Gary Johnson: Working 'hand in hand with Russia' will solve Syria crisis

Gary Johnson explains recent gaffes
Gary Johnson explains recent gaffes

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    Gary Johnson explains recent gaffes

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Gary Johnson explains recent gaffes 02:13

Story highlights

  • The Syrian civil war has caused problems for Johnson after he appeared not to know what Aleppo was
  • The libertarian candidate has promised to pardon NSA leaker Edward Snowden

(CNN)Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said Friday that the US must work hand in hand with Russia and China to solve pressing problems such as Syria and North Korea.

"There is only one solution to Syria, and that's being hand in hand with Russia diplomatically to solve that," he said while responding to audience questions following a foreign policy address at the University of Chicago. "There is no other solution to Syria other than involving Russia."
    Similarly, he said, "There is no solution to North Korea without joining hands with China to achieve that diplomatically."
    He spoke soon after Secretary of State John Kerry blasted Russia for committing war crimes alongside the regime of its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after several rounds of intensive diplomacy with Moscow gave way to further violence in the besieged city of Aleppo.
    The Syrian civil war has caused problems for Johnson in his bid to win the presidency as a third-party candidate after he appeared not to know what Aleppo was.
    The former New Mexico governor then suffered another foreign policy gaffe when he struggled on MSNBC last week to name a foreign leader he respects. He later told CNN's "New Day" he didn't answer because he's met "a lot of empty suits" in politics that he previously placed on pedestals, a point he reiterated when asked about the incidents at the Chicago event.
    Johnson said that the US shouldn't go to war with Russia over Syria, nor over the contested islands in the South China Sea.
    US allies in the region have been troubled by China's construction of islands in the disputed waters, around which it then claims air and maritime rights, and the US has frequently sent military planes and ships to patrol the area. Johnson, however, said it was only a matter of time before China occupied the rocky shoals.
    "We don't want to go to war over uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea," he said. "They're there now," he added, referring to China, "so this would require military action on our part."
    Johnson said he plans to honor NATO treaties and is confident that Russia knows that the US will come to the aid of countries if attacked. America's nuclear weapons and military strength are deterrents, he said.
    "Russia knows that we have NATO alliances. They know that we will come to the aid of those countries if they are invaded. And they will not invade those countries because they know that. And we will honor those treaties and obligations," Johnson said.
    The presidential candidate also told a questioner that he is not a supporter of expanding the government's surveillance capabilities to prevent terrorism and that if elected, he would make some major changes to current policies.
    "As president, I believe I can do this by executive order. I would turn the satellites away from you and I as US citizens," he said. "There is due process. If there is a suspected terrorist, you can go to a judge, you can get a warrant to tap that individual's information."
    But Johnson said he is not a supporter of collecting the private information of millions of citizens.
    "And based on what I know, I would pardon Edward Snowden," he said to applause, referring to the NSA contractor who leaked details of extensive government surveillance programs.
    The former Republican governor who has been critical of GOP candidate Donald Trump said he hopes his candidacy leads to "the death of the two-party system."
    "I believe the Republican Party is going to die as a result of this election cycle," he said.