The second presidential debate has come and gone, and while once again foreign policy didn’t play a huge role in the overall discussion, what was to be said appears to have seen the whole of America’s foreign policy goals coalesce neatly around Russia-bating.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was quick to blame Russia for anything and everything, from the refugee crisis in Europe to Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, making very specific point of talking about confronting Russia militarily.
And while accusing Russia of flooding Europe with Middle Eastern refugees and of hacking the elections to Trump’s benefit got the ball rolling, the discussion largely centered on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, with Clinton accusing Russia of a “determined effort” to destroy the city, and vowing to “hold Russians accountable for war crimes.”
Clinton talked of arming Syrian rebels, and imposing a no-fly zone over the whole of Syria, which would in effect attempt to militarily deny Russia access to Syrian airspace. She insisted that this would grant the US military leverage over Russia that would force them to the negotiating table.
While imposing a no-fly zone would be an act of war against Syria, and necessarily spark a military conflict with Russia, Clinton attempt to be a bit evasive about specifics beyond that, insisting that she “would not use American ground forces in Syria.”
As with the Obama Administration, the no ground troops pledge appeared to be pretty vaguely defined, as Clinton then rattled off an array of ground troops she would use in Syria, including special forces, trainers, and “enablers.”
Donald Trump touched the question of Russia a lot less, but did accuse of Russia of having “gone wild with their nuclear program.” He did, however, say that he disagrees with his running mate, Gov. Pence, who argued for military action against Syria and Russia in Aleppo.
Trump insisted the war needs to remain focused on ISIS, and warned that neither Clinton nor anyone else really knows who these rebels they want to arm are, saying that backing the rebels risks putting an even worse force in power in Syria. He cited Libya as an example of this.