Romney’s Foreign Policy Views “Downright Dangerous”

— by Max Samis

Over the course of his presidential run, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has made some outlandish comment on foreign policy, including that he would “do the opposite” of President Barack Obama on Israel, and that Russia is the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.” Romney has earned condemnations from multiple public officials for his statements, including from Vice President Joe Biden and former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell. In addition, the Los Angeles Times found last month that despite his heated rhetoric, Romney has yet to offer any specifics of what he would do differently than Obama-especially on Iran.

Now, Romney’s policies have been examined by Fred Kaplan, a noted foreign policy expert and writer for Slate. Kaplan’s judgment? That “Romney doesn’t seem to understand – nor do some of his advisers – the extent to which the world has changed since the end of the Cold War,” and that his “statements on foreign policy range from vague to ill-informed to downright dangerous.”

Highlights of Kaplan’s article follow the jump.

Conventional wisdom holds that U.S. presidential elections do not hinge on foreign policy. On this point, conventional wisdom is almost certainly correct. But it shouldn’t be, for two reasons. First, foreign policy is the one realm in which presidents can do pretty much what they want. (Congress may rant at some action but rarely halts it.) Second, in this election in particular, Mitt Romney’s statements on foreign policy range from vague to ill-informed to downright dangerous.

Does Romney believe the things that he’s said about arms control, Russia, the Middle East, the defense budget, and the rest? Who can say? He has no experience on any of these issues. But his advisers do; they represent, mainly, the Dick Cheney wing of the Republican Party (some, notably John Bolton, veer well to the right of even that). While not all presidents wind up following their advisers, Romney has placed his byline atop some of his coterie’s most egregious arguments-not least, several op-ed pieces against President Obama’s New START with Russia, pieces that rank as the most ignorant I’ve read in nearly 40 years of following the nuclear debate…

Romney doesn’t seem to understand-nor do some of his advisers-the extent to which the world has changed since the end of the Cold War. International politics were never as cut and dried as that era’s image suggested-two superpowers, each dominating its sphere of the globe and competing for influence at the margins of the other’s domain…

Which leads to Romney’s final complaint: that Obama’s foreign policies ‘have not communicated American strength and resolve.’ It’s not clear what Romney means by this; he cites no examples. The one case in which he had to concede Obama did well-ordering the killing of Bin Laden-certainly communicates more strength and resolve than anything Bush did on that front. To the extent America’s image has been tarnished under Obama’s presidency, the main reason has to do with what some see as an excess of ‘strength and resolve’-the quintupling of drone attacks launched against targets in Pakistan, Sudan, and Somalia under Bush.

Which leads to some questions: What is Romney’s position on drone strikes? What’s his position on Afghanistan? During the Republican debates, he once said that his position was not to negotiate with the Taliban but to defeat them. What does that mean? Does he want to keep tens of thousands of U.S. troops there after NATO’s 2014 deadline? To what end? Doing what? He also once said that military spending should consume at least 4 percent of gross domestic product. Obama’s most recent military budget ($525 billion, not counting the cost of the war in Afghanistan) amounts to 3 percent. So Romney intends to raise the budget by one-third, or by about $175 billion a year-by more than $1 trillion in the next six years. Where is he going to get the money? What’s he going to spend it on? No details. None.

Is Romney an extremist? Or, in keeping with the GOP approach to politics in general these days, has he simply calculated that it’s best not to agree with Obama on anything? Either way, one thing is clear: He is not a serious man.

Click here to read the full article.

Romney Takes Eye Off Iran, Designates Russia #1 Geopolitical Foe

— by David Streeter

Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took his eye off of Iran and incorrectly designated Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” during his interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Romney offered his throwback to the Cold War while attacking President Barack Obama for his diplomacy with Russia — including the New START treaty that was supported by many Jewish communal organizations, which was one of the pieces that helped bring Russia on board with the fist round of Iran sanctions. Romney told Blitzer [emphasis added]:

What he did both on nuclear weaponry already and the new START treaty as well as his decision to withdraw missile defense sites from Poland and then reduce our missile defense sites in Alaska from the original plan. These are very unfortunate developments…. This is to Russia, this is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world’s worst actors. (Think Progress)

