From left to right: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders.

2020 US Presidential Candidates on Russia: What Have They Said So Far?

March 17, 2020
Daniel Shapiro, Thomas Schaffner and Angelina Flood

NB: This post was originally published May 23, 2019. Candidates who have dropped out of the presidential race since then have been marked with an asterisk and their comments have been moved to the bottom of the section. Latest updates marked “NEW.”

A crowded field of candidates has sought to challenge Donald Trump in the 2020 American presidential election: In May 2019, 23 Democrats and two Republicans, including the incumbent, had announced their candidacy. As of March 2020, with nearly half of the delegates allocated, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) remain in the race, along with the single Republican challenger to Trump, former Mass. Gov. Bill Weld.

On topics most pertinent to the U.S.-Russia relationship, such as arms control, cyber issues and the role of NATO, these contenders overwhelmingly agree. For example, the democratic candidates unanimously agree that the U.S. should regard Russia as an adversary “or even an enemy” if Russia continues on its current course in Ukraine and other post-Soviet states, and that Russia must return Crimea to Ukraine in order to regain membership in the G-7. Many of the candidates also agree that it is crucial for the U.S. to preserve bilateral arms control treaties with Russia, like New START. On some points the candidates differ, including in their views on NATO defense spending levels and the continuation of personal diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Below is a sampling of the candidates’ views as expressed since Trump’s election in November 2016, not an exhaustive record. The quotes are divided into categories similar to those in Russia Matters’ news and analysis digests. The current president’s views on Russia are not included here, but were published in an earlier compilation

I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:Yet nuclear weapons—the proliferation of this deadly knowledge to more nations, and the possibility of a terrorist obtaining nuclear materials—remain among our most pressing security challenges.  Even one nuclear bomb can still cause hideous damage.” (Remarks, 01.12.17) 
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.): [W]e have 11 countries, 12 countries around the world with nuclear weapons?  … I think we have got to, once again, be very vigorous in trying to put forward nuclear bans and do everything we can to get those weapons out of the hands of countries all over the world. (New York Times, 01.13.20)
  • Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren* (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris*, Cory Booker* (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand* (D-N.Y.) writing in response to the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review: “Our review reportedly pays only superficial attention to the substantial threat posed by nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation. These efforts are just as important as deterring existing nuclear weapons states.” (Letter to President Trump, 01.29.18)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs: 

  • Joe Biden: “I would work with our allies and partners to prevent North Korea's proliferation of nuclear weapons to bad actors; set the right formula of sanctions enforcement and sanctions relief; and make it harder for Kim to continue on his belligerent path, while making credible efforts to offer an alternative vision for a nonnuclear future to Kim and the people of North Korea. … I would be willing to meet with Kim—not to pursue a vanity project like Trump, but as part of an actual strategy that moves the ball forward on denuclearization.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Joe Biden: “With North Korea, I will empower our negotiators and jump-start a sustained, coordinated campaign with our allies and others, including China, to advance our shared objective of a denuclearized North Korea. (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Joe Biden: “Are we a nation that embraces dictators and tyrants like Putin and Kim Jong Un?” (Newsweek, 05.21.19)
  • Bernie Sanders: “Peace and nuclear disarmament must proceed in parallel, in close consultations with our South Korean ally. I will work to negotiate a step-by-step process to roll back North Korea's nuclear program, build a new peace and security regime on the peninsula and work toward the eventual elimination of all North Korean nuclear weapons.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Bernie Sanders: “If North Korea continues to refuse to negotiate seriously, we should look for ways to tighten international sanctions. This will involve working closely with other countries, particularly China, on whom North Korea relies for some 80 percent of its trade. But we should also continue to make clear that this is a shared problem, … to be solved … by the international community working together.” (Speech at Westminster College, 09.21.17)
  • Sens. Sanders, Warren* and Harris* signed a February 2018 letter to Trump, along with 15 other senators, saying he lacks the “legal authority” to carry out a preemptive strike on North Korea. (The Washington Post, 02.05.19)


  • Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg* (statement): “North Korea’s total denuclearization should remain the ultimate goal of the U.S. … Negotiations with North Korea’s leadership, including with its dictator, Kim Jong-un, should involve our Asian allies (Japan and South Korea), along with China and Russia.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Former Mayor of South Bend, Ind. Pete Buttigieg*: “I would support an initial freeze agreement that would have North Korea cease production of fissile material and end nuclear and missile testing, all verified by international inspectors, in exchange for targeted sanctions relief, which could be reversed if the North Koreans did not uphold their end of the bargain.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: “Until we can change the present dynamic—until there are good-faith and verifiable reversals in North Korea’s nuclear program—sanctions must remain in place.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: “We have to accept that denuclearization will not happen overnight and will require a sustained, step-by-step approach spanning a significant number of years. … I believe the most realistic way to get there is a framework for complete, verifiable denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula that is comprehensive in scope, with steps on both fronts implemented step-by-step and in tandem.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar* (D-Minn.) [statement]: “We need to work with our allies to make clear to Kim Jong-un that further development of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs will only lead to further economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. … Sen. Klobuchar is prepared to offer incentives for positive actions, but these must be tied directly to verifiable and irreversible steps toward denuclearization. She believes these specific issues need to be addressed through negotiations.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Hedge fund executive Tom Steyer*: “The United States should work with China, Japan, Russia and South Korea to ensure that the Kim regime is not a threat to global security. Our country should engage diplomatically with North Korea without preconditions at the staff level and insist upon independent verification, in concert with the global community, of North Korea's nuclear weapons and production capability.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren* (D-Mass.): “[W]e should consider strengthening them [sanctions] in the event of serious North Korean provocations, such as nuclear or long-range missile tests. At the same time, with verifiable steps in denuclearization, we should be prepared to negotiate appropriate sanctions relief.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “As a first step, I would be prepared, in consultation with our allies and partners, to consider partial, time-limited sanctions relief and other confidence-building measures in exchange for a strong, verifiable agreement that freezes North Korea's nuclear and missile activities.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “Our goal should be the full elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and peace on the Korean Peninsula. … As a first step, and in coordination with our partners and allies, I would seek a strong, verifiable agreement that keeps North Korea from expanding its nuclear or missile arsenal or proliferating to other countries. An interim agreement would open the door to negotiations to reduce North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and ballistic missiles, control conventional weapons and address the regime’s crimes against humanity.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “I agree with our senior military officials that there is no military-only solution to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and I was glad to see President Trump embrace diplomacy earlier this month. … I support talking to our adversaries, but we should be skeptical that he [Kim Jong Un] is negotiating in good faith and is willing to halt his nuclear expansion even as he snatches the trophy of a picture with an American president.” (Boston Globe op-ed, 03.25.18)
  • Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke* (D-Texas): “I want to make sure that we have effective negotiations [with North Korea, as with Iran during the Obama administration].” (Town Hall, 05.22.19, 2:30)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Joe Biden: “Tehran must return to strict compliance with the deal. But if they do so, I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Joe Biden: Today’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is a profound mistake. It will isolate the United States from nearly every major world power. It will weaken our credibility and global leadership. It will allow Iran to garner international sympathy while doing nothing to reduce its harmful activities across the Middle East.” (Facebook, 05.08.18)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: “The Iran deal is far from perfect, and it falls far short of reconciling the enormous differences and innumerable grievances between the United States and Iran, but the Iran nuclear deal was about preventing Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon and preventing an all-out war with Iran—which is exactly what it has done. … [B]acking out of the deal will likely cause Iran to restart its nuclear weapons program, and will spark a nuclear arms race across the region. … Pulling out of this agreement now will achieve nothing for the U.S.” (The Hill, 10.12.17)
  • Bernie Sanders [statement]: “Bernie would re-enter the deal with no new preconditions, provided Iran is also meeting its commitments. He would then pursue wider talks to resolve issues of ballistic missiles, support for terrorist groups and human rights.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Bernie Sanders: “President Trump has signaled his intention to walk away from it [the Iran Deal] … regardless of the evidence that it is working. That would be a mistake. Not only would this potentially free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program, it would irreparably harm America’s ability to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements.” (Speech at Westminster College, 09.21.17)


