I am honored to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee for the 115th Congress, and on the Western Hemisphere and Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Subcommittees.
As a former U.S. Ambassador, I have witnessed first-hand the impact our foreign policy has across the globe. During the last eight years under President Obama, our country has seen a steady deterioration of our credibility around the world. In simple terms, the United States is no longer respected by our enemies and our allies are unsure of our intentions. President Obama's foreign policy short-comings were most apparent in his Administration’s relationship with our ally, Israel.
United States foreign policy should focus on the strategic importance of Latin America. Closer ties with our allies in the region are necessary to prompt further economic growth, to promote human rights by defeating the causes of the Western Hemisphere’s refugee crisis, to combat drug trafficking, and to promote regional stability.
There are currently two divergent blocs which comprise most of the countries in Latin America. The first bloc, which includes Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Peru, is committed to the rule of law, free markets and political freedom. The second group is one of authoritarian, populist governments which maintain their power through suppression of the opposition and corruption. Cuba and Venezuela are the worst offenders of this second style of governance. It is important to the United States that the second bloc to reverse course and become more ideologically aligned with the first.
The current situation in Venezuela is particularly alarming. The Maduro regime in Venezuela routinely jails political opponents while depriving its citizens of basic human necessities through its failed socialist policies. The newly appointed vice-president has ties to both drug cartels and radical Islamic groups. Strong actions are needed to end the crisis in Venezuela and bring stability to the region.
A new plan of action is needed to respond to one of our greatest geopolitical threats, Russia. Too often, the past Administration focused their Russia strategy on making empty statements and on seeking to deploy the pressure of sanctions in an attempt to “reset” United States-Russian relations, a position of weakness instead of strength. A strategy based on actions which are firm and clear, rather than words, is all that will deter Russia from further aggression.
We need to undertake a careful assessment of our interests in the region and the threat to them posed by an aggressive Russia. Then we can articulate a strategy based on protecting these strategic interests. First, the United States needs to make clear that we stand behind NATO and in unison with our allies in Central and Eastern Europe. This could be accomplished by following through on recent proposals to hold NATO exercises in the Baltic states and Poland, as well as by discussing reinstating the missile shield removed by President Obama. Second, we need to narrowly but clearly define the areas where there is alignment with Russian actions. While we do not agree with Russia’s support for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, we are allied in seeking the extermination of ISIS.