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The 2020 Candidates on Foreign Policy

Our guide to the presidential candidates and their positions on global issues, regularly updated.
This project was made possible in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Last Updated: January 8, 2020
This project was made possible in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Last Updated: January 8, 2020
People wave Chinese flags to welcome the upcoming 19th Party Congress in Huaibei
AFP/Getty Images

The increasingly thorny U.S.-China relationship has aroused international concern and become a central issue in the 2020 race. Washington has long sought to manage China’s rise by integrating the country—now one of the world’s two largest economies—into global institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the hope that China would fully accept the prevailing international order. But U.S. policymakers have struggled to respond to Beijing’s growing assertiveness. Read more

Workers check solar panels at a photovoltaic power station in Chongqing, China

Recent years have seen stark warnings from the scientific community that climate change and its effects are approaching faster than previously understood. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that nations must move more swiftly to slash emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses to avoid the most devastating effects of global warming. Read more

Pedestrians pass by as a member of the New York City Police Department's counterterrorism squad stands guard in Times Square
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The counterterrorism debate has shifted markedly in recent years in response to a spate of high-profile shootings in the United States and other Western countries, many of which were perpetrated by white supremacists. Protecting Americans from homegrown hate groups has become a priority for many 2020 candidates, while counterterrorism operations abroad have taken on new forms nearly two decades after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Read more


Glowing panels in dark server room.
Caiaimage/Getty Images

Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election revealed in stark terms the vulnerability of American democracy to foreign adversaries. Yet many of the presidential candidates believe that Washington has not done enough in the time since to safeguard the country’s electoral systems or stem the spread of disinformation on social media platforms. Read more

A U.S. Army soldier salutes during the national anthem
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The role of the U.S. military is a perennial topic of debate, with some politicians questioning its steadily increasing costs and its extensive overseas commitments. Today, U.S. forces are fighting enemies in many countries: notably Afghanistan and Syria, but also in places such as Niger and Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Pentagon maintains bases around the globe, from Djibouti to Japan. Read more

UN Security Council meets at UN Headquarters in New York
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Since the end of World War II, the United States has led global diplomatic efforts to build alliances and institutions to promote peace and prosperity. Washington has been among the chief architects of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as many other international institutions. Read more

The US flag flies over shipping cranes and containers
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The United States’ ability to influence events abroad depends on the health of its economy, and many 2020 challengers argue that it is on shaky ground. Despite low unemployment and a record period of economic expansion in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, economists worry about slowing growth, rising debt, and uncertainty over President Donald J. Trump’s trade war. Read more

The U.S. border wall with Mexico is seen from the United States in Nogales, Arizona
Adrees Latif/Reuters

Immigration has been a flashpoint of the U.S. political debate for decades. Efforts at comprehensive immigration reform have repeatedly foundered in Congress due to disagreement over creating a path to citizenship for the estimated eleven million undocumented residents in the United States, many of whom are from Mexico and Central America. Read more

A Palestinian protester holds a national flag as another protester throws a stone towards Israeli forces
Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East continues to consume the world’s attention and poses special challenges to the United States. Devastating civil wars grind on in Syria and Yemen, driven in part by outside powers, creating humanitarian catastrophes and defying efforts at political solutions. Iran is poised to resume nuclear activities while pursuing expanded influence in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. There are dwindling prospects for a lasting settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Read more


Pedestrians make their way past the portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il displayed in Kim Il Sung square in central Pyongyang
Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea has become one of the United States’ thorniest foreign policy challenges as the Kim Jong-un regime has defied international sanctions to escalate its pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile technology in recent years. Many fear the country is closing in on military capabilities that could allow it to hold East Asia hostage and even strike the continental United States. Read more

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath laying ceremony at the eternal flame of the Mamayev Kurgan memorial complex in the city of Volgograd
Maxim Shemetov/AFP/Getty Images

In the wake of Western efforts to develop a cooperative post–Cold War relationship with Russia, the country has reemerged as a top U.S. rival and an object of mistrust and suspicion. To its critics in Washington, including many of the 2020 Democratic contenders, Moscow’s foreign policy has become dangerously aggressive in recent years, from military intervention in Ukraine and Syria to interference in Western elections to violation of nuclear treaties. Read more

Worker cutting steel at a factory in Huaibei in China
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Trade has taken center stage during the administration of President Donald J. Trump, who has set out to renegotiate long-standing deals and challenge a system that he says has been unfair to American workers. While the United States has long led the charge for global trade liberalization—in the belief that open, rules-based markets increase prosperity and expand Washington’s influence—rising inequality has led to growing skepticism about this model within both major parties. Read more

A member of the Bolivarian National Guard puts her red beret on during a May Day rally in Caracas
Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Venezuela is in the midst of a historic economic and humanitarian crisis that is rippling across the hemisphere. Despite the country’s oil wealth, decades of corruption and mismanagement have left much of the populace struggling to buy food and medicine. Nearly four million Venezuelans, or 10 percent of the population, have fled, threatening to overwhelm the country’s neighbors. Read more