Blitzer followed up, and asked Romney how Russia was a greater U.S. foe than Iran. Apparently, Romney’s definition of “number one geopolitical foe” does not include Iran’s threatening behavior — including its nuclear weapons program and belligerent actions in the Middle East. Romney said [emphasis added]:

Well I’m saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation that lines up with the world’s worst actors. Of course the greatest threat the world faces is a nuclear armed Iran and a nuclear North Korea is troubling enough. But when these terrible actors pursue their course in the world and we go to the UN looking for ways to stop them … and who is it that always stands up for the world’s worst actors, it is always Russia, typically with China alongside. So in terms of a geopolitical foe a nation that is on the Security Council that has the heft of the Security Council and is of course a massive nuclear power, Russia is the geopolitical foe and the idea that our president is planning on doing something with them that he’s not willing to tell the American people before the election is something I find very, very alarming. (Think Progress)

Following Romney’s dangerous reassessment of global affairs-in which he prioritized a partisan sound bite over the reality of the threats posed by Iran to America and our allies-a number of experts and observers slammed Romney for yet another baseless foreign policy smear.

A sampling of criticism follows the jump.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney:

Carney, a former Moscow-based correspondent for TIME magazine, stated that ‘in a world where Al Qaeda is so clearly the preeminent threat to the United States, and similar organizations, it seems a little inaccurate to make that statement about Russia where Russia is a county that we have been able to cooperate with on very important issues even as we disagree with them on others and that includes missile defense and Syria.’…

Carney said ‘the relationship that president Obama has established with Russia when he pressed the reset button in 2009 has born a great deal of fruit, including Russia’s cooperation with China at the United Nations in sanctioning Iran, Russia’s cooperation and assistance to the United States on our Afghanistan mission in terms of trans-shipment issues.’

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA):

Mitt Romney’s statement that Russia is our ‘number one geopolitical foe’ was both reckless and inaccurate. While there are legitimate concerns about the status of Russian democracy under Putin and real challenges in our relationship, comments like this do nothing to address those concerns or strengthen that relationship. Governor Romney should correct his statement and make it clear he understands that Iran and North Korea pose the greatest immediate threat to U.S. and global security.

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Wesley Clark said:

Surely one lesson of the 21st century is that America’s security in the world depends on making more friends and fewer enemies. Governor Romney’s statement sounds like a rehash of Cold War fears. Given the many challenges we face at home and abroad, the American people deserve a full and complete explanation from Governor Romney. Good policy does not come from bumper sticker slogans. The next president is going to have to take America forward, out of war, and into other challenges. The rekindling of old antagonisms hardly seems the way to do it.

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Dr. Colin Kahl:

Today, Governor Romney said that Russia is our nation’s number one geopolitical foe. Mitt Romney has an economic, energy, and social agenda of the last century-and now he has a foreign policy to match. Does Mitt Romney think Russia is a bigger threat to the U.S. today than a nuclear-armed Iran or the terrorists of al-Qaeda? Is Russia a greater challenge than a rising China or instability in the Middle East? For a country that Mitt Romney called our top geopolitical enemy, he only addresses Russia in his foreign policy white paper with Cold War-era talking points and none of the sense of urgency that he demonstrated today. This is yet another example of Mitt Romney’s willingness to say anything to get elected, no matter how reckless it may be.

Former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig:

Governor Romney offered his judgment today that Russia is our nation’s number one geopolitical foe. This conclusion, as outdated as his ideas on the economy, energy needs, and social issues, is left over from the last century.  Does Governor Romney believe that a Cold War foreign policy is the right course in the twenty-first century? Does he believe that Russia is a bigger threat to the U.S. today than terrorism, or cyberwarfare, or a nuclear-armed and erratic North Korea?

Oddly, before calling Russia our number one foe, he issued a foreign policy white paper that only got around to Russia after sections on China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Middle East, Iran, North Korea, and Latin America. His most recent statement is yet another revelation that Mitt Romney repeatedly speaks inconsistently and in ways that are disconnected from twenty-first century realities.

