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McCain Outlines Foreign Policy

Sen. John McCain, outlining his foreign policy positions on the heels of an overseas trip, is renewing his call for the United States to work more collegially with democratic nations and live up to its duties as a world leader. Video by AP

Bush's foreign policy approach has moderated significantly in his second term, with greater outreach to European allies and a willingness to strike deals with countries such as North Korea. In essence, McCain suggested he would embrace Bush's policies on terrorism, Iraq and Afghanistan while extending his willingness to meet allies halfway.

At the same time, McCain indicated he would sharply break with Bush's efforts to accommodate Russia, saying he would push to eject it from the Group of Eight club of industrial powers.

Part of the opening of McCain's speech echoed the opening of an opinion piece he wrote in the Wall Street Journal in 2001 in support of the administration's anti-terrorism efforts. In both instances, the lengthy passage says that in war "the lives of a nation's finest patriots are sacrificed" and "commerce is disrupted, economies are damaged," among other nearly identical lines.

McCain is often portrayed in the news media as a global John Wayne who would tread on the world stage with a Navy veteran's swagger and talk tough toward unfriendly governments in Iran and North Korea.

But his record on foreign policy during two decades in the Senate is more nuanced. A skeptic about foreign interventions when he arrived in Congress in 1983, McCain later became a vocal advocate for unilateral U.S. action in Kosovo and the Middle East.

In 1983, in opposition to President Ronald Reagan and others in his party, McCain argued for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Lebanon. But in 1999, he supported the use of ground troops to stop "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo. And his full-throated backing of the Iraq war in 2002 is well known.

McCain's rhetoric as he courted Republican voters in primaries was often laced with incendiary language. On Iran, he hinted at an eagerness to take military action, saying the only thing worse would be a "nuclear-armed Iran."

But since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, McCain has rarely used the language of the neoconservatives in Washington who pushed Bush to adopt a policy of preemptive strikes against foreign enemies.

Instead, McCain has sounded more like the foreign policy "realists" who advised Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush.

In Texas last month, one of those advisers, former secretary of state James A. Baker III, endorsed McCain and described his assessment of the senator's foreign policy.

"John is what I think I am, a principled pragmatist," Baker said at a news conference after McCain spoke to students and professors at Baker's Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. "He prefers to get things done rather than to insist on ideological purity."

In Wednesday's speech, McCain cited China's emergence as a "central challenge" for the United States but said the two countries are not destined to be adversaries. He said relations will be based on "periodically shared interests rather than the bedrock of shared values" until China allows liberalization.

He called for excluding Russia at G-8 meetings until Moscow follows through on political changes. He said the United States must "strongly engage" with friendly governments in Africa, and he pledged to eradicate malaria on that continent. Additionally, he reiterated his call for a free-trade zone across Latin America, the United States and Canada.

"Relations with our southern neighbors must be governed by mutual respect, not by an imperial impulse or by anti-American demagoguery," he said.

Staff writer Glenn Kessler and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report from Washington.

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