People wave Chinese flags to welcome the upcoming 19th Party Congress in Huaibei
AFP/Getty Images
  • Trump has sought to confront China over what he says is a suite of economic abuses: intellectual property theft, currency manipulation, export subsidies, and economic espionage. He says aggressive action is required to protect American workers and to reduce the United States’ large bilateral trade deficit.
  • Walsh’s comments on China have focused on criticizing Trump’s trade war and advocating for free trade. 
  • Weld has criticized China for being an aggressive and disruptive actor on the world stage, along with Russia, but he opposes Trump’s confrontational stance toward Beijing.
  • Bennet has called China a U.S. competitor and a bad actor on trade, but he favors building coalitions to combat Beijing rather than the unilateral approach favored by Trump.
  • Biden has framed China’s rise as a “serious challenge,” criticizing its “abusive” trade practices, warning that it may pull ahead of the United States in new technologies, and criticizing its human rights record. However, he says Trump’s confrontational approach is counterproductive, alienating allies that should be recruited in a broad front to pressure Beijing.
  • Bloomberg has been a proponent of deeper trade and investment ties with China and he opposes President Donald J. Trump’s trade war with Beijing. He says the United States must work closely with China on climate change and other issues, and has drawn scrutiny for his business relationships in the country. 
  • Buttigieg advocates cooperation with China on areas of common concern, such as climate change, while warning that it is an ideological challenger to the United States. China’s prosperity and stability, enforced by “techno-authoritarianism,” could prove an alluring alternative to U.S.-style capitalist democracy, he says.
  • Delaney is concerned with China’s growing influence, calling the country the “biggest geopolitical challenge” facing the United States. He says it will take a concerted multilateral effort to counter China’s rise, which Trump has made more difficult. 
  • Gabbard criticizes Trump’s confrontational stance toward Beijing and warns about the downsides of escalating tensions with China. She says a cooperative relationship is needed instead to confront global challenges.
  • Klobuchar says that China is “in economic terms” the United States’ top national security threat. She has favored stronger trade measures to protect American workers from what she calls its unfair economic practices, especially its dumping of subsidized steel in the U.S. market given Minnesota’s leading role in domestic steel production. 
  • Patrick says that the United States must work to counterbalance China’s growing power and put human rights and the promotion of democracy higher on the agenda with Beijing. As governor of Massachusetts, he advocated for deeper trade ties between the two countries.
  • Sanders sees China as a “major economic competitor” and blames flawed U.S. trade policies with the country for the loss of millions of American jobs. He wants to work with allies to confront China on its “troubling” trade practices while finding common ground with Beijing on climate change and other areas.
  • Steyer calls China a competitor, but says that “like it or not” the United States has to maintain a political and economic relationship with Beijing. 
  • Warren accuses China of human rights violations, currency manipulation, and unfair trade practices. She says that Chinese President Xi Jinping is seeking to consolidate power, expand China’s military influence, and “weaponize” his country’s economy. 
  • Unlike many of his Democratic competitors, Yang does not believe an ascendant China is necessarily a threat to the United States. He is concerned, however, with Beijing’s military ambitions, its increasing authoritarianism, and its theft of intellectual property.
Workers check solar panels at a photovoltaic power station in Chongqing, China
  • Trump has repeatedly questioned the science of climate change, expressing doubts about whether human activity is responsible. He has advocated for expanded domestic fossil fuel production and has pushed for rolling back environmental regulations implemented by his predecessors.
  • Although he once rejected the scientific consensus on climate change, Walsh now says that Republicans should admit it is a real problem. However, he has yet to form a concrete proposal to address it.
  • Weld says he has an “intense dedication” to environmental issues and says there is a “pressing need” to act on climate change, criticizing Trump’s dismissal of the scientific consensus. 
  • Bennet says his home state of Colorado is already dealing with the effects of climate change, and he has issued a plan to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and invest in green technologies, which he believes can boost the economy.
  • Biden says climate change is “indisputable” and “the greatest threat to our security,” calling for a “revolution” to address it. He has released a national plan to reduce emissions and invest in new technology and infrastructure. As a senator, he expressed alarm over greenhouse gases, but also supported controversial energy sources such as fracking and so-called clean coal.
  • Bloomberg has made fighting climate change a central mission of his public life, devoting tens of millions of dollars to a wide array of programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing clean energy. He proposes a suite of policies to rapidly transition to a clean economy, but is skeptical of some of the sweeping plans backed by other candidates.
  • Buttigieg says climate diplomacy should be a pillar of U.S. foreign policy, no less central than democracy and human rights. Like many other Democratic candidates, he has proposed an ambitious climate plan that seeks to quickly transition the United States away from carbon-intensive energy sources.
  • While skeptical of some of the climate plans put forward by other Democrats, Delaney has proposed a suite of federal policies to quickly transition the U.S. economy to clean energy, including a carbon tax.
  • Gabbard highlights her record as a lifelong environmentalist and campaigner for action on climate change, including proposals for sweeping legislation on clean energy. She has spoken in favor of many aspects of the Green New Deal framework.
  • Klobuchar believes that climate change is a crisis and should be an “urgent priority” for policymakers. She says it is already causing devastating floods, drought, and storms in the Midwest, and she proposes a plan to quickly transition the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels.  
