How did the Presidential Debate Address U.S. National Security Issues? Not well.

By Dave Pitts, Former Assistant Director of CIA for South and Central Asia

Pitts is a senior national security executive with over four decades of experience ranging from counterterrorism and special operations to regional and global affairs. Pitts served as the Assistant Director of CIA for South and Central Asia and was responsible for all CIA activities and engagement across South and Central Asia and for policy coordination in Washington.

OPINIONThe Cipher Brief tapped expert Dave Pitts for his reaction to Thursday night’s debate from a national security perspective.

“To the original national security questions, the debate was light on real foreign policy and national security issues and discussions. But to the one national security issue that was discussed, there was nothing really new on the question of continued support to Ukraine, although the debate highlighted stark differences in approach to foreign policy.

Both candidates stated that Putin’s terms for ending the war were unacceptable, but the agreements stopped there.

President Biden upheld his position of strong, continued support to Ukraine, intent for a strong NATO, and his commitment that Putin could not be allowed to continue his aggression.


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Former President Trump also upheld his previously stated position that the Russian invasion would not have happened under his Presidency, that NATO was not doing enough, that the U.S was spending too much money in Ukraine, and that he would end the Russia-Ukraine War before he took office, if elected.

Although other Republican leaders have expressed strong support for Ukraine, this potential conflict within the Republican Party on how to approach the Russia-Ukraine War, if there is a change in Administration, could embolden Putin, confuse our allies, and weaken Ukraine in the process.

Based on this debate, certainly Ukraine, NATO, Russia, China, and other countries will anticipate a change in the U.S position on Ukraine and on other foreign policy issues if there is a new administration. Of course, there is a lot to time before the election and things can change, so stay tuned.”

The Cipher Brief is committed to publishing a range of perspectives on national security issues submitted by deeply experienced national security professionals. 

Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent the views or opinions of The Cipher Brief.

Have a perspective to share based on your experience in the national security field?  Send it to [email protected] for publication consideration.

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