Mitt Romney on Foreign Policy
Former Republican Governor (MA); presidential nominee-apparent
ROMNEY: Well, there's no question, but that the President's naivete with regards to Russia's intentions & objectives has led to a number of foreign policy challenges that we face. We need to understand that Russia has very different interests than ours, this is not fantasy land, this is reality, where they are a geopolitical adversary. They're not our enemy. But they are certainly an adversary on the world stage.
Q: [The Russian invasion of Ukraine and Crimea] caught a lot of people by surprise it seems to me?
ROMNEY: Well, there may have been some people surprised but there are many, many others who predicted that Russia would try and grab additional territory. We recognized that Russia has a major base in Sevastopol in Crimea, there couldn't be a surprise to folks that Russia might take the opportunity to grab that territory.
ROMNEY: Well, you look over the past five years and good things have not been bursting out all over. The Middle East is in turmoil. Iraq is fragile and may fall back into a devastating setting. We're not making the kind of progress in Afghanistan that had been promised. And our esteem around the world has fallen. I can't think of a single major country that has greater respect and admiration for America today than it did five years ago when Barack Obama became President. And that's a very sad, unfortunate state of affairs.
ROMNEY: No, I think they're very real when you have the kind of specific threats that were leveled at the games. You have to take them seriously.
Q: You've been critical of the Russian government spending $50 billion to host the games in Sochi; you wrote: "If a country wants to show off, what's the harm? When need is as great as it is--harm occurs when a country spends more than it can afford to keep up appearances with big spenders. And harm occurs when the world's poor look in anguish at the excess." Time to limit that excess?
ROMNEY: I really think so because you don't need to spend $50 billion as Russia has or as China did to put an Olympic sport. Olympic sport can be demonstrated at $2 or $3 billion. And all that extra money could be used to do some very important things in terms of fighting poverty, as opposed to showing off a country--or I think more cynically--showing off the politicians in the country.
ROMNEY: This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world and to America in particular, which is to see a complete change in the structure and the environment in the Middle East. With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women and public life and in economic life in the Middle East. But instead we've seen in nation after nation a number of disturbing events. Of course, we see in Syria 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in Libya an attack apparently by terrorists. Northern Mali has been taken over by al-Qaida-type individuals. We have in Egypt a Muslim Brotherhood president. So what we're seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region.
ROMNEY: Russia, I indicated, is a geopolitical foe, not [a military threat]. It's a geopolitical foe. And I said in the same paragraph, that Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the UN time & time again. I have clear eyes on this. I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin, and I'm certainly not going to say to him, "I'll give you more flexibility after the election." After the election he'll get more backbone.
ROMNEY: I'd take on diplomatic isolation efforts. I'd make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world, the same way we treated the apartheid diplomats of South Africa. We need to increase pressure time and time again on Iran because anything other than a solution which stops this nuclear folly of theirs is unacceptable to America. And of course, a military action is the last resort. It is something one would only, only consider if all of the other avenues had been tried to their full extent.
OBAMA: You know, I'm glad that Gov. Romney agrees with the steps that we're taking. The work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking; it's meticulous. We started from the day we got into office.
OBAMA: This notion of me apologizing has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign, and every fact-checker and every reporter who's looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.
ROMNEY: We're four years closer to a nuclear Iran. The reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations, and they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations and on Arabic TV you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.
ROMNEY: The president [says] things are going so well. I look at what's happening around the world and I see Iran four years closer to a bomb. I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos, tumult. I see jihadists continuing to spread. I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead. I see our trade deficit with China growing larger every year. I look around the world, I don't see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding, in part because of the failure of the president to deal with our economic challenges at home, in part because of our withdrawal from our commitment to our military and the way I think it ought to be
ROMNEY: Well, we're going to be finished by 2014. So our troops'll come home at that point.
Q: And Pakistan?
ROMNEY: Look at what's happening in Pakistan--Pakistan is going to have a major impact on the success in Afghanistan. Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us, because Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads, and they're rushing to build a lot more. A Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and us.
Q: Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?
ROMNEY: No, it's not time to divorce a nation on earth that has 100 nuclear weapons. It's important for the nuclear weapons, it's important for the success of Afghanistan, because inside Pakistan you have a large group of Pashtuns that are Taliban, that they're going to come rushing back into Afghanistan when we go. And that's one of the reasons the Afghan security forces have so much work to do to be able to fight against that.
In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East--that is, both governments and individuals who share our values.
This means restoring our credibility with Iran. When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability--and the regional instability that comes with it--is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us. And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.
President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus, even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro's Cuba. He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to give Russia's President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone.
We will honor America's democratic ideals because a free world is a more peaceful world. This is the bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan. And under my presidency we will return to it once again.
Our economy is becoming weaker. The foundation of our future economy is being eroded. Government has become too large. We're headed in a very dangerous direction.
I believe, to get America back on track, we're going to have to have dramatic, fundamental, extraordinary change in Washington to be able to allow our private sector to once again reemerge competitively, to scale back the size of government and to maintain our strength abroad in our military capacities. I believe that, to change Washington in such a dramatic way, you cannot do it by people who have been there their entire careers.
"Kim Jong-il was a ruthless tyrant who lived a life of luxury while the North Korean people starved. He recklessly pursued nuclear weapons, sold nuclear and missile technology to other rogue regimes, and committed acts of military aggression against our ally South Korea. He will not be missed," Romney said. "His death represents an opportunity for America to work with our friends to turn North Korea off the treacherous course it is on and ensure security in the region. America must show leadership at this time. The North Korean people are suffering through a long and brutal national nightmare. I hope the death of Kim Jong-il hastens its end."