  • Patrick has been vocal about the need to fight climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions, and as governor he sought to move Massachusetts toward renewable energy. Before seeking public office, he worked in the oil industry. 
  • Sanders calls climate change a national emergency and the greatest challenge the United States faces. He calls for a nationwide mobilization, trillions of dollars of new investments, and expanded international cooperation to address it.
  • Steyer’s campaign is centered on addressing climate change. He says he would declare the climate crisis a national emergency on day one of his presidency and push to enact sweeping legislation to transition away from fossil fuels.
  • Warren has called climate change “an existential threat” and proposes a national mobilization to combat it on par with that during World War II and the space race with the Soviet Union. She backed the Green New Deal introduced by congressional Democrats as an original cosponsor. 
  • Yang views climate change as an existential threat, a leading national security issue, and a crisis that will cost trillions of dollars to combat. He supports the Green New Deal framework and also sees global warming as an opportunity for the United States to lead the world in the creation of new technologies. 
Pedestrians pass by as a member of the New York City Police Department's counterterrorism squad stands guard in Times Square
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Trump has called for an approach that combines increased domestic surveillance, expanded use of drone strikes in Africa and the Middle East, and tighter limits on immigration and refugee admissions. 
  • While Walsh has taken few stances on counterterrorism policy, he has spoken often of the dangers of Islamic terrorism, which he feels policymakers have not taken seriously enough.
  • Weld has criticized recent administrations for focusing too much on terrorism at the expense of other foreign policy areas, and he has championed privacy and civil liberties. 
  • Bennet feels that many of the U.S. military actions in the Middle East and elsewhere have had a destabilizing effect and failed to stamp out terrorism. He supports leaving only residual forces in place to monitor and combat terrorist activities in these regions.
  • Biden has been a major proponent of a strategy he called “counterterrorism plus.” This approach emphasizes fighting terrorist networks in foreign countries using small groups of U.S. special forces and aggressive air strikes instead of large troop deployments.
  • Bloomberg touts his mayoral record, crediting his counterterrorism policies with keeping New York City safe from terrorist attacks. His expanded surveillance measures and other efforts sparked debate over how to balance security with civil liberties. 
  • Buttigieg calls himself “a product of the 9/11 generation,” for whom the attacks were politically formative. Warning against overreacting to terrorist threats abroad, he emphasizes increased vigilance against extremists at home.
  • Delaney has supported U.S. counterterrorism missions overseas and called for improving conditions in countries where terrorists are recruited.
  • Gabbard identifies as a “hawk” on Islamist terrorism, supporting U.S. military missions against al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State, while opposing regime-change policies that she says create openings for terrorist groups. 
  • Klobuchar has supported expanding the use of air strikes and U.S. special forces to combat Islamist extremism in the Middle East and North Africa, but she has also called for greater transparency in how these operations are conducted. She argues that controversial surveillance and data-collection programs are necessary for stopping terrorist attacks. 
  • Patrick has released no policy proposals on his counterterrorism approach, but he points to his experience responding to the 2013 terror attack in Boston.
  • Sanders has criticized post-9/11 counterterrorism operations as counterproductive and overly costly. He says that the war on terror has “turned into endless war,” allowing a handful of extremists to dictate U.S. foreign policy.
  • Steyer’s comments on counterrorism policy focus on the threat of white nationalist domestic terrorism.
  • Warren opposed many of the counterterrorism practices in the decade that followed the 9/11 attacks, and she remains skeptical of U.S. counterterrorism policies today.
  • Yang says that white supremacist and right-wing terrorism are bigger threats to the United States than foreign terrorism. He calls for better collection of data on such crimes in order to understand the scale and target the problem.
Glowing panels in dark server room.
Caiaimage/Getty Images
  • Trump has feuded with a number of large U.S. technology companies, arguing that they are conspiring to defeat him in the 2020 election. Although he has often brushed aside concerns about Russian interference in U.S. elections, his administration has imposed sanctions and other measures against the Russian intelligence assets deemed responsible.
  • Walsh’s comments on cybersecurity have been limited to criticizing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and denouncing Trump’s role in the controversy.
  • Weld has recognized cybersecurity as an area of growing importance and says the United States must retaliate when necessary.
  • Bennet has made election security a central theme of his campaign, warning of the continued threat of Russian cyberattacks and other interference, and he proposes a broad campaign to push back against foreign cyber threats. 
  • Biden says that cyber threats are a growing challenge for U.S. national security, election integrity, and the health of the nation’s democracy. Meanwhile, he thinks government should be pressuring tech companies to reform their practices around privacy, surveillance, and hate speech.
  • Bloomberg warns of the vulnerability of U.S. electoral systems and other infrastructure to foreign hacking, and he argues that technology and communications companies must do more to cooperate with federal investigations. 
  • Buttigieg says that the United States must improve its cyber defenses and election security. He also advocates greater regulation of tech companies to promote competition and protect individuals’ data. 
  • Delaney has put cybersecurity, data privacy, and artificial intelligence (AI) at the center of his campaign, arguing for new federal authorities and expanded privacy laws to protect consumers from corporations and foreign interference.
  • Gabbard has proposed legislation to make U.S. election systems more robust against hacking. She has also harshly criticized the market power of Silicon Valley giants, which she says gives them undue influence over the political system. 
