● On Libya, Romney supported the NATO intervention but criticized Obama for its handling. In his VFW speech, he said the U.S. involvement “was marked by inadequate clarity of purpose before we began the mission, mission muddle during the operation, and ongoing confusion as to our role in the future.”
● On Syria, he has been generally quiet but has grown more hawkish as time passes. Like most U.S. politicians, he called for isolating and eventually removing the Assad regime, and he advocated aggressive sanctions through the UN Security Council. Last week, he went one step further, issuing a statement saying “we should work with partners to arm the opposition so they can defend themselves.”
During the primary campaign, the U.S.-Israeli relationship was probably the single issue on which the Republican challengers were most united in their criticism of President Obama. Romney repeatedly excoriated Obama for “[throwing] Israel under the bus.” He particularly blasted Obama’s effort to persuade Israel to cease construction of new West Bank settlements. He also echoed Benjamin Netanyahu in labeling any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the 1967 borders “indefensible.”
Romney repeatedly has stressed that he would follow Israel’s lead. In a speech to the AIPAC Policy Conference, he said of himself and Netanyahu: “In a Romney administration, there will be no gap between our nations or between our leaders.” In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, he elaborated by saying, “I believe that the role of an ally is to stand behind your friends and let them speak for themselves.” He added: “The actions that I will take will be actions recommended and supported by Israeli leaders.”
One of Romney’s favorite campaign lines has been: “We must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. . . . If I am president, that will not happen. If we reelect Barack Obama, it will happen.” Yet despite Romney’s relentless criticism of Obama on this issue, it isn’t clear what he would do differently. In a Washington Post op-ed in March, he said he would “press for ever-tightening sanctions, acting with other countries if we can but alone if we must.” Romney also contends that the key to solving the issue is conveying to Iran “that a military option to deal with their nuclear program remains on the table.” This is to be accomplished through both increased military aid to Israel and through “restoring the regular presence of aircraft carrier groups in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region.” He also attacked Obama for failing to support the Iranian Green Movement in 2009.
Even before Romney’s recent remarks that Russia is America’s “number one geopolitical foe,” he was well known for taking strident rhetorical positions against Moscow. During the summer of 2010, he was one of the first conservatives to take the lead in vocally opposing the New START agreement on nuclear reductions, a position he has maintained ever since. He likewise blasted the Obama administration for abandoning the Bush-era plans for missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic in favor of the Phased Adaptive Approach. Romney repeatedly characterizes these and other gestures as unilateral “concessions” for which the United States got nothing from Russia in return. He has called Obama’s broader “reset” policy a failure. As he wrote in Foreign Policy online, “For three years, the sum total of President Obama's policy toward Russia has been: ‘We give, Russia gets.’”
Romney also criticizes Russia’s human-rights record. He writes on his website, “A Romney administration will be forthright in confronting the Russian government over its authoritarian practices. Mitt Romney will support measures to increase the flow of information into Russia that highlights the virtues of free elections, free speech, economic opportunity, and a government free of corruption.”