  • Michael Bloomberg*: “I would re-enter the [Iran nuclear] deal with no new preconditions.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Cory Booker*: “The President’s decision [to leave the Iran Deal] puts the U.S. in default of our commitments to the international community and our closest allies. It jeopardizes the ability of the IAEA to keep inspectors on the ground in Iran and maintain continuous monitoring of Iranian nuclear sites, putting the security of our allies, including Israel, at risk. And it is an unequivocal blow to our friends and a gift to our adversaries, moving the United States further down a path of isolation and retreat and adding further instability to the Middle East.” (Press Release, 05.08.18)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: “I would re-enter the [Iran nuclear] deal with no new preconditions.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: “Our security depends on ensuring that Iran does not become nuclear. And by the way, we've got a lot of other challenges with nuclear proliferation around the world.” (January democratic debate transcript, 01.14.20)
  • Former HUD secretary Julian Castro*: “The Iran Nuclear Agreement was a landmark achievement that prevented a nuclear-armed Iran for more than 3 years. If Iran continues to comply with the terms of the agreement as determined by the intelligence community, I will re-enter the U.S. into the #JCPOA as President.” (Twitter, 03.20.19)
  • Kamala Harris*: “Today’s decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal jeopardizes our national security and isolates us from our closest allies. This nuclear deal is not perfect, but it is certainly the best existing tool we have to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and avoid a disastrous military conflict in the Middle East.” (Statement, 05.08.18)
  • Amy Klobuchar* [statement]: “Sen. Klobuchar has made one of her major foreign policy priorities returning to the Iran nuclear agreement while working with the other parties, the U.N. and the IAEA, to strengthen the terms and conditions. … [S]he would push to extend the sunset provisions for caps on Iran’s enrichment levels and capabilities.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Beto O’Rourke*: “Although the Iran Deal is not perfection, it is a critical international effort to ensure Iran doesn't acquire nuclear weapons. The United States of America should not be giving up on diplomacy.” (Twitter, 05.08.18)
  • Tom Steyer*: “As of Jan. 9, 2020, I would re-enter the deal with no preconditions. However, because this is a rapidly evolving situation, I would reconsider given geopolitical developments.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “I would re-enter the [Iran nuclear] deal with no new preconditions.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)

New Cold War/competition among great powers:

  • Joe Biden [on whether or not he agrees with the Trump administration’s decision to shift foreign policy focus from the Middle East to ‘revisionist’ superpowers Russia and China]: “Yes, but Russia and China pose different types of threats, and there are a number of other important priorities, including climate change, nuclear proliferation, ensuring that the global economy works for the American middle class, and contending with the challenges posed by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)


  • Michael Bloomberg* [on whether or not he agrees with the Trump administration’s decision to shift foreign policy focus from the Middle East to ‘revisionist’ superpowers Russia and China]: “Yes. The United States, over the long term, should gradually shift diplomacy and military forces to those areas of greatest importance, including to address changes in the regional and global balance of power.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Pete Buttigieg* [on whether or not he agrees with the Trump administration’s decision to shift foreign policy focus from the Middle East to ‘revisionist’ superpowers Russia and China]: “This is not a zero-sum choice. We must focus on both. China and Russia pose distinct but increasingly coordinated threats to our democratic values, security and prosperity. We must focus on repairing our democracy and reinvesting in our economic and technological competitiveness … while countering authoritarian oppression; realigning national security investments to reflect Chinese and Russian military modernization and full-spectrum statecraft.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Amy Klobuchar* [statement]: “Sen. Klobuchar disagrees with the premise of the question that President Trump has a strategy to shift focus away from the Middle East or to effectively stand up to Russia and China. … [H]is dismissal of Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and his failed trade war with China have emboldened these two major powers.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “Both China and Russia have invested heavily in their militaries and other tools of national power. Both hope to shape spheres of influence in their own image and ultimately remake the global order to suit their own priorities. But confronting this challenge is not solely or even primarily a question of military competition, nor should the United States seek a military conflict that would be devastating for all involved.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)

  • Rep. Seth Moulton* (D-Mass.): “Today we face great power competition from two adversaries like we haven’t seen since the lead-up to World War II. And we run the risk of being entirely leapfrogged by China and Russia with new technologies.” (Speech at Brookings Institute, 02.12.19, 9:24)
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell* (D-Calif.): “Reversing the thaw in the post-Cold War era, in recent years, Russia has worked against American values repeatedly and overtly.” (Official Website)

NATO-Russia relations:

  • Joe Biden: “NATO isn't an extortion racket where you pay up or you don't get protection. It's an alliance of nations with shared values and interests.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Joe Biden: “As president, I will do more than just restore our historic partnerships; I will lead the effort to reimagine them for the world we face today. The Kremlin fears a strong NATO, the most effective political-military alliance in modern history. To counter Russian aggression, we must keep the alliance’s military capabilities sharp while also expanding its capacity to take on nontraditional threats, such as weaponized corruption, disinformation and cybertheft. We must impose real costs on Russia for its violations of international norms and stand with Russian civil society, which has bravely stood up time and again against President Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic authoritarian system.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Joe Biden: “Look what Putin is doing in Europe. Putin is--his whole effort is to break up NATO, to increase his power.” (Democratic debate transcript, 11.21.19)
  • Joe Biden: “Putin's ultimate goal, in my view, is the dissolution of NATO and the European Union rather than the re-establishment of the Soviet Union. He would rather deal with individual nations he can try to strong-arm than a unified, democratic West." (Speech at Chatham House, 10.10.18, 9:14)
  • Joe Biden: “The Kremlin would like nothing more than for Western leaders to declare NATO obsolete and cut investments in collective defense. Given Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine, NATO must continue to forward-deploy troops and military capabilities to eastern Europe to deter and, if necessary, defeat a Russian attack against one of the alliance’s member states.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)