  • Klobuchar highlights the “critical need” to improve U.S. cybersecurity, particularly around elections. She promises cybersecurity reforms to “stay one step ahead of China and Russia.”  Saying she “doesn’t trust” Silicon Valley, she wants to establish stricter “digital rules of the road” on consumer privacy, data collection, and election funding. 
  • Patrick has long been a proponent of using government leverage to boost technology research and innovation, both domestically and internationally, and he promises additional spending on cybersecurity. 
  • Sanders says the threat of cyberattack is an “unprecedented” challenge to U.S. national security, and he has sought to bolster U.S. election systems. However, he has been critical of expanded government surveillance measures that he says compromise Americans’ privacy.  
  • Steyer says the U.S. election system is “under attack,” arguing that Trump has sought election help from Russia.
  • Warren has called for stricter antitrust action and other regulation of large Silicon Valley tech firms. She says foreign governments are still working to “attack our democracy,” and she has outlined plans to give the federal government more oversight of election security.
  • Yang’s focus on emerging technologies is reflected in his approach to cybersecurity and data privacy. He offers many new proposals, including new data protection laws, investments in new computer systems, and changes to electoral systems. 
A U.S. Army soldier salutes during the national anthem
John Moore/Getty Images
  • Trump has championed the military, pushing for increases to defense spending, major new weapons programs, and a new branch focused on space. He has also promised to wind down U.S. troop commitments in Afghanistan and the Middle East while focusing on “great-power competition” with China and others.
  • Walsh has said he would withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but he criticizes Trump’s approach to peace talks there, as well as the president’s treatment of U.S. defense allies. 
  • Weld has called for more modest defense budgets and a reduction in U.S. military engagements around the world while maintaining U.S. military supremacy.
  • Bennet has criticized foreign wars for wasting money that could have been spent at home, called for updating U.S. defense alliances, and supported civil rights in the military.
  • Biden has supported some U.S. military interventions abroad and opposed others. He has often advocated for narrow objectives in the use of force, and he has expressed skepticism over the ability of the United States to reshape foreign societies. He is wary of unilateral efforts, emphasizing the importance of diplomacy and working through alliances and global institutions.
  • Bloomberg argues that Trump’s “constant misapplication” of American power has weakened the U.S. military and emboldened its adversaries. He says defense spending must be directed more toward new technologies and advanced warfare rather than legacy systems, and he calls for new measures to support veterans.
  • Buttigieg says his seven-month deployment as a naval intelligence officer in Afghanistan has made him circumspect about the use of military force. The commander in chief, he says, should set a high bar for its use, have a clear vision of how any engagement will end, and bring Congress on board.
  • Delaney emphasizes the need for “a very strong military” to project American influence around the world, and he calls on Congress to update the authorizations currently used to justify a wide range of U.S. interventions abroad. 
  • Gabbard, who saw active-duty military service in Iraq, has based her campaign platform around ending major U.S. troop commitments abroad, reorienting military policy toward more targeted counterterrorism goals, and improving veterans’ care.
  • Klobuchar promises to return U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but criticizes Trump’s plans to withdraw from foreign theaters as erratic and irresponsible. She has supported several recent U.S. military missions, but argues Congress should play a bigger role. 
  • Patrick’s comments on defense issues have focused on wrapping up U.S. military commitments abroad and promoting a more steady projection of U.S. influence.
  • Sanders has focused much of his foreign policy criticism on what he calls the United States’ “endless wars.” He advocates for a smaller U.S. military footprint around the globe, reduced defense spending, and an end to unilateral military action.
  • Steyer’s comments on defense policy focus on reversing what he calls Trump’s isolationist stance. 
  • Warren criticizes U.S. defense spending as excessive and vows to take steps to end the “revolving door” between defense contractors and public officials. She wants to end what she calls the nation’s “forever wars” in Afghanistan and a dozen other countries
  • On defense, Yang offers a three-pronged approach: increasing care for veterans, using the defense budget to address domestic infrastructure needs, and creating a new secretary of cybersecurity. He also says he would work to end current conflicts and pledges to bolster U.S. defense alliances. 
UN Security Council meets at UN Headquarters in New York
Retamal/AFP/Getty Images
  • Trump has withdrawn the United States from international agreements and commitments that he feels are a drain on U.S. resources, has feuded with longtime allies on issues from defense to trade, and has criticized global institutions that he says force the United States to “surrender sovereignty.” His budget proposals have sought to slash foreign aid and make it more conditional on support for U.S. policies.  
  • Walsh emphasizes the benefits of traditional U.S. alliances and criticizes President Trump for undermining long-standing relationships.
  • Weld accuses Trump of “retreating into isolationism,” sharply criticizing him for alienating U.S. allies and not wielding diplomacy and soft power to their full potential. “Allies are force multipliers,” he says.
  • Bennet joins most of the other candidates in arguing that Trump has harmed the United States’ standing among its allies and partners around the world, and he believes rebuilding these relationships is essential for addressing many foreign policy problems.
  • Biden emphasizes that the United States cannot deal with the new challenges it faces without close relationships with its allies and the cooperation of international institutions. He says Trump’s withdrawal from treaties and his denigration of alliances has “bankrupted America’s word in the world.”
  • As a businessman, philanthropist, and former mayor, Bloomberg has dealt with heads of state and international organizations for decades. A harsh critic of Trump’s treatment of U.S. allies, he promises to “restore global respect to the White House.”
