Andrey NOVATSKY – Independent analyst and researcher
The US presidential campaign is gaining momentum. As observers say the 2012 primaries are becoming the most breath taking ones in recent years. Even the Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton 2008 contest was not that pugnacious. The Republican candidates spend 25-50% of their advertisement budgets on fighting and «denigrating» their opponents. There are two leaders – Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, the other potential candidate –Newt Gingrich – appears to be leaving the race. Today’s polls say non of the candidates is able to win running against Barack Obama – the gap is 13-15%. Still the odds may get more or less even after the final choice is made. The presidency years were not the most lucky ones for Obama, it may happen he will not be re-elected.
Till recently Mitt Romney had actually been the only primaries leader. The richest candidate (his fortune is estimated to be $250 billion), the former Massachusetts governor, a businessman with vast experience in raising efficiency of enterprises management, a son of a politician (his father was a businessman and Michigan governor), a Sectarian Mormon, a man of charisma, a father of five (they also have a part to play in the father’s campaign) – he appears to have everything to make him a success among the American public. Still his ostentatious manner of speech, popular among the activists of numerous American religious sects (he was a «bishop» of the Mormon «church» once and is one of leading figures in the «Latter Day Saints» church now), starts to be rejected by voters, who call him an all boring dramatic actor.
The biography of Rick Santorum is a comparison of stark contrast. He is a son of immigrants with no solid financial resources to bank on, but his political career is in full swing. He is created an image of a hero who brings the «American dream» into life. He’s a die-hard conservative, a Catholic, an exemplary family man, known for his tough stand against abortion (he is a father of seven) and homosexualism (he even got involved into a number of publicly known scandals, like for instance, saying that homosexualism is the same thing as pedophilia and zoophilia). In voters’ eyes he is advantageously different in comparison with Romney for his more weighted manners and ability to speak plainly about the American people’s problems.
Traditionally domestic issues make up the brunt of the US electoral agenda, things like: health, family, security, taxes. Still every candidate tries to outline the foreign policy vision at least in general lines. Including the US – Russia relations. Until now only Romney presented a more or less coherent vision of US foreign policy priorities and steps he would take to implement it. The document posted on his website is called «An American century: A strategy to secure America’s enduring interests and ideals».
It says much about the Armed Forces. Romney says the military might allowed the USA to win the «Cold War» with the USSR, brought about the Soviet Union’s dismemberment, and, generally speaking, made possible «to stand in opposition to brutal and aggressive Communist dictatorships». Obama comes under harsh criticism for curtailing military expenditure. Romney says «weakness tempts aggression». Once elected the efforts to boost the global modernization of the US Armed Forces – Navy, Air Force and missile defense – will be reinvigorated.
It’s worth to note the «Arab spring» part: «Mitt Romney believes that the United States cannot be neutral about the outcome. To protect our enduring national interests and to promote our ideals, a Romney administration will pursue a strategy of supporting groups and governments across the Middle East to advance the values of representative government, economic opportunity, and human rights, and opposing any extension of Iranian or jihadist influence». It’s not hard to guess this kind of approach goes beyond the Middle East boundaries… Romney promises to get back to the Bush’s initial European missile defense plans. «Mitt would make clear that while he is willing to cooperate with Russia on missile defense in ways that will enhance the overall effectiveness of the missile-defense system, he will not compromise the capability of the system or yield operational control of it. Russia must abandon any backdoor scheme to constrain our missile defenses. The United States should never give Russia a veto over our security and that of our allies».
Russia enjoys a special place. A nuclear power, Permanent UN Security Council member and a country in possession of vast energy resources Russia is defined as: «a destabilizing force on the world stage». The whole reset policy is declared to be a failure because, as Romney says, it has weakened the US international standing.
Mitt Romney already «stood out» while campaigning when he called Vladimir Putin «a tyrant» and «a threat to national security» along with M. Ahmadinejad and F. Castro in one of his interviews. He also called him «a threat to global peace».
In case of victory Mitt Romney plans to reconsider almost all arms control gains achieved by Obama administration. He also promises to decrease the Europe’s reliance on Russia’s energy resources through expanding the US presence in Central Asia and giving a boost to the Nabucco natural gas pipeline.
There is a Support Civil Society item in the section devoted to Russia. If Romney takes office he will exert large scale pressure on Russia concerning «human rights» and «liberal economy». Russia should be transformed into a country «based on liberal trade and political values.» The way to achieve it is to increase the flow of information into Russia that highlights the virtues of «free elections», «free speech», ‘economic opportunity». A separate important step would be expansion of programs for leaders of civil society organizations so that they could «raise their profile.» Romney appears to think «the profile» of Russian «fifth column» in subversion of state’s foundation is not high enough as yet…
In general the Obama’s policy continuity is going to be preserved by Romney concerning the goals and differs only in ways to achieve them. Here Romney is closer to Bush, Jr., who sees himself as an advocate of direct use of military power. The very fact of Russia being a nuclear power makes it be perceived as a threat according to some perverse logic.
Could it be guessed that the discrepancies between the Barack Obama’s foreign policy and the program of a Republican candidate Mitt Romney concerning the ways of implementation – but preserving the unity of goals – is just another pre-election show, performed by the US establishment to make Moscow more «compliant» towards the present Administration? The question is better be left unanswered…
One way or another there are a lot of people who held top positions during the Bush, Jr’s tenure among Mitt Romney’s advisors. Against this background the getting back to the Bush’s initial European missile defense plans is not just a figure of speech. The old guard wants to finish what they started 5-7 years ago. No matter who the US president is, Russia should be ready for confrontation over the missile defense and US plans to expand its deployment geography. Under certain circumstances it may concern the next neighbors of Russia like Ukraine, in particular. Taking into account the Romney team’s readiness to achieve the decrease of Europe’s dependence on Russia’s energy resources and Ukraine-Russia contradictions on gas issue one cannot exclude a some kind of accord between Kiev and Washington along the «missile defense in exchange for gas» line. For Ukraine itself it would be better to study the US views on «Arab spring» and remember the election year is 2015. That means the US has enough time to train Ukrainian leaders of civil society organizations»…