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RFK Jr. offers foreign policy views on Ukraine, Israel, vows to halve military spending

Biden, Zelenskyy sign security plan
Biden, Zelenskyy strengthen U.S.-Ukraine alliance in Italy 35:38

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. vowed Wednesday that if elected president, he'd slash the military budget by half.

"I will push for [a] 50% reduction in military expenditures in my first four years in office, with more cuts to come thereafter," Kennedy said. "A way to keep the dollar strong is to keep the country strong. We can do that by redirecting our bloated military budget toward infrastructure, education and health and building our economy and building small business"

Speaking the day before President Biden signed a security agreement with Ukraine, Kennedy told voters in Yorba Linda, Calif., that U.S. foreign policy has been based on the "delusion" that American intervention abroad will uphold democracy. 

Citing billion-dollar aid packages that have been approved for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, Kennedy said he wants to roll back defense spending to the levels last seen under President Eisenhower. Seizing on the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, Eisenhower believed he had an opening to avert an arms war with Russia and thought dramatically cutting defense spending would aid the cause. He did avoid major conflicts, but the Cold War still intensified during his presidency.

Kennedy also faulted the U.S. for — in his view — escalating conflict abroad over the past few decades. He has previously said he does not support more military aid for Ukraine, though he stands by Israel, calling the Russia-Ukraine conflict a "war of choice" and the Israel-Hamas conflict a "moral war."

"We created ISIS," Kennedy told voters Wednesday night, referring to the brutal terrorist group that grew out of the remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq and spread across the Middle East in 2014. "We drove four million immigrants up into Europe and destabilized all the Western democracies of Europe for generations." 

Kennedy suggested that the U.S. take a page out of China's book. He said the country has emerged as a world superpower by using its budget more effectively, investing in infrastructure and businesses in places like Africa and South America, rather than beefing up its military presence.

"They spent $8 trillion on bridges, roads, airports and schools and hospitals," Kennedy said. "Our forever wars made us enemies across the globe — left us bankrupt at home. China's investments, in contrast, made friends across the globe and brought it influence in every corner of the Earth."

Where does Kennedy stand on Ukraine?

Kennedy has rejected any U.S. involvement in Ukraine, including sending military aid, and told reporters at a campaign rally on Long Island in late April that he blames Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for issuing a decree making it "illegal in Ukraine to negotiate with President Putin." 

"[Putin] does not know what dignity and honesty are. Therefore, we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia," Zelenskyy said in October 2022, after Putin annexed four Ukrainian territories, which world leaders condemned as an illegal land grab.

In an interview with Twins Pod in early April, Kennedy seemed to praise the Russian leader for what in his view were the Russian leader's pacifist intentions, "Putin said, 'Look I don't want to go into Crimea. Let's negotiate a peace.'"

Two years ago, Putin undertook an invasion of Ukraine to keep it from making common cause with western democracies, thereby posing a threat to his rule in Russia. 

Kennedy has also repeated the Russian president's claims that he undertook the invasion to keep NATO out of Ukraine and "de-Nazify" the country. 

Mr. Biden has likened Putin's invasion of Ukraine to Hitler's Nazi forces invading other European nations. On Thursday, the leaders of the Group of Seven nations agreed to provide Ukraine with a $50 billion loan amid the ongoing war.

Where does Kennedy stand on Israel?

Kennedy has been a staunch supporter of Israel, often telling reporters that he believes Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas following the massacre that took place on Oct. 7, 2023. Though the U.S. and western powers have called for restraint from Israel when attacking the Gaza Strip, Kennedy told Reuters that a cease-fire would only allow Hamas to rearm.

Kennedy's running mate, Nicole Shanahan, said she disagrees with the independent candidate on this front. Israel's response to Hamas' attack is a topic that leads to "heated debate" between the two, Shanahan said during a podcast last week with host Glenn Greenwald.

"And what I see right now happening on the ground in Gaza, is devastating. I think that, you know, there's arguments to be made, that we're long past the point of a cease-fire," Shanahan said. "I think there's lots of arguments to be made that Israel should be showing more restraint."

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