  • Buttigieg calls for renewing multilateral institutions and U.S. alliances, which he says have been “fractured and endangered” by Trump. Countering climate change, he says, ought to be a main tenet of U.S. diplomacy, ranking “alongside democracy and human rights as a central goal.”
  • Delaney says that his foreign policy views prioritize “global engagement, diplomatically and economically,” and he pledges to reinvigorate ties with U.S. allies and multilateral institutions.
  • Gabbard is broadly noninterventionist, arguing that the United States should not use its military power to reshape other countries’ political systems, but rather should use diplomacy to find common ground and avoid war even with the most intransigent adversaries.
  • Klobuchar charges that Trump is disrespecting U.S. allies and dangerously isolating the United States by withdrawing from international agreements such as the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate accord. 
  • Patrick criticizes what he calls Trump’s “demeaning” and “unpredictable” approach to international alliances and says he would deliver firm and steady leadership instead.
  • Sanders says “democracy, human rights, diplomacy and peace, and economic fairness” will be at the center of his foreign policy, and that the United States must “seriously reinvest” in development aid. He warns that the postwar international order the United States helped build is under serious strain.
  • Steyer harshly criticizes Trump’s America First agenda, arguing that his transactional approach to alliances is isolating and weakening the United States.
  • Warren says Trump has “declared war on the State Department” and pledges to prioritize diplomatic over military approaches. She promises to restore strained relations with U.S. allies. 
  • Yang says he will “rebuild our stature in the world,” work more closely with international institutions, and empower the U.S. diplomatic corps.
The US flag flies over shipping cranes and containers
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
  • Trump has emphasized tax cutting and deregulatory economic policies, which he says have spurred growth, innovation, and employment, even as the budget deficit and national debt have risen.
  • Walsh was elected to Congress on a platform of opposing federal spending and government debt, and he criticizes Trump’s economic policies for increasing the deficit. 
  • Weld defends the tenets of fiscal conservatism and small government, pushing for lower taxes, less government spending, and a reduced national debt. 
  • Bennet’s economic policies focus on addressing stagnant wages and crumbling infrastructure. He argues that critical investments have been neglected in favor of irresponsible tax cuts and foreign wars. 
  • Biden has positioned himself as a champion of the middle class, warning that decreasing economic opportunity and mobility is worsening the polarization and radicalization of American life. He believes that a robust economy enables the United States to lead the world, saying that “economic security is national security.”
  • Bloomberg is a proponent of the free market and balanced budgets, and he has expressed doubt about the tax and spending plans of some other candidates. He calls for investment in infrastructure and job training to boost U.S. competitiveness. 
  • Buttigieg points to increasing inequality and a rising sentiment that globalization, automation, and the gig economy have undermined workers in his argument for more robust prolabor policies. He also calls for intensified financial regulation, antitrust enforcement, and consumer protections. 
  • Delaney speaks often about the effects of automation and globalization on American workers, arguing for national tax, infrastructure, and education policies to help those left behind to better compete.
  • Gabbard’s economic policies center on more strongly regulating Wall Street, protecting consumers, rejecting tax cuts for the wealthy, and other policies that she says would create a more equitable society.
  • Klobuchar criticizes growing monopoly power in the United States, arguing that the government must address this “new gilded age” through stronger antitrust enforcement. She also wants a major federal spending program on infrastructure, higher taxes on corporations and high earners, and stronger financial regulation. 
  • Patrick’s economic vision centers on his “opportunity agenda,” which he says is about “growing the economy out to working people and the marginalized.” He says the current economic moment requires “revolutionary change.”
  • Tackling income inequality has been a cornerstone of Sanders’s political career. He advocates breaking up the nation’s largest banks, more strongly enforcing antitrust rules, more strictly regulating Wall Street and large multinational corporations, and raising taxes on the wealthy.
  • A centerpiece of Steyer’s campaign has been the need to end corporate domination of the U.S. political system, which he says is preventing Washington from achieving any other policy goals. 
  • Warren’s economic plans focus on fighting big businesses, reducing inequality, more strictly regulating finance, and protecting American industry from what she views as unfair foreign trade and investment practices. She calls her approach “economic patriotism” and criticizes large U.S. corporations that have shifted production overseas and the policymakers who support them.
  • Yang’s campaign is centered on his proposal for a universal basic income, which he says is necessary to deal with the massive economic dislocation and unemployment that will be caused by automation and other technologies.
The U.S. border wall with Mexico is seen from the United States in Nogales, Arizona
Adrees Latif/Reuters
  • Immigration is a signature issue for Trump and a major flash point between his administration and its Democratic challengers. Campaigning on a platform of sharply reducing both legal and illegal immigration, he has taken executive action to reshape asylum, deportation, and visa policy. 
  • Walsh’s approach on immigration mirrors Trump’s restrictionist views, but he argues that the president has failed to implement his own policies and has, as a result, deepened the crisis at the U.S. southern border.
  • Weld wants to expand both low- and high-skilled immigration to the United States, which he calls an economic opportunity, and has harshly criticized Trump’s immigration rhetoric as un-American. 
  • Bennet says the United States’ “broken” immigration system “hobbles the economy,” and he favors comprehensive reform that includes a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. He opposes many Trump administration border policies but calls for increased border security.