  • Michael Bloomberg* [statement]: “Mike would like NATO allies to provide considerably more than 2 percent for their own defense in the context of equitable trans-Atlantic burden sharing. … However, Mike is also realistic, and most allies do not currently even meet the 2 percent goal. So, his immediate priority would be to boost every NATO member’s defense spending to 2 percent, and then to concentrate on raising that percentage over time.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  •  Elizabeth Warren*: “NATO is not a protection racket; it is an alliance. NATO members made a commitment in Article 5 to come to each other’s aid if attacked—our allies came to our defense after 9/11, and if needed we will do the same. NATO is the most successful military alliance in history because of this shared commitment, and because it is built on shared burdens and shared values.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “I do think that the Europeans need to bear a significant share of the cost of defense of Europe. I don’t think that hectoring or embarrassing them is a way to get there. I think we get there by talking about the ways that work best for them on the ground, but I do think it’s important. It’s an important partnership, and it should be a partnership.” (New York Times, 01.14.20)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand*: “Equally important is the message this bill [on sanctions against Russia and Iran] sends to our NATO allies – that this alliance is built on a commitment to each other’s security, and just as NATO came to our defense after 9/11, we will always be there for our NATO allies.” (Statement, 06.15.17)
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang*: “I would say [to Vladimir Putin] that we're going to live up to our international commitments. We're going to recommit to our partnerships and alliances, including NATO. And it was James Mattis that said that the more you invest in diplomats and diplomacy, the less you have to spend on ammunition. That has to be the path forward to help build an international consensus not just against Russia, but also to build a coalition that will help us put pressure on China.” (Democratic debate transcript, 11.21.19)

Nuclear arms control:

  • NEW. Joe Biden: "We may have to work out--for example, I was able to help negotiate a New START agreement with Russia, not because I like Putin. The guy's a thug.” (The Pavlovic Today, 03.15.20)
  • Joe Biden: “On nonproliferation and nuclear security, the United States cannot be a credible voice while it is abandoning the deals it negotiated. From Iran to North Korea, Russia to Saudi Arabia, Trump has made the prospect of nuclear proliferation, a new nuclear arms race and even the use of nuclear weapons more likely. As president, I will renew our commitment to arms control for a new era.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Joe Biden: “I will … pursue an extension of the New START treaty, an anchor of strategic stability between the United States and Russia, and use that as a foundation for new arms control arrangements. And I will take other steps to demonstrate our commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons. As I said in 2017, I believe that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and, if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Joe Biden [recalling his participation in arms control talks in 1979]: The Soviets wanted a deal with us not because they trusted us, but because they didn’t. It is precisely because we do not trust our adversaries that treaties to constrain the human capacity for destruction are indispensable to the security of the United States of America.” (Prepared Remarks, 01.11.17)
  • Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren*, Kamala Harris*, Cory Booker*, Amy Klobuchar* and Kirsten Gillibrand* to Donald Trump: “Your administration’s efforts to double down on new, unnecessary nuclear weapons while scrapping mutually beneficial treaties risks the United States sliding into another arms race with Russia and erodes U.S. nonproliferation efforts around the world. … A collapse of the INF Treaty and failure to renew New START would lead to the absence of verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s. … Abandoning the Treaty would free Russia to expand its capacity to directly threaten the entire U.S. homeland.” (Letter to President Trump, 12.12.18)
  • Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren*, Kamala Harris*, Cory Booker* and Kirsten Gillibrand* writing in response to the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review: “Your purported plans to develop new, more usable low-yield nuclear weapons and reintroduce Cold War-era weapons systems are unnecessary to maintain deterrence and are destabilizing. Further, your reported decision to expand the conditions under which the United States might use its nuclear weapons, including to respond to a broadened range of non-nuclear attacks, is equally disturbing. (Letter to President Trump, 01.29.18)


  • Michael Bloomberg*: “There is … one opportunity for productive engagement: Putin’s desire to extend the New START nuclear weapons treaty, set to expire in 2021. The agreement … has flaws, but nonproliferation pacts are generally in the interests of the U.S. because our conventional military is unmatched.” (Bloomberg, 07.15.18)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: “Despite this president's coziness with Vladimir Putin, we actually seem to be further away from being able to work with Russia on things like the renewal of START. We've got to move toward less, not more nuclear danger, whether it is from states, from stateless potential terrorist actors, or anywhere else around the world.” (January democratic debate transcript, 01.14.20)
  • Amy Klobuchar*: “The Russian nuclear agreements are very, very important, and [President Trump] precipitously got us out of one in the last year, which he shouldn’t have done. And now the New START one will be coming up in the first few months of a new president’s term. Putin has recently made some statements on that, but I think that would be a high priority for me for negotiations.” (New York Times, 01.15.20)
  • Amy Klobuchar*: “When we look at international agreements, we must start negotiating back with Russia, which has been a horrible player on the international scene, but the president precipitously got out of the nuclear agreement with Russia and we must start negotiating, even though they were cheating, for the good of this world. And we must also start the negotiations for the New START Treaty.” (Democratic debate transcript, 11.21.19)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “I have argued for a long time that we need not to expand our nuclear arsenal, and that is the direction the Trump administration has been taking us.” (New York Times, 01.14.20)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “He [Trump] promised to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, but he has undermined a successful nuclear deal with Iran, has failed to roll back the North Korean nuclear program, and seems intent on spurring a new nuclear arms race with Russia.” (Foreign Affairs, 11.29.18)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “First the Trump administration withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear (INF) Forces Treaty, and now they are about to let our last major arms control agreement expire… New START has made the United States and the world safer by reducing the chances of nuclear war, and if President Trump won’t protect it, Congress will.”  (Press Release, 05.02.19)


  • Joe Biden: “As I have long argued, we should bring the vast majority of our troops home from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East and narrowly define our mission as defeating al Qaeda and the Islamic State (or ISIS). We should also end our support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: “It is critical that we remain willing to ally with Russia, Syrian forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and any other forces that are willing to fight against our common enemy.” (Campaign Website)
  • Bernie Sanders: “18 years. $6 trillion spent. Thousands of lives lost in the War on Terror. We need a serious national discussion over how and when our country uses its military. I hope Congress’ historic vote on Yemen this week will begin that process.” (Twitter, 04.05.19)
  • Bernie Sanders: “I want to be clear: Terrorism is a very real threat, as we learned so tragically on September 11, 2001, and many other countries knew already too well. But I also want to be clear about something else: As an organizing framework, the Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership. Orienting U.S. national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on earth. It responds to terrorists by giving them exactly what they want.” (Speech at Westminster College, 09.21.17)