Former Ambassador to India and Representative Timothy Roemer:

Today, Governor Romney said that Russia is without question our nation’s number one geopolitical foe. Does Mitt Romney really believe that Russia-a country that has supported our international efforts to sanction Iran, for example-is a bigger threat to the U.S. today than a nuclear-armed Iran or al-Qaeda? Does he truly believe Russia is more of a challenge than a nuclear North Korea or the Straits of Hormuz being closed? I proudly served our nation overseas as Ambassador to India, and the level of naiveté about foreign relations that Governor Romney displays is astounding. Worse, it is potentially dangerous for our country.

Some Pennsylvanians Need Not Wait To Nov. To Vote For President

Philadelphia area Russian citizens vote in Russian Presidential Election at Klein JCC, Saturday, March 3

Russian citizens residing within the Philadelphia area will cast their ballots in the Russian presidential election through a special voting center set up in Room 218 at the Klein JCC, located at 10100 Jamison Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, on Saturday, March 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Candidates in this presidential election are:

  • Vladimir Putin (United Russia),
  • Gennady Zyuganov (Communist),
  • Sergey Mironov (A Just Russia aka Social Democrat),
  • Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democrat), and
  • Mikhail Prokhorov (Independent).

The special election center is being established through the Russian consulate in New York City. Voters in Russia will go to the polls on March 4.

Increased Sanctions Continue to Pressure Iran’s Economy

— Max Samis

It has been several weeks since President Barack Obama first increased sanctions on Iran, effectively cutting off Iran’s central bank from the global economy. To this point, the evidence is overwhelming that these sanctions have had a strong effect on Iran’s economy and government.

Previously a major importer of steel, Iranian steel traders have found their business “grinding to a halt.”

More after the jump.
According to Reuters:

Iranian buyers cannot obtain dollars or euros, forcing them to offer letters of credit in alternative currencies such as the Indian rupee, Korean won and Russian rubles.

Most steel traders, wary of currency risk and taxation issues, are not willing to accept this form of payment.

‘Now you can really feel the effects of the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe…It is very difficult to do any business with Iran at the moment,’ a steel trader at a Swiss metals trading house said.

Perhaps even more importantly, the Iranian oil flow has taken a massive hit. Reuters wrote:

Iran could be forced to place unsold barrels into floating storage or even shut in production in the second half of this year, the IEA said on Friday in its monthly Oil Market Report.

‘International sanctions targeting Iran’s existing oil exports do not come into effect until July 1, but they are already having an impact on crude trade flows in Europe, Asia and the Middle East,’ it said.

‘Although there are five months before restrictions on existing contracts take effect, European customers have already curtailed imports of Iranian crude and Asian buyers are lining up alternative sources of supply,’ the IEA said, adding that European customers were likely to look to Russia, Iraq and Saudi Arabia for replacement barrels.

Bloomberg added that owners of over 100 supertankers have now said they will stop loading oil supplies from Iran.

In an interview with Haaretz, Dennis Ross, Obama’s former Middle East advisor, stated that ‘The fact is [Iran’s] currency has devalued by half in the last six weeks… I’d say sanctions are working, if that’s the case.’ Haaretz wrote:

These sanctions, Ross said, are the crippling sanctions Israel has called for, and can affect Iran’s behavior. When the Iranians feel they are under sufficient pressure, they look for a way to reduce it, Ross said, and right now they are under pressure they have not been under before. ‘It’s not an accident that suddenly they want to meet with the P5 +1,’ Ross said, referring to the forum of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

Ross also stated his belief that sanctions are forcing Iran to the negotiating table in an op-ed in The New York Times. Ross wrote:

Iran cannot do business with or obtain credit from any reputable international bank, nor can it easily insure its ships or find energy investors. According to Iran’s oil ministry, the energy sector needs more than $100 billion in investments to revitalize its aging infrastructure; it now faces a severe shortfall.

New American penalties on Iran’s central bank and those doing business with it have helped trigger an enormous currency devaluation. In the last six weeks, the Iranian rial has declined dramatically against the dollar, adding to the economic woes Iran is now confronting…

Now, with Iran feeling the pressure, its leaders suddenly seem prepared to talk. Of course, Iran’s government might try to draw out talks while pursuing their nuclear program. But if that is their strategy, they will face even more onerous pressures, when a planned European boycott of their oil begins on July 1.

As sanctions continue to take effect, international pressure will only continue to increase against Iran’s nuclear program.