Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman is speaking at Wake Forest University Tuesday as part of its Face to Face speaker series. Nick Schifrin, a foreign affairs correspondent for PBS NewsHour, is moderating.
WFDD’s Paul Garber spoke with Schifrin to get his insights on current world affairs.
On how the midterm election could shape U.S. policy on the war in Ukraine:
"I think what's clear is that either way, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives is going to be very close. And so whichever party controls either side, they're going to have to make sure to keep their coalition in unanimity, and also take a couple from the other side to pass things like budgets. And so one of the most contentious issues is Ukraine. Some Republicans who have been running have suggested that some of that money that has been going to Ukraine needs to be pulled back. When the House is that close, even if Republicans are in charge, it's not clear to me that those voices that are calling for a reduction in money to Ukraine will actually hold the day. There's a lot of Republicans who believe that this is an existential fight of the West and democracy against Russia and autocracy, and want to continue to support Ukraine, as the administration puts it ‘for as long as it takes.’"
On how the United States can defend itself against foreign adversaries who want to interfere in our elections:
"What many people in both parties would say right now is because of the rise of an authoritarian China, because of the threat that an authoritarian Russia poses to Europe right now, as we speak, the best thing that the United States can do is be a strong democracy that is a model for the world. But you and I both know, it's a little bit messier than that. And so certainly, what the administration is hoping to do is try and have legitimate, calm elections, regardless of who wins. And it seems like we've crossed that threshold, because despite some fears of some Chinese interference, some Russian interference, no election official is talking about any kind of foreign interference in this election, that tipped any votes, certainly not to scale at all. And so I think that is kind of the low bar. But one that people here working on this issue, believe is the single most important thing they can do."
On how world leaders view global policy on climate change:
"So many people believe that this is the single most important aspect of U.S. foreign policy of global policy that can be decided over the next decade, over the next generation, because it could have such catastrophic consequences to our kids, to our grandkids. And so this administration has passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which is the largest climate-related policy in U.S. history, and is trying to push forward at COP27 — it's known as the Conference of Parties — it's the 27th meeting happening right now in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. This is the largest climate conference in the world, the U.S. is trying to bring China back in to coordinate with China, to collaborate with China over its own emissions, but also, the U.S. and China need to be seen as leading together when it comes to climate. Otherwise, a lot of the middle-income countries simply won't take the sacrifices and make the steps that climate scientists believe are required."
On how individuals can engage with foreign affairs issues:
"You know, I'm not here to advocate for any one policy. But you know, to quote Gandhi 'Be the change that you want to see in the world.' So if you care about climate change, there's local and international initiatives, you know, hanging very low from the proverbial tree that you can grab and run with, you know, Tom Friedman, and I undoubtedly, we'll be talking about that, talking about encouraging young people to become journalists, become diplomats, you know, see the world as interconnected. I do think that there's a solid sense that, hey, we need to stand for something. And I think that's why the President suffered so much after the collapse of Afghanistan. Not necessarily that people were so focused on the day-to-day aspects of that war, probably quite the opposite, frankly. But the sense that America abandoned people, and the sense that America lost is a very unpopular one. And so I think that, you know, with the war in Russia, certainly the Biden administration has tried to portray itself as a lot more on the winning side, if you will, of an international fight, and I do think people around the country care about that."