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.