  • Cory Booker* (on the Trump administration’s bid to redirect $230 million in funding for stabilization efforts in Syria): “This decision will undermine the gains the United States has made and continues to make against ISIS, empower our adversaries, and threaten stability in both Syria and Iraq. … [C]utting all of our stabilization funding sends an unmistakable message: The U.S. is taking a backseat to Iran, Russia and the Syrian regime in the Middle East.” (Statement, 10.03.18)
  • Amy Klobuchar*: “It is critical that we continue our efforts to track and cut off the financial resources of terrorist groups. … We need strong programs that work with our communities to counter violent extremism and prevent recruitment by militant groups seeking to exploit our citizens.” (Senate website)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “Just like the hateful terrorism of Al Qaeda and ISIS, domestic right-wing terrorism is completely incompatible with our American values. It is a threat to American safety and security, and we must not tolerate it in the United States of America.” (Facebook, 12.11.18)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Joe Biden: “What is happening in Iraq is going to—I mean, excuse me, in Afghanistan, as well as all the way over to Syria, we have ISIS that's going to come here. They are going to, in fact, damage the United States of America. That's why we got involved in the first place and not ceded the whole area to Assad and to the Russians.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Former Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts: “I’m not interventionist in either Afghanistan or Syria.” (Interview with Rolling Stone, 04.15.19)


  • Michael Bloomberg*: “[A]ny Russian promise to push Assad toward peaceful reconciliation would be empty. Moscow is once again backing Syrian government atrocities against civilians.” (Bloomberg, 07.15.18)
  • Cory Booker*: “As repulsive as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is, an American-backed attempt to prevent it from re-establishing control over Syrian territory … would embroil the United States in a new prolonged, bloody and increasingly complicated conflict.” (New York Times, 01.23.18)
  • Julian Castro*: “I think that many folks recognize that it was time for us to pull out of Syria. However, here's the thing. Once you're there, you have to make sure that you have a plan for your operations there and, also, for your withdrawal. So I'm not a big fan of the commitments America has made, over these last 15 years, whether it was the Iraq War or this commitment.” (NBC/Meet the Press, 12.23.18)
  • Kamala Harris*: “"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad viciously attacked innocent civilians, including scores of children, who suffocated to death from chemical weapons. This attack reinforces the clear fact that President Assad is not only a ruthless dictator brutalizing his own people—he is a war criminal the international community cannot ignore. President Trump must consult with Congress to address the Administration's lack of clear objectives in Syria and articulate a detailed strategy and path forward in partnership with our allies.” (Statement, 04.06.17)
  • Amy Klobuchar*: “In Syria, I would not have removed the 150 troops from the border with Turkey. I think that was a mistake. I think it made our allies and many others much more vulnerable to ISIS. And then when it comes to Iraq, right now, I would leave our troops there, despite the mess that has been created by Donald Trump.”  (January democratic debate transcript, 01.14.20)
  • Amy Klobuchar*: “I'd like to hear from him [Trump] about how leaving the Kurds for slaughter, our allies for slaughter, where Russia then steps in to protect them, how that makes America great again.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)

Cyber security:

  • Joe Biden: “Deterring malicious cyber activities directed against the United States is an important component of a comprehensive cyber strategy. However, engaging with adversaries in cyberspace can have unintended consequences outside of the cyber domain. As such, I would ensure that the strategy of ‘persistent engagement’ undergoes appropriate review.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)


  • Cory Booker*: “More important than building his [Trump’s] wall is making sure that we have strong cyber defense because China, Russia—they cannot match us tank for tank or battleship for battleship, but they're fighting us now on the field of cyberattacks unless we fight back.” (NPR, 01.31.18)
  • Former Rep. John Delaney* (D-Maryland): “We need to do more as a nation to prepare for one of the biggest threats we face in this age of technology: cyberwarfare. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents need to work together and take commonsense measures to secure our cyber infrastructure so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of 2016.” (Delaney for President, 12.17, 18)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand*: “If we don't learn from Russia's cyber attacks on our election in 2016, they'll do it again. And we can't depend on President Trump to stop them.” (Facebook, 04.23.19)
  • Kamala Harris*: “[W]e must act urgently to bolster our country’s defenses like our election infrastructure and cybersecurity, a bipartisan issue that we have been working on in a bipartisan way.” (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 08.01.18)
  • Former Gov. John Hickenlooper* of Colorado [on whether or not Vladimir Putin was “framed” for hacking]: “In this day and age, especially in cyber security, almost anything is possible… [T]he level of sophistication by which all the actors can create mischief is something that even three years ago I wouldn’t have thought was possible. Yeah, it's conceivable he was framed but very, very unlikely … at this level. These guys have such sophisticated techniques where they can evaluate who did what and from which computers did it originate, very hard to frame something like this, almost unimaginable." (Interview on Fox News radio, 06.06.17, 01:01)
  • Amy Klobuchar*: “[S]anctions alone will not stop Russian cyberattacks. Congress must act immediately to protect our country from future attacks by securing our election systems and increasing transparency and disclosure requirements for online political advertisements. Failure to do so emboldens Russia and puts our democracy at risk.” (Statement, 06.11.18)
  • Tom Steyer*: “We need to initiate negotiations around a global cybersecurity treaty. Deployment of American code, or other forms of cyber warfare, risk the grave threat of escalation in an environment where digital tools are new and untested. It is urgent that we address these potential threats in a coordinated manner.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Tom Steyer*: “I have a different opinion about Russia obviously than Mr. Trump. … [T]hey hacked our election, they hacked Brexit, they’re attacking democracy around the world. In the 21st century, people think that warfare is going to be people pulling up their gun ships and shelling Washington, D.C. I don’t think so. I think cyberwarfare is warfare.” (New York Times, 01.13.20)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “Cyber attacks pose an urgent threat to our democracy and our prosperity, and the Trump administration has not yet produced an adequate solution to address, for example, Russia’s ongoing cyber-enabled interference with our elections or China’s campaigns to steal data that is critical to Americans’ safety and prosperity and to our national defense.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Andrew Yang*: “I want to propose a new world data organization, like a WTO for data, because right now, unfortunately, we're living in a world where data is the new oil and we don't have our arms around it. These are the ways that we'll actually get Russia to the table and make it so they have to join the international community and stop resisting appeals to the world order.” (Democratic debate transcript, 11.21.19)
  • Andrew Yang* (on elections interference): “In this one I actually feel a little bit for the tech companies, because it’s very difficult for the tech companies to protect this. Almost impossible.” (Interview with Joe Rogan, 02.12.19, 1:48:02)

