From Russia, With Hate

The Republican candidates have shown a stunning lack of sense when it comes to their statements on international relations.  As you may recall, at one of the 87 Republican debates, Rick Perry claimed that Turkey is run by islamic terrorists and questioned its membership in NATO.  The comment unsurprisingly prompted outrage in Turkey, and the U.S. State Department was left trying to distance itself from the comments, as it sought Turkey’s cooperation in various crises in the middle east.

Never content to be outcrazied, Mitt Romney has gone after an even more significant ally:

Either with nuclear arms discussions or it has to do with missile defense sites and what he did with nuclear weapons already as well as the new treaty and to reduce our missile defense sites in Alaska, from the original plan. These are very  unfortunate developments and if he’s planning on doing more, if he has things he’s willing to do, this is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe, they fight every cause for the world’s worst actors, the idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed.

To be clear, I think it’s fair game to criticize foreign policy of the President you’re trying to unseat.  But you’ve got to make those criticisms without interfering in the President’s ability to actually conduct foreign policy.  Romney may even be right about Russia for all I know (they’ve certainly been an obstacle to getting Assad out of power in Syria) but he should keep his mouth shut about it unless and until he’s in office. Or, as former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe and former Democratic presidential candidate Wes Clark put it:

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.

And guess what?  If Romney takes the White House, expect a much softer line from him on Russia, once he no longer has to invent criticisms of President Obama out of thin air.


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4 Responses to From Russia, With Hate

  1. mike says:

    Now that I’m 31 and have a little over a decade of political awareness under my belt, I’m becoming keenly aware of what I’ll call the minority-party edge.

    For example, if you’re Mitt Romney and you’re running for President, but you aren’t actually the President, or if you’re the GOP and you control the House but not the Senate or Presidency, you have the luxury of basically saying whatever you want, at least in the heat of the moment, because you don’t actually have to govern anything, pass any legislation, or conduct foreign policy.

    I remember circa 2005 when the Democrats were talking about leaving Iraq immediately, but then they gained some power and their tone changed quite a bit. The point is, being tasked with carrying out the ideas you propose is quite sobering and it isn’t surprising that every candidate who’s ever campaigned and then won has generally moderated his/her rhetoric upon taking office.

    Now, with that said, Wes Clark is right, not so much in his efforts to peg Romney down a notch, but in the sense that we need to understand how foreign policy works in the modern world. We’ve spent an ungodly amount of lives, goodwill, and dollars learning these lessons accross much of our foreign policy since the end of WWII, we just have to be willing to look for them. Puffing up third-world enemies based on whichever “ism” we happen to be fearing at the moment – terrorism, communism – is a poor substitute for rational, effective policy. I believe the Democrats have learned that lesson and least partially.

    • dedc79 says:

      I’d have to take a closer look, but I bet there are instances from 2004 and 2008 where Democratic challengers may have also gone over the line. What’s particularly strange about the Perry/Romney examples is how out of left field they are. I mean, why go after Turkey, which is the closest thing to a muslim ally that we have in the middle east?

      Why the inflammatory statement about Russia in the middle of intense negotiations regarding Syria/Iran that will probably require Russian consent?

  2. This kills me, from Romney’s “policy director”:

    “In contrast to President Obama, Governor Romney is clear-eyed about the geopolitical challenges Russia poses,” Chen continued. “Russia’s nuclear arsenal, its energy resources, it geographic position astride Europe and Asia, the veto it wields on the U.N. Security Council, and the creeping authoritarianism of its government make Russia a unique geopolitical problem that frustrates progress on numerous issues of vital concern to the United States.”

    Okay: the first 4 of those 5 things are just descriptions of Russia’s attributes, not an explanation for why we have to fear them. And the 5th is incomplete– it’s true that Russia’s weakly democratic if at all, but that doesn’t answer the question. Hell, plenty of Republicans are pissed that we didn’t back the authoritarian government that fell in Egypt, because they might be nicer to us and our buddies than whatever comes next. “More authoritarian” doesn’t establish “the most dangerous thing IN THE WORLD!”

    Romney’s campaign realizes there’s literally zero basis for the things he says; hence this kind of meaningless garbage from their PR people.

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