Democratic president candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at a Service Employees International Union forum on labor issues, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Las Vegas.

John Locher/CPR News

Former Colorado Gov. and Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper made his first major foreign policy speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Monday.

Hickenlooper said American shores have been breached, not by an invading army, but by an authoritarian mentality — a clear challenge against the Trump administration.

The candidate spoke with Colorado Matters about his foreign policy platform, escalating tensions with Iran and the ongoing trade dispute with China.

Interview Highlights

On why he thinks authoritarianism is a global threat:

"Our rule by law, our freedom of the press, having an independent press, having an independent judiciary — so much of those foundational aspects of American democracy are under assault by an authoritarian figure who is, you know, in the White House. Certainly, he was voted there and so he gets to stay there at least until the next election. I'm not denying that. What I'm saying is that what he's doing while he is there is very authoritarian in nature."

On how he would handle policy concerning Iran and the Middle East:

"One of the things I talked about in my speech on foreign affairs was that we have a new necessity for what I call constant engagement. So many of the issues we face go beyond just one negotiation.

How we deal with Iran is important, and certainly, I would look at making sure we do everything we can to make sure they don't get nuclear weapons. But not only that, we should be looking at how do we restrain their testing of ballistic missiles, and how do we get them to stop funding terrorists and terrorist activities in the Middle East.

Part of a consistent engagement is focusing on all of our partners around the world, even countries that I would say we're more adversarial with. By keeping engaged consistently with them, we could bring more pressure on places like Iran, and we can do a better job of addressing the global issues that really are global, like pandemics like Ebola, climate change, cybersecurity. It's important to look at on the small focus of, alright, here's what we're going to do around Iran. But on the larger scale, we've got to recognize that we need a network of constant engagement."

On how he would address trade disputes and work with foreign countries:

"Well, certainly Russia and China, they have directly harmed American interests. China has been cheating on international agreements. China has been stealing intellectual property either through corporate extortion or through outright thievery. That had to be addressed, but you don't address it through a tariff war.

(I would address it) through negotiation. The whole point of international relations is putting a team together and having, at least in my argument, constant engagement. You're building relationships, you're negotiating with people all the time.

Somebody told me last week that they're on a thousand empty desks, a thousand unfilled positions in the Department of State. People in Germany or France don't know who to call. I went to the Munich Security Conference a month and a half ago and frequently heard from our NATO allies that they don't know who to call in Washington anymore. The people they had worked with in the past are no longer there and they haven't been replaced."

Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.