  • Biden has condemned Trump’s approach to immigrants and asylum seekers, calling it “morally bankrupt” and “racist.” He supports comprehensive immigration reform, and has in the past backed more restrictionist policies. He emphasizes the need to address the root causes of immigration in the countries of origin.
  • Bloomberg is a vocal proponent of increasing immigration, arguing that it boosts growth, job creation, and innovation. He promises to fix the country’s “broken” immigration system, and he backs a comprehensive reform to strengthen border security, legalize undocumented residents, and greatly expand work visas. 
  • Buttigieg criticizes Trump for “demonizing” immigrants, calling instead for allowing more immigrants and asylum seekers—who he says strengthen the country—into the United States, along with “humane” border enforcement. 
  • Delaney touts his own immigrant roots, arguing that immigration is a net positive for the United States. He backs a comprehensive immigration reform deal.
  • Gabbard has criticized many of Trump’s immigration policies, including family separations and child detention, while calling for comprehensive immigration reform. She has split with many other Democratic candidates in calling for stronger border security measures. 
  • Klobuchar denounces what she calls the “hate-filled rhetoric” surrounding immigration issues and argues that immigrants are central to the United States’ economic vitality. She would end many of Trump’s border policies and pursue comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Patrick says that accepting immigrants and refugees is central to American identity, and he advocates for more welcoming policies.
  • Sanders says Trump has used “demonization” of immigrants for political gain and promises to end what he calls the president’s “cruel and inhumane” border policies. Sanders advocates for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
  • Steyer supports comprehensive immigration reform and criticizes Trump’s approach to border security, arguing that the United States must again become a “safe haven” for those fleeing persecution and violence.
  • Warren is critical of Trump’s immigration policies and says they are made possible by a broken immigration system. Her plan for reform of the system would expand legal immigration, welcome more refugees, provide a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized residents, and reform enforcement and detention policies.
  • Yang, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, lauds the dynamism of new arrivals and says the United States must welcome immigration to remain economically competitive. He also says the current system “has broken down” and proposes new border-security measures, along with a pathway to legal recognition for undocumented residents.
A Palestinian protester holds a national flag as another protester throws a stone towards Israeli forces
Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
  • Trump’s approach to the Middle East has been defined by strong support for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, and a more confrontational stance toward Iran. He promises to bring what he calls the “endless wars” in the region to a close and withdraw U.S. troops. 
  • Walsh favors strong ties with Israel and has harshly criticized Islam as well as Muslim states in the Middle East. He has been critical of some U.S. military interventions.
  • Weld has opposed many of the United States’ recent military interventions in the Middle East and he favors diplomacy with Iran.
  • Bennet is a critic of U.S. interventions in the region, especially the 2003 Iraq War, and has advocated for diplomacy with Iran and a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia. 
  • Both as a senator and as vice president, Biden has been deeply engaged in shaping U.S. diplomacy and military policy across the Middle East. As a candidate, he is running on his experience dealing with Iraq, Israel, Syria, Iran, and others in the region.
  • Bloomberg’s views on the Middle East have focused on his close ties to Israel, his ambivalence toward the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, and his support for Saudi Arabia’s modernization efforts.
  • Buttigieg is skeptical of using military force to promote U.S. interests in the region, and says the United States should reorient its policies to prioritize human rights and democratic values. “We can no longer sell out our deepest values for the sake of fossil fuel access,” he argues.
  • Delaney calls himself a strong supporter of Israel and has reservations about the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. He also calls for a return to diplomacy with Iran.
  • Gabbard’s campaign has been centered on the need to avoid “regime change wars” in the Middle East, while also advocating further steps to fight Islamist radicalism. 
  • Klobuchar has advocated for a strong military response to Islamist militant groups such as the Islamic State in Syria and elsewhere, while arguing for diplomacy with Iran, a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses.
  • Patrick promises renewed diplomacy in the Middle East, particularly with Iran. As governor, he pushed for closer relations between Massachusetts and Israel.
  • Sanders has been a staunch opponent of U.S. military interventionism in the Middle East, opposing the use of force in Iraq and Syria and leading the effort to end U.S. involvement in Yemen.
  • Steyer criticizes the Trump administration for playing an overly militaristic role in the Middle East and opposes current U.S. policies toward Israel and Saudi Arabia.
  • Warren has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s policies toward Saudi Arabia and Iran, but she has supported the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region. 
  • Yang supports a less interventionist approach to the Middle East and is cautious about getting involved in its conflicts.
Pedestrians make their way past the portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il displayed in Kim Il Sung square in central Pyongyang
Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images
  • Trump has devoted significant attention to North Korea, launching unprecedented direct negotiations with the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in an attempt to persuade him to end his nuclear program. 
  • Walsh has criticized Trump’s meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, arguing that the president’s approach has emboldened Pyongyang and led to more missile tests.
  • Weld’s statements on North Korea have been critical of Trump for an overly warm relationship with leader Kim Jong-un.
