So what is Romney’s foreign policy?

By Douglas B. Wilson, Spencer P. Boyer and James Lamond
October 9, 2012

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney gave his “Mantle of Leadership” speech Monday – his third major attempt in a year to outline his views on foreign policy.

In a speech filled with rhetoric rather than substance, and with repeated and false accusations about President Barack Obama’s national security record, Romney once again talked about how he would “strengthen our partnerships” – and once again failed to explain how he would manage relations with our friends in Europe, with whom we work closely on every major global challenge.

One central thesis in Romney’s speech, and in his criticism of the administration overall, has been that under Obama the U.S. has abandoned its allies. In addition to providing no evidence to support this claim, Romney barely mentioned the closest U.S. allies: our North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners. In fact, this neglect has been a consistent theme throughout Romney’s campaign.

Romney paid minor lip service to NATO and the need for alliance members to honor their commitments to devote 2 percent of their gross domestic product to security spending – which the Obama administration has already called for many times. Romney, however, does little to demonstrate that he understands the critical role our European allies play, in partnership with the United States, in addressing the numerous international challenges he sets forth. Obama, on the other hand, has left no doubt about the importance his administration places on Europe.

When the president took office, there was enormous tension in transatlantic relations. Many of our European partners felt they had been treated with disrespect and mistrust. From former Bush Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s dismissive comments about “Old Europe vs. New Europe” to Romney’s October 2007 interview with Britain’s Daily Telegraph (“The question is whether [the U.S. is] going to become a stronger nation leading the world or whether we’re going to follow the path of Europe and become a second-tier military and a second-tier nation”), our allies had good reason to question the nature of our partnership.

Obama has remarkably shifted the tone of this critical relationship. He has made it clear that there is no alliance more fundamental to U.S. security interests, and that we will deal directly with our differences when they arise.

The president has also repeatedly stressed that the United States has an unbreakable bond with Europe, steeped in common purpose and shared values. That bond, reinforced rather than disparaged, has made our 21st century partnership relevant beyond the geographic boundaries that defined NATO in the 20th century. The reality is that the United States and Europe have rarely, if ever, been more in sync in terms of our overall strategic goals and the methods by which we seek to achieve them.

Tens of thousands of European troops have been fighting alongside our own in Afghanistan, helping us build and sustain the largest overseas deployment in NATO’s history. Together, we have made enormous progress in disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda, and have set a responsible timeline for transitioning security responsibility from coalition to Afghan forces.

In Libya, Obama worked through the NATO alliance and successfully used unique American assets to create a coalition that shared the burden effectively in responding to Muammar Gaddafi’s brutality.

We have coordinated with our partners in Europe to confront the nuclear challenge in Iran, producing the most crippling global economic sanctions ever against any nation.

On missile defense, Washington has worked with our NATO allies to put in place a more cost-effective system to defend against the threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missiles, integrating both land- and sea-based assets and more sophisticated technology than what had originally been planned.

Also largely absent from Romney’s speech was Russia, the country he described as America’s number one geopolitical foe. Continuing disagreements with Russia, however, cannot hide the fact that Obama’s clear-eyed, pragmatic reset in relations with that nation has led to real progress in reducing Cold War-era nuclear arsenals, tangible benefits in opening supply routes to Afghanistan, and new cooperation on issues ranging from Iran to counterterrorism.

Romney’s three attempts to outline a foreign policy strategy, however, have not offered any policy prescriptions, guidelines or principles about how he would handle relations with Russia.

Our European partners are now being treated with trust and respect – and they have responded in kind, in renewed and strengthened partnership addressing crises across the globe. So what kind of partner would our European allies get in Romney? Ask our friends the British: They had the most recent experience during the Summer Olympics.

 

PHOTO: Republican presidential nominee Romney speaks during campaign rally in a downpour in Newport News.  Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

 

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