Elections interference:

  • Joe Biden: “The fact of the matter is, you have Russia influencing and trying to break up NATO. What does the president do? He says, ‘I believe Vladimir Putin. I believe Vladimir Putin. I don't believe our intelligence community.’” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Joe Biden: “Foreign election interference is not only a serious threat to our democratic institutions, I believe it's a threat to our national security." (Munich Security Conference/RFE/RL, 02.16.19)
  • Joe Biden: “Russia … has taken similar steps to sway political campaigns in a wide range of European countries, including for referendums in the Netherlands (on Ukraine’s integration with Europe), Italy (on governance reforms), and Spain (on Catalonia’s secession). … Further down the road, the U.S. midterm elections in 2018 and the presidential election in 2020 will present fresh opportunities for Russian meddling.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18) 
  • Joe Biden: "With many countries in Europe slated to hold elections this year, we should expect further attempts by Russia to meddle in the democratic process. It will occur again, I promise you. And again the purpose is clear: to collapse the liberal international order." (Speech, 01.18.17)
  • Bernie Sanders: “All of us remember 2016, and what we remember is efforts by Russians and others to try to interfere in our election and divide us up.” (NBC, 02.19.20)
  • Bernie Sanders: “Facebook and other tech companies have become so powerful and so greedy that they seem willing to allow foreign powers like Russia continue to meddle in our elections so long as it helps their bottom line.”  (Twitter, 01.14.20)
  • Bernie Sanders: “What the Russians did in the 2016 election cycle deserves unconditional condemnation. That includes all of their conduct—whether it was active support of any candidate or active opposition to any candidate.” (Twitter, 02.21.18)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: “One thing we do know about Russia's ads is that they were part of an effort to create division, fighting, partisanship, conflict, and fear.” (Twitter, 10.11.17)


  • Sen. Michael Bennet* (D-Colo.): “[A]t this point it's obvious and clear to almost everybody who's observing this that the Russians were working hard to figure out how to elect Donald Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton, and made us vulnerable to their dastardly tactics. And we need to make sure that doesn't happen again in 2020.” (WBUR, 01.25.19)
  • Michael Bloomberg*: “The threat of foreign meddling in U.S. elections has increased, it must not be tolerated or abetted, and campaigns must be held accountable for assisting in policing this national security imperative.” (Council on Foreign Relations, 01.23.20)
  • Michael Bloomberg*: “It's deeply disturbing that the Attorney General is more concerned with protecting the president than protecting our country from Russia.” (Twitter, 12.09.19)
  • Cory Booker*: “What all this investigation comes from—stems from—is the Russians’ involvement in undermining a critical element of our democracy, which is our electoral process. So this is a Paul Revere moment, and it’s not the British that are coming, it is the Russians now that are coming, and we know in a bipartisan consensus, we know that they have already come and what they have been trying to do. And so we need to make sure that we have a thorough investigation that’s independent, done with integrity, into what the Russians have done because it has profound implications for what they will do and how we plan to stop it in future elections.” (Facebook, 05.17.17, 02:17)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: "Russia throws its weight around abroad. Most egregiously of course, their unacceptable interference in our elections which weakened America both by helping to elect an unstable administration and by eroding confidence in our democracy itself. We must be ready to deter such behavior in the future—through diplomatic, economic, and even cyber tools and information operations." (Speech at Indiana University Auditorium, 06.11.19)
  • Julian Castro*: “Far from exonerating anyone, the Special Counsel report exposes disgraceful behavior by Donald Trump and his inner circle—both in seeking assistance from Russia & attempting to cover it up. Mueller should testify and Congress should investigate charges of obstruction of justice.” (Twitter, 04.18.19)
  • John Delaney*: “I wouldn't believe Vladimir Putin just because he said he didn't do it, which is what the current president is doing … I would believe our intelligence agencies. I would make it clear to Russia that we have a zero tolerance policy as it relates to them interfering in our elections.” (CNN Town Hall Meeting, 03.10.19)
  • Kamala Harris*: “We need to … upgrade the elections infrastructure, knowing that Russia needs to be held accountable for the fact that they interfered in the election of the president of the United States and will attempt to do it again.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Kamala Harris*: “Russia was able to influence our election because they figured out that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and transphobia are America’s Achilles heel. These issues aren’t only civil rights — they’re also a matter of national security. We have to deal with that.” (Twitter, 02.05.19)
  • Kamala Harris*: “I think we're all clear that Russia attacked our country during the 2016 election and that they are continuing to attack us today. Russia not only attacked one of our most sacred democratic values, which is a free and fair election, but also, I believe, our very American identity. … [T]hey manipulated us and they are an adversary and they provoked us and they tried to turn us against each other.” (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 08.01.18)
  • Amy Klobuchar*: “I don't see a moral equivalency between our country and Russia. Vladimir Putin is someone who has shot down planes over Ukraine, who has poisoned his opponent, and we have not talked about what we need to do to protect ourselves from Russia invading our election. … So to protect ourselves in 2020, … we need … backup paper ballots in every single state.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Gov. Jay Inslee* of Washington State: “Because of some infatuation with Vladimir Putin, the president of the United States refuses to recognize that we’re under attack. It’s like December 8, 1941, and Franklin Roosevelt getting up there and saying, ‘yesterday nothing happened.’” (AP, 02.25.18)
  • Beto O’Rourke*: “We must be unafraid in ensuring that we hold Russia accountable for invading the world's greatest democracy and being able to do it thanks to Donald Trump functionally with impunity so far, so much so that they are invading this democracy right now as we speak, still at the invitation of this president. So if there are not consequences, we will continue to see this problem going forward. … To answer the previous question that you asked, how do we stand up to Russia on the global stage, we do that by renewing our alliances and our friendships. That is what makes America stronger.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “And it is time to be clear what we believe: that no foreign power, and especially not Russia, gets to launch an assault on our democracy without any investigation or any consequences. ... We believe in equal justice under the law, and we’re ready to fight for it.” (Speech at Center for American Progress Ideas Conference, 05.16.17, 3:58:53)
  • Author Marianne Williamson*: “Saying Russian ads didn’t sway the election is like saying ads for Hondas don’t sell Hondas.” (Twitter, 11.02.17)
  • Andrew Yang*: “The media networks didn't do us any favors by missing a reason why Donald Trump became our president in the first place. If your turn on cable network news today, you would think he's our president because of some combination of Russia, racism, Facebook, Hillary Clinton and emails all mixed together.” (December democratic debate transcript, 12.20.19)
  • Andrew Yang*: “We have to let Russia know, ‘Look, we get it. We've tampered with other elections, you've tampered with our elections. And now it has to stop. And if it does not stop, we will take this as an act of hostility against the American people.’ I believe most Americans would support me on this. But Russian hacking of our democracy is an illustration of the 21st-century threats. Artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, climate change, loose nuclear material, military drones, and non-state actors, these are the threats that are going to require our administration to catch up in terms of technology.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Andrew Yang*: “About Russia … when I’m president, I will say ‘look, Russia, I get it. We have tampered with other people’s elections for years and decades, like we, America, have done that. You’ve done it to us for the last number of years. It is going to stop right now. And if we have any credible evidence that you are tampering with our information and our democracy, we will take that as an act of hostility and aggression, and we will retaliate in some way that will make your life very, very painful and inconvenient.” (Interview with Joe Rogan, 02.12.19, 1:47:06)