  • Bennet criticizes Trump’s relationship with Kim Jong-un for failing to produce measurable results on denuclearization, and he promises more sober diplomacy.
  • Biden supports diplomacy with Pyongyang, but says that Trump’s talks with Kim Jong-un have been unsuccessful and potentially counterproductive, serving only to “legitimize a dictator.”
  • Bloomberg’s brief comments on North Korea have focused on the need for strong U.S. alliances, which he says Trump has weakened.
  • Buttigieg supports diplomacy with North Korea but criticizes Trump for unrealistic expectations in dealing with Kim Jong-un, knocking the “love letters” he says Trump exchanged with the North Korean leader. Buttigieg argues that denuclearization and peace talks can and should go hand in hand.
  • Delaney supports direct diplomacy with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un with the goal of full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, though he has criticized Trump’s approach.
  • Gabbard has favored direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to try to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program, and she blames a militaristic U.S. foreign policy for making it harder to reach a deal.
  • Klobuchar supports talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with the aim of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but says that Trump’s approach is haphazard and superficial.
  • Patrick promises to seek an end to North Korea’s nuclear program through diplomacy, and is open to partial sanctions relief if the country takes verifiable steps in that direction.
  • Sanders has expressed support for the Trump administration’s recent diplomatic efforts with North Korea, but has said negotiations on denuclearization must involve more than “photo ops.”
  • Steyer’s brief comments on North Korea have expressed skepticism over Trump’s diplomatic efforts with Kim Jong-un.
  • Warren has criticized Trump for what she sees as a lack of strategic direction in talks with North Korea but supports diplomacy to deal with its nuclear weapons program, stressing that there is no possible military solution.
  • Unlike much of the rest of the Democratic field, Yang says he would be willing to negotiate with Kim Jong-un’s government without preconditions in order to lower tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath laying ceremony at the eternal flame of the Mamayev Kurgan memorial complex in the city of Volgograd
Maxim Shemetov/AFP/Getty Images
  • Trump has cultivated cordial relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and dismissed accusations that his campaign cooperated with Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. He has argued for closer cooperation with Russia while also bending to congressional pressure to extend sanctions on Moscow, expanding military aid to Ukraine, and withdrawing from a major U.S.-Russia arms control treaty.
  • Walsh condemns Trump’s warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting that Trump has been compromised and is “a danger to this country” because of his pro-Russia policies.
  • Weld sees Russia as a challenger to the rules-based international order, and argues that Moscow is aiming to redraw its borders to “match those of the former Soviet Union.” He criticizes Trump for “ingratiating” himself with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Bennet has made Russian cyberattacks and disinformation a central theme of his campaign, warning of the continued threat of interference from Moscow and the need for additional countermeasures. 
  • Biden warns that Russia under President Vladimir Putin is “assaulting the foundations of Western democracy” by seeking to weaken NATO, divide the European Union, and undermine the U.S. electoral system. He also warns of Russia using Western financial institutions to launder billions of dollars, money he says is then used to influence politicians.
  • Bloomberg accuses Trump of “coddling” President Vladimir Putin and failing to stand up to him over Russia’s interference in U.S. elections. He argues for stronger measures to counter Russia while also calling for fresh negotiations with Moscow on arms control. 
  • Buttigieg says that Russia is a “disruptive,” “adversarial” force on the world stage, and warns that its form of “oligarchic capitalism” is a major challenge for the United States. He argues that Washington must push back against Russia’s “nationalism, xenophobia, and homophobia,” as well as its intervention in neighboring countries and interference in U.S. elections. 
  • Delaney promises to respond more strongly to what he calls Moscow’s attempts to undermine U.S. democracy and alliances abroad, and he criticizes Trump for “empowering Putin.”
  • Gabbard calls for reducing tensions between the United States and Russia to lessen the chance of nuclear war and to enable cooperation on arms control, terrorism, and other areas of mutual concern. She has also supported sanctions on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine. 
  • Klobuchar says that Russia “invaded our democracy” in 2016 and charges that Trump has failed to protect the United States from the threat. She promises stronger sanctions on Russia and has promoted a suite of policies to strengthen U.S. defenses.
  • Patrick warns against Russia’s attempts to “destabilize democracies” around the world and he promotes a stronger defense of Ukraine. He criticizes what he argues is Trump’s willingness to solicit foreign interference in U.S. elections.
  • Sanders says that Russia exemplifies the global rise of authoritarianism and warns that President Vladimir Putin is trying to undermine liberal democracy in the United States and Europe, but he has also said that Washington should work with Moscow on arms control and other issues.
  • Steyer condemns Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and argues that Trump is hoping to benefit from the same support in 2020.
  • Warren says Russian President Vladimir Putin is using a mix of “nationalism, authoritarianism, and corruption” to try to reshape the global order. While she says the United States must push back, she also highlights the need for Washington to work with Moscow on arms control.
  • Yang calls Russia the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat in the wake of Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Worker cutting steel at a factory in Huaibei in China
AFP/Getty Images
  • Throughout his presidency, Trump has taken aim at a global trading system that he argues is rigged against U.S. interests and responsible for large trade deficits, declining U.S. manufacturing, and the offshoring of American jobs. 
  • Walsh is a longtime advocate of free trade and criticizes Trump’s use of tariffs as economically disastrous. 