ROMNEY: Very simple. You start off by saying that you don't allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and your allies. The president went about this all wrong. He went around the world and apologized for America. He addressed the United Nations in his inaugural address and chastised our friend, Israel, for building settlements and said nothing about Hamas launching thousands of rockets into Israel. The right course for us is to stand behind our friends, to listen to them, and to let the entire world know that we will stay with them and that we will support them and defend them. And with regards to Iran, which perhaps represents the greatest existential threat to Israel, we have to make it abundantly clear: It is unacceptable--and I take that word carefully--it is unacceptable for Iran to become a nuclear nation.
The right answer is not to believe in European solutions. The right answer is to believe in America--to believe in free enterprise, capitalism, limited government--and to believe in the constitution, as it was written and intended by the founders
Like the Ottomans, the Spanish and Portuguese achieved wealth through plunder, and then shut their borders--and their minds--to innovation, technology, and learning.
China declined [because] as ships from foreign lands docked in their ports, the Chinese feared cultural contamination. China's cultural and economic isolation continued in the 20th century: Mao saw learning and innovation as threats.
By 1860, Britain's economy was the biggest in the world, But whereas other nations embraced new technology, Britain reversed course and tried to contain it.
The different countries' paths of decline [all included] isolation; most important, isolation from knowledge. This is a lesson that shouldn't be lost on us.
China's leaders see things quite differently They believe that the economic vitality produced by free enterprise, combined with the stability and vision of wise leaders, unaffected by popular whim, creates the winning strategy. Autocracies of the twentieth century were often wedded to socialism; its abject economic failure doomed these governments. But China is banking that having embraced a form of free enterprise, their autocratic future will be very different than their past failures.
So the president and the leaders of both parties shifted America's foreign policy. America took on the task of anticipating, containing, and eventually defeating threats to the progress of freedom in the belief that actively protecting others was the best way to protect ourselves.
Broadly construed, the new order had three pillars: active involvement and participation in world affairs; active promotion of American and Western values including democracy, free enterprise, and human rights; and a collective security umbrella for America and her allies.
America is unique in the history of the world. In the history of the world, whenever there has been conflict, the nation that wins takes land from the nation that loses. [The US] took no land. No land from Germany, no land from Japan, no land from Korea. America is unique in the sacrifice it has made for liberty, for itself and for freedom loving people around the world. The best ally peace has ever known, and will ever know, is a strong America.
A: Putin is heading down the same road that we’ve seen authoritarian leaders in Russia and the former Soviet Union head down before, and it’s very troubling. You see a leader who wants to reestablis Russia as one of the great powers of the world, potentially a superpower, potentially the superpower. And he has -- the evidence of that, of course, is his elimination of the free press, his terrorizing and imprisoning political prisoners, \ and unexplained murders that are occurring. It’s another repressive regime, which he is overseeing. And the question is what do you in a circumstance like that and what it portends for the future of the world. What we have today in the world is four major, if you will, strategies at play. One, they’re the nations with the energy, like Russia. They’re trying to use energy as a way to take over the world.
A: You’ve got to think about who Fidel Castro is, and who Raul Castro is as well. We call them strongmen--dictators, totalitarian leaders. And yet these are individuals who are not strong. Look at what they have done: People wearing a wristband that says “change” are arrested--25 of them just for wearing a wristband. These Castro brothers are cowards, and we have to recognize they are cowards. And for that reason, the course for America is to continue our isolation of Cuba. It is not to say, as Barack Obama on the Democratic side said, that he would dignify the Castros with a personal visit to Cuba. That’s not the way to go. Instead, it’s to bring our friends together to isolate Cuba, to put together a strategy that helps all of Latin America, weakens Hugo Chavez who is propping up Castro. We need a Latin American policy that frees Cuba and that eliminates a threat of people like Hugo Chavez.
He said state funds could not be used to protect Khatami during his visit and that all requests from Harvard for police escorts or VIP courtesies would be denied. Amid protests, inside the walls of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Khatami gave his speech, but the students didn’t let him off the hook. They asked challenging questions about human rights in Iran. Ironically, they were doing the same thing Khatami had imprisoned students in Iran for doing years earlier.
A: Democracy is not defined by a vote. There have to be the underpinnings of democracy: education, health care, people recognizing they live in a place that has the rule of law. And that’s why our effort to spread democracy should continue, not to just spread votes, but instead to encourage other people in the world to have the benefits that we enjoy and to welcome democracy. There’s no question in this country, we need to reach out, not just with our military might--although that we have, and should keep it strong--but also reach out with our other great capabilities.
Q: Did Pres. Bush fail to appreciate the nuance you’re talking about now?
A: I’m not a carbon copy of Pres. Bush. And there are things I would do differently.
We bring together not just America, but all the nations of the civilized world. We help draw these folks toward modernity, as opposed to having them turn toward the violence and the extreme. And that kind of a campaign of values, combined with our strong arms, speaking softly but carrying a strong stick, as Teddy Roosevelt said, that will help move the world to a safer place.
We’d love it if we could all just come home and not worry about the rest of the world. But the problem is, they attacked us on 9/11. We want to help move the world of Islam toward modernity so they can reject the extreme.
A: You don’t take options off the table. All over the world we’re seeing the same thing happening, and that is, people are testing the US. We have to make sure they understand that we’re not arrogant. We have resolve. And we have the strength to protect our interests and to protect people who love liberty. For that to happen, we’re going to have not just to attack each one of these problems one by one, but say, “How do we help move the world of Islam so that the moderate Muslims can reject the extreme?” And for that to happen, we’re going to have to have a strong military and an effort to combine with our allies in such a way that we combine for an effort to help move Islam towards modernity. There is a war going on, and we need a broad response to make sure that these people have a different vision.
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