Energy exports:

  • Joe Biden: “The Russian economy is utterly dependent on hydrocarbon exports, so its health is tied to the price of oil and gas; as those prices have plummeted in recent years, the state-owned gas giant Gazprom’s market capitalization has shrunk, from about $368 billion in 2008 to around $52 billion today.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Joe Biden: “The manipulation of energy markets is another important tool that Russia uses for coercion and influence peddling. … In addition to using energy to coerce its neighbors, the Kremlin is adept at using energy deals to curry influence with European political and business leaders.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • Joe Biden: “The scope of Russian corrupt influence is exceptionally wide, particularly since Russian oligarchs who made vast sums of money over the last several decades have parked much of this wealth in the West, including in luxury real estate markets in London, Miami, and New York. These billions of dollars of investments have been used in many cases to secure access to Western political and business elites. They also serve as a ready source of financing for the Kremlin’s influence operations abroad.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Joe Biden: “You know, is it any wonder that if you look at the international polling that's been done, that the Chinese leader is rated above Americanthe American president or that Vladimir Putin congratulated him saying, stand fast and, in fact, it was a mistake to impeach him.” (December democratic debate transcript, 12.20.19)
  • Joe Biden: “I found out [from the impeachment trials] that Vladimir Putin doesn't want me to be president.” (Democratic debate transcript, 11.21.19)
  • Joe Biden: “Russia harbors an erroneous but stubborn—perhaps even obsessive—belief that Washington is actively pursuing regime change in Russia. There is no truth to that idea; the United States has never sought to remove Putin.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Joe Biden: “Even while defending U.S. interests and safeguarding liberal democracy elsewhere, Washington must keep the channels of communication open with Moscow. At the height of the Cold War, American and Soviet leaders recognized that, whatever their differences, they could not afford a miscalculation that might lead to war. They had to keep talking. The same is true today: as two nuclear superpowers with military assets deployed in close proximity in many different parts of the globe, the United States and Russia have a mutual obligation to maintain strategic stability.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • NEW. Bernie Sanders: “I'm talking about speaking to China, to Russia, to countries all over the world--and in this moment, making the point that instead of spending $1.8 trillion on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we should pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change.” (The Pavlovic Today, 03.15.20)
  • Bernie Sanders: “Today I say to Mr. Putin: We will not allow you to undermine American democracy or democracies around the world. In fact, our goal is to not only strengthen American democracy, but to work in solidarity with supporters of democracy around the globe, including in Russia. In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win.” (Speech at Westminster College, 09.21.17)
  • Bernie Sanders (discussing an exchange program in the 1980s between Americans and Soviets): “I will never forget seeing Russian boys and girls visiting Vermont, getting to know American kids, and becoming good friends. Hatred and wars are often based on fear and ignorance. The way to defeat this ignorance and diminish this fear is through meeting with others and understanding the way they see the world.” (Speech at Westminster College, 09.21.17)
  • Bernie Sanders: At a time when climate change is causing devastating problems here in America and around the world, foreign policy is about whether we work with the international community—with China, Russia, India and countries around the world—to transform our energy systems away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.” (Speech at Westminster College, 09.21.17)
  • Bill Weld: “He [Trump] acts like a schoolyard bully, except, of course, when he’s around other bullies, like Mr. Putin, and then he turns ingratiating, all smiles, kicks the American press out of the Oval Office, and has his summit meeting with Mr. Putin with no news media present except Tass, the state organ of Russia.” (Prepared remarks reprinted on, 02.15.19)


  • Michael Bloomberg*: “President Trump has undermined American security by embracing President Vladimir Putin of Russia—a leader whose government meddled in U.S. elections and has been working as a dangerous and destabilizing force around the world. As president, I will work with Congress, our allies and the world community to stand against Russia’s aggression. At the same time, the U.S. should remain open to working with Russia on issues of mutual interest—including arms control and nuclear proliferation.” (Council on Foreign Relations, 01.23.20)
  • Michael Bloomberg*: “The state of denial about Russia that pervades the Oval Office has led to Monday’s [July 16, 2018] summit in Helsinki, a major coup for Putin. A strongman who has annexed territory from his neighbors, destabilized U.S. allies in Eastern Europe, abetted war crimes in Syria, and meddled with the 2016 U.S. presidential election gets to share a stage with an American president. That’s great for him. But what’s in it for us? The answer is unclear.” (Bloomberg, 07.15.18)
  • Michael Bloomberg*: “These punishments [sanctions for Russia’s annexation of Crimea] are working as they were meant to: Despite rising oil prices, Russia’s petroleum-dependent economy is struggling and Moscow’s financial straits have resulted in nationwide protests over pension reforms. The sanctions must stay on.” (Bloomberg, 07.15.18)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: “What happened yesterday [at the Helsinki Summit] was extremely disturbing. Our country was attacked; there is consensus in our intelligence community that it was attacked by Russia, and the American president stood next to the man responsible for that attack and basically sided with him. It is a shocking thing.” (Interview on ABC57 South Bend, 07.17.18, 01:23)
  • Amy Klobuchar*: “When you're out there on the world stage and dealing with people like Vladimir Putin, yeah, you want someone who's tough. You want someone that demands the answers and that's going to get things done.” (CNN, 03.15.19)
  • Michael Bennet*: “Today [at the Helsinki summit] President Trump failed to hold Vladimir Putin to account even on the most straightforward national security threats. … President Trump should have used this meeting to hold Putin accountable for undermining democracies around the world, a chemical attack on United Kingdom soil, and the continued illegal annexation of Crimea. Instead, he held a summit with no plan that only served to elevate Putin on the world stage.” (Statement, 07.16.18)
  • Mayor Wayne Messam* of Miramar, Florida: “Our country is facing multiple challenges overseas that impact us here at home. From a resurgent Russia to the long-term rivalry that China poses… [W]e need to change course, rebuild our fractured alliances and lead by example.” (Campaign Website)
  • Seth Moulton*: “Russia is the greatest enemy of the United States for the last 65 years.” (CNN, 07.22.18, 01:25)
  • Beto O’Rourke*: “You have a president [Trump] who, in my opinion, beyond a shadow of a doubt, sought to, however ham-handedly, collude with the Russian government.” (Speech in Charleston, SC, 03.23.19)
  • Rep. Tim Ryan* (D-Ohio): “If you look at the Russian military, what they do when there is a cultural issue in the United States … the Russian military is watching this; they go into our social media and they throw gasoline on it. They create content that will put each American in the camp that they will default to. … when you look at what Russia is trying to do, they love that we’re this divided.” (The Vindicator, 04.04.19)
  • Tom Steyer*: “In addition to Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its foreign policy agenda, annexation of Crimea, invasion of eastern Ukraine, human rights record and recent aggressive military build-up all warrant concern. However, given the importance of Russia's role in geopolitics, it is necessary to engage and maintain a dialogue with Russia to achieve America's foreign policy objectives.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Eric Swalwell*: “[O]n the trail I talk about Russia, and, at its best, the idea of America is: No matter who you are, or where you’re from, what your parents did, who you love, if you work hard, you can be anything. And if that can be true in America it should be true anywhere. Including Russia. And the best way for Russia to make sure it’s not true there is to beat the idea here. And that’s a large part of what they’ve done—try to tear down the idea of America.” (New York Magazine, 05.02.19)


II. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • Joe Biden: “Putin wants to tell himself, and anyone else he can dupe into believing him, that the liberal idea is “obsolete.” But he does so because he is afraid of its power. No army on earth can match the way the electric idea of liberty passes freely from person to person, jumps borders, transcends languages and cultures and supercharges communities of ordinary citizens into activists and organizers and change agents.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Joe Biden: “Today, the Russian government is brazenly assaulting the foundations of Western democracy around the world. Under President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has launched a coordinated attack across many domains—military, political, economic, informational—using a variety of overt and covert means. … By attacking the West, the Kremlin shifts attention away from corruption and economic malaise at home, activates nationalist passions to stifle internal dissent, and keeps Western democracies on the defensive and preoccupied with internal divisions.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Bernie Sanders: “[W]e are seeing the rise of a new authoritarian axis. While these regimes may differ in some respects, they share key attributes: hostility toward democratic norms, antagonism toward a free press, intolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities, and a belief that government should benefit their own selfish financial interests. … All around the world, in Europe, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere we are seeing movements led by demagogues who exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to achieve and hold on to power.” (The Guardian, 09.13.18)


  • Michael Bloomberg*: “Agreeing to stop U.S. shipments of so-called lethal defensive weapons to Kiev or pledging that neither Ukraine nor Georgia will ever be considered for NATO membership would be a grave error, undermining faith in U.S. security guarantees in the Baltics and Poland.” (Bloomberg, 07.15.18)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: “[T]here’s a Russian model [of posture toward the world] that isn’t pretty, that’s flexing its muscle.” (Vox, 03.28.19)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “Unfortunately, it is clear that Vladimir Putin has decided to treat the U.S. and our allies in Europe as adversaries. In Ukraine, Russia has invaded and occupied the territory of a neighboring sovereign country in violation of international law. Beyond Ukraine, the Kremlin has conducted interference campaigns against U.S. and European democracies, orchestrated cyber attacks against NATO allies, bombed hospitals and civilians to prop up a dictator in Syria and engaged in covert assassination campaigns in Europe.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  •  Elizabeth Warren*: “Russia was included in the G-7 in an effort to integrate it into Europe and to support its transition to democracy. Unfortunately, Russia’s actions in recent years have demonstrated that it does not share the outlook and values of the other G-7 members. Until it changes direction, Russia’s actions are likely to be a frequent topic of G-7 discussions, and it cannot realistically be a participant.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)

  • Elizabeth Warren*: “Policymakers promised that open markets would lead to open societies. Instead, efforts to bring capitalism to the global stage unwittingly helped create the conditions for competitors to rise up and lash out. Russia became belligerent and resurgent.” (Foreign Affairs, 11.29.18)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “In Europe, we should work with our allies to impose strong, targeted penalties on Russia for its attempts to subvert elections, and we should work to help our European allies develop energy independence.” (Foreign Affairs, 11.29.18)


  • Elizabeth Warren*: “China is on the rise, using its economic might to bludgeon its way onto the world stage and offering a model in which economic gains legitimize oppression. To mask its decline, Russia is provoking the international community with opportunistic harassment and covert attacks. Both nations invest heavily in their militaries and other tools of national power. Both hope to shape spheres of influence in their own image and ultimately remake the global order to suit their own priorities.” (Foreign Affairs, 11.29.18)


  • Joe Biden: “[Trump] held up aid to make sure that--while at the same time innocent people in the Donbas are getting killed by Russian soldiers.” (Democratic debate transcript, 11.21.19)
  • Joe Biden: “My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine. And that's what we should be focusing on… I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having do with Ukraine.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Joe Biden: “Maintaining the sanctions that the United States and the EU levied on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine has been important not only in pressuring Moscow to resolve the conflict in the near term but also as a signal to the Kremlin that the costs of such behavior will eventually outweigh any perceived benefits.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)


  • Michael Bloomberg*: “I favor U.S. efforts to provide defensive military weapons to Ukraine, which sits on the frontline of Russia’s efforts to undermine the post-WWII order in Europe. …  The United States and its European allies need to bolster Ukraine’s independence through economic and security assistance, while continuing to encourage Kiev to make the necessary reforms to tackle corruption and strengthen the rule of law. A free and stable Ukraine should be a bridge between Europe and Russia.” (Council on Foreign Relations, 01.23.20)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: "Russian aggression against Ukraine is an attack on the agreed principles and rules of European and global order that protect global citizens beyond Ukraine, including Americans. Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is protected by the U.N. Charter and European security agreements, which the Russian Federation has signed and is obligated to respect. The OSCE mission and Minsk agreement both obligate Russia to resolve the conflict peacefully with Ukraine. We must keep tough, targeted and effective economic and financial sanctions on Russia as long as it continues to assault Ukrainian territory and citizens, and continues to illegally occupy Ukrainian territory in the Donbas and Crimea." (Council on Foreign Relations, 07.30.19)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: "[C]ountering Russian aggression also means supporting Ukraine’s independence and ability to make and implement sovereign foreign policy decisions by supporting Ukraine’s political, economic and defense capabilities. Although Ukraine is not a formal treaty ally, the U.S. should be willing to help Ukraine develop a modern and capable defense force to defend its citizens, including advice, education, training and willingness to consider commercial sales of weapons appropriate to the situation. While the U.S. must not exacerbate instability or conflict, we should not shy from responsible defense assistance to a democracy in the heart of Europe that is under assault because its citizens have chosen a democratic European path." (Council on Foreign Relations, 07.30.19)
  • Amy Klobuchar*: “I'm still waiting to find out from him [Trump] how making that call to the head of Ukraine and trying to get him involved in interfering in our election makes America great again.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Tom Steyer*: “[W]hen I look at Ukraine, that’s a perfect example of a place where I believe we should be responding with allies, not by ourselves.” (New York Times, 01.13.20)
  • Cory Booker*: “We cannot allow the Russians to continue to grow in influence by abandoning the world stage. We cannot allow Russia to not only interfere in the democracies of the Ukraine [sic], and Latvia, and Lithuania, but even not calling them out for their efforts to interfere in this democracy are unacceptable. Russia and Putin understand strength, and this president time and time again is showing moral weakness.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Cory Booker*: What we should be doing right now is stepping up our actions against Russia, whether it be added sanctions or more continued support for those trying to literally defend themselves from Russian encroachments like the Ukraine.” (CNN, 02.09.17)
  • Julian Castro*: “What we have to recognize is that not only did the Mueller Report point out 10 different instances where the president obstructed justice or tried to, and he made that call to President Zelenskiy of the Ukraine [sic], but he is … in an ongoing way violating his oath of office and abusing his power.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Joe Biden: “Democratic transformation in Russia’s neighborhood would serve as a powerful counterexample to Moscow’s kleptocratic and authoritarian rule and would delegitimize its authority over the long run. So Russia waged wars against Georgia in 2008 and against Ukraine in 2014 in order to undermine governments determined to pursue further integration with NATO and the EU.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)


