Foreign policy offensive
US presidential candidate Mitt Romney is on the offensive when it comes to world politics. On October 8, 2012 he spoke at the Virginia Military Institute outlining an aggressive return to world affairs under his presidency. He identified Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as a threat. Without going into detail Romney stressed that "Putin's Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies and where our oldest allies have been told we are 'pivoting' away from them". His stance on other issues will hardly facilitate the improvement of bilateral relations. For instance, he promised to deliver tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets to Syria's opposition and clearly hinted he doesn’t view 2014 as the final time to pull out from Afghanistan. Looks like the Republican candidate’s camp pins hopes on the military after 11successive years of war. "I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region – and work with Israel to increase our military”, Romney said. He actually hinted very distinctly that to his mind forces on the ground in the Middle East were more effective than the present administration's policy of fighting war by remote control guided unmanned aerial vehicles. As he sees the things "drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East," The Republican’s most specific proposal was to increase shipbuilding from nine to 15 ships a year and to keep at least 11 aircraft carrier groups deployed year round, as well as increase spending on a multi-layered national ballistic missile defense system.
The criticism of Russia has been a keynote in his speeches during the whole duration of the campaign and even prior to it. Romney's website has published his election program in which he promised to curb Moscow in case he took office as president. He has called the START-3 nuclear arms reduction agreement the "worst foreign-policy mistake" committed by the Obama’s administration. The incumbent president is accused of desire to "appease Russia" on missile defense. To his mind Russia is America's "number one geopolitical foe" led by the man bent on rebuilding the "Soviet empire." To crown it all, Mitt Romney expressed his willingness to be the godfather of the Russian opposition and organize the training for opposition activists at American educational centers. Congressman Paul Ryan, the candidate for vice-presidency of the USA, supports the radicalization of the country's foreign policies, particularly about the relations with Russia. Actually Romney and Ryan lean hard right, toward the neo-cons, the policies by and large the same as during the George Bush era. And they say the same things as the electoral program of the Republicans.
The program paid special attention to the US-Russian relations. According to it, the Russian administration is authoritarian and does not respect human rights. The GOP document urges the Russian leaders to "reconsider the path they have been following: suppression of opposition parties, the press, and institutions of civil society; unprovoked invasion of the Republic of Georgia, alignment with tyrants in the Middle East; and bullying their neighbors while protecting the last Stalinist regime in Belarus." The Republicans view the Russian Federation as a foe of the United States. They refer to it as a traditional rival of the United States along with North Korea, Iran and China. The Republican platform supports his views citing "Russian activism "as one of the "gravest threats to our national security".
According to his pre-election promises, first off Romney is going to revise the plans connected with the deployment of the missile defense system in Europe and other regions. He also intends to support European countries to reduce their dependence on the Russian oil and gas. In case he wins the US will apply efforts to strengthen the ties between the U.S. and Central Asian republics.
Russia and major global issues
The bilateral relations may be going through hard times, but still there are significant achievements. In 2010 the first full-scale nuclear arms reduction treaty was concluded since the times of Cold War. And after years of non-cooperation, the both countries began to cooperate to support the beleaguered NATO mission in Afghanistan. Early this year, NATO and Russia came to agreement on the use of Ulyanovsk airbase in the Volga region to assist NATO efforts to resupply its forces in the country. Even the official Republican program mentions important areas of cooperation recognizing "we do have common imperatives: ending terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation, promoting trade, and more." No matter how acrimonious the future dialogue maybe it’s in the US interest to continue discussions instead of curbing contacts. The Cold War mentality represented by Mitt Romney ignores the very real common interest in reducing nuclear stockpiles, non-proliferation and organized crime. The both states have accumulated quite a lot of positive experience of cooperation.
There is clear understanding the Mr. Romney’s position is motivated by the election race and election rhetoric. Russia still matters in US foreign policy because of its permanent seat on the UN Security Council, its ties to states such as Iran and Syria, its influence as a global and regional power, its possession of the world's second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. There are other factors to reckon with, like the reliance on Russian transit corridors to support US forces in Afghanistan to 2015 and beyond. There is a great chance the realities of life like the ongoing financial troubles will make the administration opt to spare conventional capabilities and procurement by reducing the nuclear force, want it or not. There are also businessmen interested in Russian investments, lucrative deals in troubled times.
Aspirations and opportunities
It’s not about emotions only. It’s a substantiated vision of things. Mitt Romney expounded his views in the book "No Apologies: The Case for American Greatness" that saw light in 2010. The stance has support in the expert community. For instance, the Mitt Romney's views were echoed in a popular article Yes, Russia Is Our Top Geopolitical Foe by John Arquilla published in the September 17 edition of Foreign Policy. Mr. Arquilla represents the Rand Corporation, he’s widely known as one of the network-centric warfare concept, also called network-centric operations, a military doctrine. No doubt he expresses the views of influential circles of US society.
The USA is facing the problem of overstretching its might. The crisis has made the problem obvious. Now the Conservatives are prone to adopt a “make it or break it” approach pinning hopes on converting the navy and air force advantage into foreign policy gains. It’s the Pentagon not economy who Mitt Romney and his supporters pin hopes on.
The essence of what we know so far about US foreign policy to be implemented in case Romney wins is that the Republican candidate and his supporters have learned nothing from what was to be learned from the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and the lessons of the Arab spring. If the Republican candidate sincerely believes in what he says then he is not able to align the aspirations with possibilities. The times the USA could play the role of global leader are over. The national debt greater than the gross domestic product, the armed forces bogged down in the hopeless quagmire in Afghanistan, the growing influence of China or the BRICS and other poles of power – all these factors undermine the US claims for global domination. No way arming the Syrian opposition, delaying the pull out of Afghanistan, and “getting tough” with Russia could bolster the aspirations to global dominance. To the contrary this policy will aggravate the implications of the mistakes already committed. The refusal to find a compromise on the missile defense with Russia will result in adequate response. Getting tough? Moscow will get tough on the issues where the USA cooperation. Getting tough on China would make China get tough in return; the tough stance in the Middle East would only worsen the things.
The last 10 years the US foreign policy suffered serious setbacks. The two terms of George Bush brought about great damage to the US global stance. If Romney does what he says he will deliver the second blow to his country’s global interests. By and large it’s the same platform John McCain tried when a presidential candidate. He lost to Obama but the difference was only 6%, no great shakes for the Democrat. The numbers of US voters filled with discontent and frustration is a serious force to reckon with. It results in Tea party, neo-cons movement and other groups calling for restoration of Pax Americana. Romney tries to meet their aspirations. It’s a well thought strategy. But in case of victory he’ll have to shoulder the heavy burden of foreign policy mistakes committed by G. Bush administration that weakened the US so much. Perhaps reluctantly but he’ll have to insert corrections into the foreign policy concept. The matter is that you can leave the rhetoric behind be wise enough to face reality or learn the lessons the hard way, something far from meeting the interests of common Americans first of all.