In the old days, many people didn’t view mayors as paragons of foreign policy, but that is changing. Many mayors are 21st century diplomats — working on problems with global consequences like climate change, immigration, terrorism and trade.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg has officially entered the 2020 Democratic presidential race — joining Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Mayors Cory Booker and Julián Castro in their quests for the White House. This is the right time to ask: What kind of foreign policy agenda would the billionaire bring? He’s pushed for addressing climate change as a national security threat, but what other global positions might he take?
Russia-Ukraine: Bloomberg is a realist and believes in U.S. engagement, and would defend Ukraine’s independence, recognizing the destabilizing power of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has said he understands the President Donald Trump-Ukraine controversy needed to be investigated because it may involve foreign interference in U.S. elections, and now says he would vote for impeachment. Still, he has said that the best way to beat Trump is at the ballot box, calling Trump an “existential threat” to America.
NATO: Count on Bloomberg to support the alliance. Europeans are likely to find him eager to engage and to speak their trade language. He is an internationalist, and he understands how markets move. He would be pro-trade. His strongest criticism on trade has been leveled against Democratic 2020 rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren, likening her wealth tax and corporate stance to something found in Venezuela. He has even suggested her tax policy would be unconstitutional.
China: Bloomberg argued against the U.S.-China trade war, but some say he’s not tough enough on Beijing.
Iran/North Korea: Bloomberg has indicated he supports diplomacy over military engagement in these places. For instance, he has said he would encourage Iran to engage in diplomacy to disarm its nuclear program.
Afghanistan: Bloomberg has said he would keep troops there, but he has not advocated for boots on the ground in Syria. Still, he has not been tested recently on these issues.
Immigration: Bloomberg understands the value of immigration and likely would not spend money on walls. He is also a centrist and likely would advocate for strong background checks.
Foreign aid/defense spending: Bloomberg has said he would decrease foreign aid until the deficit is down and increase military spending — also with an eye on the deficit.
Foreign policy is traditionally not high on voter priorities, but Ukraine and the impeachment hearings might change that in 2020. We have many mayors in the race. It’s a matter of whether voters bet on any of them.
Tara D. Sonenshine, who served as U.S. under secretary of state in the Obama administration, advises students at The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.