  • Pete Buttigieg*: We’ve also seen regionally destabilizing Russian behavior, from activities on the Crimean Peninsula and in eastern Ukraine, to conduct with regard to intermediate-range missiles. Future U.S. policy towards Russia must include a regional security framework that promotes stability for Eastern Europe and incentivizes Russia to adhere to international norms. (Speech at Indiana University Auditorium, 06.11.19)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “Russia is actively working to destabilize countries along its borders and to undermine the European Union and NATO.” (Statement to Congress, 07.13.17, 00:12)


III. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Joe Biden: “The Russian regime that emerged from the ashes of the Soviet collapse consolidated immense authority and privilege in the hands of a small cabal of former intelligence officials and oligarchs. They appear strong from the outside, but their power remains brittle at the core—a fact that Putin and the top members of his regime understand better than anyone. Without a chokehold on civil society, the adoring applause and sky-high approval ratings they generally enjoy could quickly descend into a storm of boos and whistles, as Putin has discovered on more than one occasion.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Joe Biden: “Russian elections have become choreographed performances that are neither free nor fair.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Joe Biden: “In Russia’s crony capitalist system, success and survival in business depend on the protection of powerful patrons who can shelter a businessperson or a company from raids by bigger competitors or overzealous tax officials. Kremlin authorities and Russian intelligence officials sit at the top of this pyramid, receiving bribes and payoffs in exchange for such protection. But the state itself also benefits from this arrangement, which gives the Kremlin enormous leverage over wealthy Russians who do business in the West and over Western companies that do business in Russia.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Joe Biden: “Look at the state of Russia now—they’re in enormous decline. … You know, they have a second-rate military power, they have significant advantages geographically where they’re engaged, they have a nuclear arsenal that can blow up the whole world, but in terms of their efficacy, their capacity—it’s diminutive compared to ours.” (Talk at Council on Foreign Relations, 01.23.18, 00:01)
  • NEW. Bernie Sanders: “I have opposed authoritarianism, whether it's in Cuba, whether it's in Saudi Arabia, whether it's in China or whether it is in Russia. That is my life record…  What I believe right now, in this world, is that we are faced with a global crisis and a movement toward authoritarianism. That's what Putin in Russia is leading. That's what MBS in Saudi Arabia is leading.” (The Pavlovic Today, 03.15.20)
  • Bernie Sanders: “In Russia, it is impossible to tell where the decisions of government end and the interests of Vladimir Putin and his circle of oligarchs begin. They operate as one unit.” (The Guardian, 09.13.18)
  • Bernie Sanders: “Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.” (Speech at Westminster College, 09.21.17)


  • Pete Buttigieg*: "Take the case of Russia, which we should view not as a real estate opportunity but as a self-interested, disruptive and adversarial actor. As the most unequal economy of any major power, Russia represents a striking example of what happens when a country attempts to set up capitalism without democracy. And the forces unleashed there—nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia and the repression of the press–are both highly disturbing in that country and disturbingly ascendant in our own country." (Speech at Indiana University Auditorium, 06.11.19)
  • Pete Buttigieg*: “You don’t have to look that hard to find examples of capitalism without democracy—Russia leaps to mind. And when you have capitalism without democracy, you get crony capitalism and eventually oligarchy.” (Vox, 03.28.19)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “Domestically, Putin’s Russia has become a corrupt autocratic state that suppresses democracy and violates the human rights of its citizens. But hard-nosed diplomacy is required—even, and in some cases especially, with countries that regard themselves as adversaries—and it will be a cornerstone of my approach to foreign policy.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Elizabeth Warren*: “In Russia, President Vladimir Putin attacks free speech and fans nationalism, but his real power derives from the careful intertwining of his government with state-run corporations conveniently overseen by friendly oligarchs.” (Foreign Affairs, 11.29.18)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Cory Booker*: “You can tell a lot about a country by who they incarcerate. So in Russia, they incarcerate political opposition.” (Interview with Stephen Colbert, 03.08.19)
  • Eric Swalwell*: “Russia’s national news agenda is largely controlled by the Kremlin; editorial policy at its state-owned television stations is managed by the government. Freedom House has counted at least 63 violent attacks on Russian journalists since 2006, including the killing of 20. Beyond the atrocious nature of state-sponsored attacks on its citizens, it's evident that Russia doesn't hold any respect for the freedom of the press, a right that the United States holds as fundamental and remains enshrined in our Constitution.” (Official Website)

RM staff also contributed to this compilation.

This post was previously updated on Oct. 17, 2019, Nov. 21, 2019, Dec. 20, 2019, Feb. 6, 2020 and Feb. 20, 2020.


Daniel Shapiro

Daniel Shapiro is a graduate student at Harvard University specializing in contemporary Russian politics, Russian public/private sector relations and the North and South Caucasus. He is also a graduate student associate with Russia Matters. 


Thomas Schaffner

Thomas Schaffner is a student web assistant with Russia Matters and a graduate of American University.


Angelina Flood

Angelina Flood is the assistant editor for Russia Matters.

Photo: Top five Democratic presidential candidates according to national polling averages as of Feb. 20, 2020, not in order of ranking. From left to right: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders. Photos shared under a CC BY 2.0 license by: Michael StokesmarcnGage SkidmoreGage Skidmore and Matt Johnson.