. 

Trump’s absence cast a long shadow over the debate, with his isolationist stance having two willing message carriers in Ramaswamy and DeSantis, as it has the wider GOP. But the real winner of the foreign policy aspects of the debate appeared to be those in traditionally conservative, hawkish postures. All candidates’ stances will certainly be under scrutiny in Moscow and Beijing and have the potential to impact on geopolitical decisions made by the US’s key rivals. 

As summer begins to make way for autumn, it’s clear that it’s not Ukraine’s limited counteroffensive successes that are the greatest strategic threat to Ukraine, but rather a victory for those who want to surrender the US’ leadership role.

Contact ARDEN

Fill out the form below, and we will be in touch shortly.

By providing your information, you are agreeing that we can use it to contact you. For more information please see our privacy policy.

book an event

All of the events listed below will take place in our lounge on Level 2 of the ECL (next to the entrance to the link bridge) unless stated otherwise in the event description. 

Please note that as our lounge is inside the secure zone and you need a conference pass to attend these events. 

By providing your information, you are agreeing that we can use it to contact you. For more information please see our privacy policy.

book a table

We have a limited number of two and four person tables available to reserve in our lounge. Our conference lounge is the most prestigious lounge at Labour Party Conference venue, and is the ideal space for your informal meetings.

If you would like to reserve a table in our lounge, please use the booking form below.

Please note that due to high demand for this space, bookings are limited to one table per person per day. If you would like to make additional reservations please contact your account manager or email labourdirectorate@ardenstrategies.com

By providing your information, you are agreeing that we can use it to contact you. For more information please see our privacy policy.

book a table

We have a limited number of two and four person tables available to reserve in our lounge. Our conference lounge is the most prestigious lounge at Labour Party Conference venue, and is the ideal space for your informal meetings.

Please note that due to high demand for this space, bookings are limited to one table per person per day. If you would like to make additional reservations please contact your account manager or email labourdirectorate@ardenstrategies.com

By providing your information, you are agreeing that we can use it to contact you. For more information please see our privacy policy.