Freedom House Questions for Republican Presidential Candidates | Freedom House

Freedom House Questions for Republican Presidential Candidates

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It is a core belief of Freedom House that American foreign policy should be grounded on support for democratic values and the global expansion of freedom. Practically every aspirant to the American presidency would agree that the United States should remain the world’s beacon of democracy. But especially in an era of rival claims for global leadership and calls for fiscal austerity, the development of a U.S. strategy to propel freedom forward poses a serious challenge. Thus far, the presidential candidates have failed to grapple with the complexities of this challenge, and the discussion has been far from illuminating, to put it mildly.

The questions below, drawn up by Freedom House staff, have been submitted to the sponsors of the debate on foreign policy scheduled for Tuesday night. We offer them in the hope that they will focus the minds of leading politicians, both within and beyond the Republican Party, on the critical issue of U.S. support for democratic institutions and values at a time when the adversaries of freedom are emboldened and the newest aspiring democracies are particularly vulnerable.

To Mitt Romney:


  1. You have criticized the Obama administration’s record on supporting human rights in China and pledged to vigorously engage Chinese civil society groups that promote democratic reform. How would your support for prodemocracy groups in China differ from President Obama’s?
  2. You have called for American leadership to “focus multilateral institutions like the United Nations on achieving the substantive goals of democracy and human rights.” Do you support continued U.S. membership on the UN Human Rights Council?
  3. The Egyptian military has tried to give itself a large role in government under a forthcoming constitution. Is this role consistent with your call for “ensuring the Arab Spring realizes its promise”? If not, how would you respond?
  4. You have stated that the reset with Russia has to end. What would the relationship with Russia look like under a President Romney? How would it differ from the current relationship?
  5. Your proposed alternative to President Obama’s reset policy includes plans to strengthen relations with Central Asian states as a check on Russian ambitions. How would you square close U.S. ties to such deeply authoritarian regimes with your support for democracy?
  6. All eight living former U.S. secretaries of state have spoken out in support of a robust foreign aid budget, which accounts for only about 1 percent of total federal spending. What level of foreign assistance do you think is necessary to promote U.S. interests abroad?
  7. American and European companies have sold spyware to governments in the Middle East, which have used this technology to spy on and prosecute dissidents. Should these sales be prohibited?

              To Rick Perry:

              1. Do you think the United States should promote human rights and democracy abroad? If so, how would your policy differ from President Obama’s?
              2. Does democratic change in the Arab world serve U.S. interests? If so, what would you do to support such change?
              3. You have criticized the Obama administration for not doing enough to support the Iranian opposition. What support should the United States be providing?
              4. The Syrian regime supports terrorist organizations, and its crackdown on peaceful protests has left more than 3,500 dead. The opposition Syrian National Council has called for international intervention. Should the United States use military force to protect Syrians from further regime attacks?
              5. Is stronger civilian control over Pakistan’s military needed to foster greater stability in that country?

                To all candidates:

                1. How does support for democracy fit into your overall goals for U.S. foreign policy?
                2. Ronald Reagan pursued a foreign policy of “peace through strength” and championed the expansion of freedom abroad. Would you, like Reagan, prioritize support for democracy in your budget?
                3. Do you think that NATO’s air campaign against Qadhafi’s forces played a crucial role in ending the bloodshed and repression in Libya? Would you support the use of U.S. military power to stop future humanitarian crises?
                4. You have referred to religious values as a source of inspiration for your political views. Would you support democratic transitions in Middle Eastern countries if they are led by moderate parties that similarly draw on religious values to inform their views on public policy?
                5. Saudi Arabia has emerged as a critical adversary to democratic change in the Middle East, This was most evident in Bahrain, where a reformist movement was crushed after direct Saudi military intervention. What would you do to counteract Saudi efforts to shore up authoritarian rulers?
                6. Do you support the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act, which would deny visas and freeze U.S. assets of Russian officials who are implicated in human rights abuses?
                7. The governments of Bahrain, Ethiopia, and Uzbekistan cooperate with the United States on common strategic interests but suppress the political and civil rights of their own citizens. Should the United States continue to give these governments a pass on their human rights abuses?
                8. Taiwan is one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies, but the Obama administration has kept its distance. Would you forge closer ties to Taiwan?
                9. After 50 years of communism, Cuba’s leaders are moving about a fifth of the workforce from the state to the private sector and allowing sales of some private property. What can the United States do to encourage more private enterprise in Cuba?
                10. Authoritarian states are increasingly hosting major international sports events. The 2008 Olympics were held in Beijing, Russia will host the next winter games and soccer’s World Cup, and Qatar has been selected to host the World Cup as well. Would you publicly oppose the selection of authoritarian states to host global sports events?

                Analyses and recommendations offered by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of Freedom House.

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