  • Weld is a proponent of reducing tariffs and other barriers to international trade, and he opposes Trump’s trade war tactics. He supports U.S. free trade deals and is skeptical of Trump’s attempts to renegotiate them. 
  • Bennet is a vocal critic of Trump’s trade war with China and tariffs on U.S. allies, which he says have hurt the U.S. economy and especially farmers. He has opposed some global trade agreements for lacking protections for workers and the environment.
  • Biden has been a longtime supporter of trade liberalization and a critic of Trump’s tariffs, arguing that Washington should take the lead on creating global trade rules and lowering barriers to commerce worldwide. However, he is also critical of some aspects of trade. 
  • Bloomberg is a vocal defender of global trade and multinational trade deals, and he opposes Trump’s trade war. “International trade plays a vital role in addressing global challenges,” he says. 
  • Buttigieg says that his role as mayor of a rust belt city that has struggled with declining manufacturing allowed him to understand the consequences of global trade policy. He criticizes economic isolationism and says the United States must compete with China for global markets, but that any new trade deals must be better for American workers.
  • Unlike much of the rest of the Democratic field, Delaney champions global trade deals, arguing that they boost the U.S. economy and help strengthen U.S. alliances and global leadership. He says that their downsides should be addressed not with “isolationism” but through domestic investment in jobs and infrastructure.
  • Gabbard is a skeptic of multinational trade deals, which she argues have led to large U.S. job losses, lower wages, and a loss of U.S. sovereignty. She also opposes Trump’s trade war with China. 
  • Klobuchar has often been skeptical of multinational free trade agreements, opposing President Obama’s centerpiece trade deal with the Asia-Pacific. She has also backed tariffs on imported steel, which she says are necessary to protect American producers from unfair trade practices by China and others.
  • Patrick has been a proponent of expanded trade, touting his experience growing his state’s trading relationships and making it more competitive in the global economy.
  • Sanders has for decades been a vocal critic of U.S. trade liberalization efforts, which he says have boosted corporate profits at the expense of American workers and the environment. He seeks to curb the outsourcing of jobs and end tax benefits for companies that move operations abroad. 
  • Steyer opposes Trump’s use of tariffs on both adversaries and allies, arguing that the president “has no strategy,” even as Steyer acknowledges the need to push back against countries that abuse global trade rules.
  • Warren has criticized existing trade deals for favoring corporations, contributing to a decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs, and lowering wage growth. She says that for the benefits of trade liberalization to be more broadly shared, future deals must include more worker representation, stronger labor and environmental enforcement, new antitrust rules, and provisions to crack down on global tax havens. 
  • Yang emphasizes the role of automation and other technological changes, rather than trade, in causing manufacturing job loss, and says that his proposal for universal basic income will help workers hurt by trade to transition to other roles.
A member of the Bolivarian National Guard puts her red beret on during a May Day rally in Caracas
Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images
  • Trump calls the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela a “dictatorship” and recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s head. He decries “corrupt communist and socialist regimes” in the region, especially Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. 
  • Walsh’s views on Latin America have centered on criticizing the policies of leftist governments in the region.
  • Weld urges renewed diplomacy on Venezuela, where the United States has joined most European and South American countries in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the rightful president. He has been involved in policy toward Latin America for several decades.
  • Bennet supports U.S. efforts to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and calls for additional aid and other support for Venezuelans amid the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis. 
  • Biden says that Trump has “taken a wrecking ball to our hemispheric ties,” pointing to his immigration policies and also to what Biden sees as a haphazard approach to the regional crisis in Venezuela, which has created more than three million refugees.
  • Bloomberg has not issued policy proposals regarding Venezuela, where the Trump administration has backed opposition leader Juan Guaido amid a worsening humanitarian crisis.
  • Buttigieg sees opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president, arguing that Nicolas Maduro has “lost the legitimacy to govern.” He says Washington should work with other Latin American countries to isolate the regime, but he opposes military intervention.
  • Delaney supports Trump’s recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela, even while cautioning against U.S. intervention.
  • Gabbard says the United States should not get involved in Venezuela, where the Trump administration has joined most countries in the region in backing opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. 
  • Klobuchar has taken a hard line against the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, backing the opposition and supporting the Trump administration’s attempts to push Maduro out, though she says she wouldn’t use military force at this time. 
  • Patrick calls the political crisis in Venezuela a “calamity” and says it is the result of many years of U.S. failure to build strong alliances in Latin America. As governor, he sought deeper trade and investment ties with countries in the region.
  • Sanders supports U.S. sanctions against the regime of President Nicolas Maduro, but he has been critical of Trump’s support for the opposition.
  • Steyer has not taken a position on the economic and political crisis in Venezuela, and he has made few comments on U.S. policy elsewhere in the region.
  • Warren supports the Venezuelan opposition but opposes using the U.S. military to topple the current regime, citing the troubling history of U.S.-led regime change in the hemisphere.
  • Yang says that the United States should work with allies to press Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down, but he opposes military action.