A decision by Greece to accept a bailout loan from Russia would be "a very, very, ugly scenario," Ohio governor and probable Republican presidential candidate John Kasich told Newsmax.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax following his address to the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Kasich further spelled out the agenda on foreign policy he began discussing during a luncheon hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in May.
Along with warning against a Greek escape from its current debt crisis through Russian assistance, the Buckeye State governor called for a hard U.S. line against Russian President Vladimir Putin, an improved American friendship with Israel, and continued sanctions against Iran.
Characterizing the current negotiations between Greece and its creditors as a "knife fight," Kasich hailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for being "very patient" in dealing with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
"I'm hopeful, at the end of the day, we are going to reach some kind of an agreement there," he said, referring to the 1.6 billion euros Greece owes the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by June 30, and its overall, five-year 240 billion euro debt owed to the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank.
But Kasich quickly added that creditors "can’t just excuse Greece" and not require the country to make major changes in its pension system and financial management. Honoring Greece's debts, the onetime House Budget Committee chairman told us, "is an issue of personal responsibility."
Kasich spoke to us as Tsipras was completing his second meeting this year with Putin.
Amid mounting rumors that they discussed a loan from Russia in return for Greece supporting Russia's seizure of Crimea within the European Union, Kasich said such an agreement would "be a terrible decision on the part of the Greeks" and "a very, very ugly scenario."
As to how to improve U.S. relations with Israel, Kasich stated: "Just realize the deep friendship we have with Israel. It needs to be attended to and we need to make sure that we don't put them in a position of risk."
Regarding President Barack Obama's refusal to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his last visit to Washington, Kasich said: "I would have figured out how to have coffee with him at a Starbucks without a camera around."
Kasich also emphasized that the U.S. must continue to develop its energy resources as insurance against "Putin using energy as a weapon." Having long criticized Obama for his proposed nuclear agreement with Iran, the Ohioan instead called for "continued sanctions" against the theocratic regime in Tehran.
Turning to the domestic front, Kasich offered a spirited defense of his joining the federal Medicaid exchange under Obamacare. He called his acceptance an example of "how I brought Ohio dollars back to Ohio," and he has been able to apply the funds to mental health programs — critical, Kasich said, "at a time when we have more [mentally ill] people in jail than in psychiatric hospitals."
If the Supreme Court strikes down major parts of Obamacare in its King v. Burwell ruling, Kasich told us that "our people have looked at various alternatives but nothing has been decided at this point. We'll see what they [the Supreme Court justices] do."
Asked by Newsmax when he plans to officially announce his candidacy, Kasich replied: "We have decided to announce here today to you [and then he paused and smiled] that we still have not determined what we will do.
"We are very disciplined in the way we do things. I will do it, in all likelihood, if we have a good plan together and I can win. If you can't win, then you don't do it."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
Joely Friedman, a senior at Ohio State University, is a National Journalism Center intern with Newsmax this summer.
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