“Russia is America’s geopolitical Enemy No. 1,” Mitt Romney recently proclaimed. With this statement the presumptive Republican presidential candidate surprised the global public. Romney appears to feel that the nuclear crisis with Iran and the risks posed by Al-Qaeda present fewer dangers than the relationship with Moscow, which despite some tension is not altogether bad. Immediately, speculations surfaced that the former governor of Massachusetts continues to live in a Cold War world and has few, if any, insights about American foreign policy. Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev was quick to offer his advice. “We write the year 2012,” he lectured Romney from distant Moscow, “we are no longer in the mid-1970s.”
In the course of the current election campaign Romney has not impressed with his knowledge of foreign affairs. In an October 2011 keynote speech at the Citadel, a military academy in South Carolina, he appeared to evoke the past. Romney called for a strengthening of the military and economic situation of the U.S. America, he explained, needs to remain the “most powerful nation on earth.” He is strongly opposed to viewing the U.S. as “a power in decline,” as Obama allegedly does. In a new “American Century,” Romney proclaimed with a good deal of superiority, “America would lead the free world and the free world will lead the whole world.” It was true, he admitted, that cooperation with other nations was important, but ultimately Washington “has always reserved the right to act unilaterally to protect its vital national interests.”
This approach sounded very much like the neo-conservative principles that led George W. Bush to initiate the Iraq war in 2003. In fact, the twenty-four member senior foreign policy advisory team with which Romney has surrounded himself is comprised mostly of former members of the Bush administration. Informally led by former UN ambassador John Bolton, none of them has ever come close to admitting that the Iraq war might have been a mistake. Still, many analysts believe that Romney merely makes use of the strong remnants of Republican neo-conservatism as an “ideology of convenience” (Ari Berman) to gain the support of the right.
In the course of the battle for the Republican Party nomination , during which Romney, a devout Mormon, had to deal with right-wing conservative and religiously zealous competitors such as Rick Santorum or Rick Perry, as well as the convert to Catholicism and thrice-married Newt Gingrich, Romney’s foreign policy program was rarely in the news. The difficult economic situation and high unemployment in the United States dominated the discussion for many months. However, with gradual improvements to the economy, the cautious recovery of the real estate market and the somewhat better unemployment numbers, other topics in the election campaign have begun to attract greater attention. Moreover, Obama’s campaign strategists are busily attempting to make the foreign policy side of the President an issue. After all, Obama can point to many successes in this field.