Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has called for a smaller defense budget and no new nuclear weapons, this week became the most prominent Democrat to wade into the 2020 White House race by launching an exploratory committee for president.

While the Massachusetts Democrat is well known for her sharp criticisms of Wall Street and corporate America, she has also taken steps to bolster her foreign policy credentials. In a sweeping speech just weeks ago she urged cuts to “our bloated defense budget,” a “no first use” nuclear weapons policy and an end to the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

{mosads}“We must refocus our security policies by reining in unsustainable and ill-advised military commitments and adapt our strategies overseas for the new challenges we’ll face in this coming century,” she said in the speech at American University. 

But her exposure to military matters extends further back. Since 2017 Warren has been a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a venue that will give her the opportunity to further beef up her national security experience heading into the contentious Democratic primaries.

She also comes from a military family, with all three of her brothers serving.

Here are some of the top defense issues facing the United States and where Warren stands on each.


Warren has demanded a swift end to U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, saying the prolonged intervention has proven ineffective. Last year she made a trip to the war-torn country to meet with service members, some of whom “were young children on 9/11.”

“We’ve ‘turned the corner’ in Afghanistan so many times that we’re now going in circles,” Warren later said. “The Taliban are on the rise. Afghan forces are taking unsustainable losses. The government is losing territory and credibility. … This isn’t working.”

Instead of fighting, she said, the U.S. should help Afghans “reach a realistic peace settlement that halts the violence and protects our security. … It’s time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, starting now.”

North Korea

Warren has said that while a move toward diplomacy with North Korea is a positive step in persuading the nation to give up its nuclear arsenal, unpredictable moves by President Trump have hurt the ability of the United States to create an effective policy toward Pyongyang.

{mossecondads}Warren blasted the Trump administration for its “chaotic foreign policy” toward the isolated nation and she criticized the president for his “rash” agreement to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last year, arguing the State Department didn’t have the proper personnel in place to handle “very complex negotiations.” 

Following Trump’s summit with Kim in Singapore, Warren said the “photo op doesn’t change the fact that a nuclear-armed North Korea is a threat to the security of the United States, our allies, and the world.”

She added that “this administration’s success will be judged on whether it can eliminate Kim’s nuclear weapons and verify they are gone.” 

Warren has also said “there is no military-only solution to the problems presented by North Korea.”

Russia and China 

Warren has made no secret of her disdain for Trump’s friendly attitude toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, the leader of a country that she says has “become belligerent and resurgent.” Moscow is trying to reassert itself as a world power by “provoking the international community with opportunistic harassment and covert attacks,” Warren said in November.

She warned in her American University speech that both Russia and China “are hard at work developing technologies and tactics to leapfrog the United States, in areas like cyber, robotics and artificial intelligence,” while U.S. leaders have been “focused on wars” elsewhere.

“Both China and Russia invest heavily in their militaries and other tools of national power. Both hope to shape spheres of influence in their own image. Both are working flat out to remake the global order to suit their own priorities. Both are working to undermine the basic human rights we hold dear,” Warren said.

“If we cannot make our government work for all Americans, China and Russia will almost certainly succeed,” she added.

Pentagon budget

In keeping with her economics roots, Warren has called for cutting a “bloated” U.S. defense budget.

“The United States will spend more than $700 billion on defense this year alone. That is more than President Ronald Reagan spent during the Cold War,” she said in November. “It’s more than the federal government spends on education, medical research, border security, housing, the FBI, disaster relief, the State Department, foreign aid — everything else in the discretionary budget put together. This is unsustainable.”

In order to reduce spending while still ensuring national security, Warren pointed the finger of blame at the top five firms in the defense industry when she said the U.S. can “start by ending the stranglehold of defense contractors on our military policy.”

“The defense industry will inevitably have a seat at the table, but they shouldn’t get to own the table,” she said. “American security and American values should come ahead of the profit margins of these private companies. It is time to identify which programs actually benefit American security in the 21st century, and which programs merely line the pockets of defense contractors — then pull out a sharp knife and make some cuts.”

Nuclear weapons

Warren has made clear in the last several years that she thinks the United States should seek to curtail the amount of nuclear weapons around the world. She has called for no new nuclear weapons and supports a no-first-use policy, in addition to continued support for arms treaties designed to put limitations on a country’s nuclear arsenal.

Late last year she and fellow Senate Democrats introduced a bill that would have prevented funding for U.S. ground-launched or ballistic missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,410 miles.

The bill’s introduction followed Trump’s decision in October to pull the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which is meant to keep Russia and the U.S. from developing and testing the kind of missiles specified in the Democratic bill.

Warren also urged Trump to continue arms control negotiations with Russia and called for an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, set to expire in February 2021. That treaty, which caps the number of deployed nuclear warheads for each country, has the option for a five-year extension.

In addition, she has expressed concern about the administration’s continued development of low-yield nuclear weapons.

The U.S. “should not spend over a trillion dollars to modernize our nuclear arsenal,” when Trump is undermining long-held arms control deals, she said in November.

Warren was also a backer of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, helping to shore up Democratic support for the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration.

Tags Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren

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