Background on the candidate’s statements, positions, and record on diplomacy, global development, and U.S. international affairs programs.
A former Member of Congress, Governor of Indiana, and Vice President, Mike Pence has aligned himself with President Ronald Reagan’s vision of global leadership, calling for “peace through strength.” In announcing his 2024 presidential campaign, Vice President Pence stated that it was not the time to “walk away from American leadership on the world stage” stating “I really do believe that Republicans still stand for a strong defense and a strong American presence on the world stage for freedom.”
During his time as Vice President, Pence positioned himself as a strong supporter of the Administration’s “America First” foreign policy agenda. He also grounded his foreign policy view in the “the values of democracy” stating that the values of “individual liberty, of freedom of religion and conscience, the rule of law… serve American and global interests because they are… the best form of government to unleash human aspirations and guide the relations between all the world’s nations and peoples.”
Pence has often spoken about his faith and how religious values undergird his worldview and he has been a vocal advocate for international religious freedom, calling it a “foreign policy priority” and praising the efforts of the State Department and USAID to assist persecuted religious minorities around the world.
During Pence’s tenure as Vice President, the Administration proposed several budget requests calling for cutting international affairs programs by as much as 32%. In Congress, he served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference and influential Republican Study Committee, which called for cutting foreign assistance resources during his leadership.
As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, then Rep. Pence was an advocate for increased defense spending, a proponent of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and a strong supporter of the passage of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
On U.S. global leadership:
- Former Vice President Pence has stressed the importance of America’s global leadership, stating it is “imperative that conservatives again embrace America’s role as leader of the free world and the arsenal of democracy.”
- In remarks in July 2023, Pence made the case for U.S. global leadership and engagement, stating that “Anybody that says that we can’t be the leader of the free world and solve our problems at home has a pretty small view of the greatest nation on earth. We can do both.”
- Reaffirming his support for the past Administration’s foreign policy agenda, Pence said that the Administration was working to “restore America’s role as leader of the free world – by putting America first” and that “America first does not mean America alone.”
- As a key foreign policy voice in the Administration, Vice President Pence played a critical role in engaging U.S. allies – travelling to Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
On resources for diplomacy and global development:
- Throughout Pence’s tenure as Vice President, the Administration repeatedly advanced budget proposals calling for double-digit cuts to America’s international affairs programs by as much as 32%.
- In Congress, Pence voted for overall funding for international affairs, but supported some amendments to cut individual programs, including for the United Nations, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and emergency food aid.
- While serving as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) from 2005 to 2006, the RSC budget resolution proposed significant cuts to the International Affairs Budget. The accompanying report language called for the elimination of USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and other development agencies. Conversely, he voted for the creation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation in 2003 and against an amendment to eliminate funding for the agency in 2004.
On global health:
- In commemorating World AIDS Day and the 15th anniversary of PEPFAR in 2018, Vice President Pence announced the Faith and Community Initiative with PEPFAR investing $100 million “in new resources to expand our engagement with faith-based organizations and communities of faith that are on the frontlines of the fight against HIV/AIDS.” Additionally, he praised PEPFAR, calling it, “inarguably one of the most successful investments in healthcare and humanitarian aid in American history.”
- As a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Pence played a leadership role in supporting programs to fund the U.S. response to HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis – and voted for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003 and 2008. He lauded the bill, saying, “The Bible tells us, ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’ and I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the world in confronting the pandemic of HIV/AIDS.”
- On the broader the threat posed by HIV/AIDS, he has said that the epidemic could “undermine the stability of nations throughout the third world, leaving behind collapsing economies and tragedy and desperation – a breeding ground for extremist violence.”
On international religious freedom:
- In the first annual Religious Freedom Ministerial in 2018, Vice President Pence announced a joint effort by the State Department and USAID to support those persecuted and most vulnerable communities, saying: “America is launching a new initiative that will not only deliver additional support to the most vulnerable communities, but we trust that it will also embolden civil society to help stop violence in the future.”
- In launching the new program, Pence underscored how “the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development will closely partner with local faith and community leaders to rapidly deliver aid to persecuted communities.”
- Speaking at the United Nations in 2019, Pence highlighted the fight for international religious freedom, stating how “more than 80 percent of the world’s population live in nations where religious freedom is threatened or banned” and highlight how the U.S. has “provided more than $370 million to aid ethnic minorities in faith communities persecuted by ISIS in Iraq and throughout the region.”
On the global competition with China
- In a speech in October 2018, Vice President Pence – reiterating the Administration’s National Security Strategy and emphasis on “great power competition” – took aim at China saying, “Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach to advance its influence and benefit its interests. It’s employing this power in more proactive and coercive ways to interfere in the domestic policies of this country and to interfere in the politics of the United States.”
- In his book, So Help Me God, Vice President Pence outlined his views on China during the Administration, writing, “Besides enumerating China’s economic offences, I reminded the world of its military expansion in the South China Sea, the state censorship blocking the flow of liberating information to its citizens, the persecution of Chinese Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists, and the Chinese government’s attempted interference in the U.S. midterm elections.”
- As a 2024 presidential candidate, former Vice President Pence continues to speak out his views on the threat of China, saying, “It is the greatest strategic challenge the United States of America faces. We got to step up to that in a very real way and that’s how we ensure our prosperity and peace in the future.”
- Speaking at the 2023 Family Leadership Summit, Pence spoke of the importance of sending a message to China by supporting Ukraine, stating, “this fight is also about China… I really do believe that by giving the Ukrainian military what they need to repel the invasion we also send a deafening message to China that America and the free world will not tolerate China’s military ambitions in the Asia-Pacific or their intention that becomes more clear by the day against Taiwan or any other place.”
On the war in Ukraine:
- Former Vice President Pence has been a steadfast supporter of Ukraine travelling to Ukraine in June 2023 to meet with President Zelensky, and stating that “repelling Russian aggression” continues to be in the United States’ “national interest.” He also traveled to the region to meet with Ukrainian refugees within week of the Russian invasion in March of 2022.
- Connecting the war in Ukraine to America’s interests, he has stated that, “Ukraine is not our war, but freedom is our fight… The United States of America, as the leader of the free world, as the arsenal of democracy, needs to continue to remain committed to providing the courageous Ukrainian military the support they need to repel that Russian invasion.”
- In a July 2023 interview with Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, he reported that “Pence said he would not support extensive economic aid to the Ukrainian government as president” and that he preferred to increasing security assistance with the Europeans providing economic assistance.
- Speaking out against isolationism, Pence has emphasized that “it’s incumbent on the United States of America to continue to lead a coalition of the West to provide Ukraine with the resources that they need to repel the Russian invasion.” He added, “I have great concerns about voices in our party that have either been unclear or have tried to diminish what I think is a genuine threat to the cause of freedom.”