Why America's Republicans
have No Foreign Policy (Gazeta, Russia)
Romney would like to return to the world's former two-pole model, when
everything was simple and clear. After all, today’s biggest challenge is the
fuzzy strategic situation and the blurred frontlines. It isn't clear who is on
your side, who is right or wrong - or rather, the trouble is that parties often
switch sides. ... And even in the Republican camp, there is a tacit
understanding that in the 21st century, betting on America's global dominance may
simply be unaffordable."
The section of the
Republican political platform devoted to Russia starts unexpectedly. “The
heroism - and the suffering - of the people of Russia over the last century
demand the world’s respect. As our allies in their Great Patriotic War, they
lost 28 million fighting Nazism. As our allies in spirit, they ended the Soviet
terror that had consumed so many millions more. They deserve our admiration and
support as they now seek to reestablish their rich national identity.”
What follows are the usual assertions: a call to the Russian
authorities to stop suppressing the opposition, media, and institutions of
civil society; to end its “unprovoked” aggression against Georgia, to sever its
alliances with “tyrants in the Middle East,” to end the pressure on its neighbors
and support of “the last Stalinist regime in Belarus.”
“The Russian people deserve better,” specifically in
order to join the ranks of the “modern democracies.” The Republicans intend to
provide a constant climate favorable to trade, but only in conjunction with the
In addition to the special section (which, by the way, is
longer than the single paragraph devoted to Europe), Russia is mentioned twice.
Once on the list of the "most serious national security threats," to
which the current administration has reacted to by “showing weakness.”
The platform discusses the spread of transnational
terrorism, the continuing war-mongering of nuclear North Korea, Iran’s quest to
acquire nuclear weapons, China’s growing hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region,
the threat of cyber-spying and cyber-terrorism, and “Russian activism.”
The second mention was on the Republicans’ favorite topic:
Barack Obama’s unfortunate - and accidentally publicized - promise to Dmitri
Medvedev to show more flexibility on anti-missile defense in the event he is
reelected. The GOP platform, naturally, promises never to make deals behind backs
of the American people for the sake of “appeasing” Russia.
The context is not particularly pleasant, but should be
considered not in absolute terms, but relative ones. Thus, the 2008 platform
(when John McCain was the candidate) had no kind words for Russia or Russians.
There was nothing but condemnation for Russia's domestic political mores and
aggressive politics toward its neighbors. The rhetoric of the 2012 document
also differs somewhat from the statements of presidential candidate Mitt
Romney, who has repeatedly called Russia “America's main geopolitical
adversary,” which has perplexed not only his opponents, but his supporters as
Despite the relatively noticeable presence of Russian themes
in the party platform and statements by the candidate, it is clear that in
electoral terms, Russia is insignificant.
What really matters is not any particular issue, but the
overall point of view on the role America plays - and should play - on the global
stage. The chapter of the document devoted to foreign policy and national security
has an eloquent title: American
Exceptionalism. A similar chapter of the 2008 agenda had a less
pretentious, more hands-on title: Defending
Our Nation, Supporting Our Heroes, Securing the Peace. Perhaps because
Republicans had been in the White House for almost eight years at that point,
during which they lived through an attack on the United States and launched two
wars, they had to find answers to very specific questions on the subject of
security. Today, from the point of view of criticizing the Democratic
administration, it is easier to indulge in the pathos of slogans.
There is another explanation. Traditionally, one of the
presidential pair has extensive foreign policy experience, or at least has an
interest in foreign affairs. But this time around, neither Mitt Romney nor his
vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan can make such a claim.
Romney aligns himself with middle-of-the-road Republican
notions from the late 20th and early 21st century, the arithmetic mean of
Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. There is little specificity - mainly the casting
of spells about the need to re-establish unequivocal American greatness and to
stop bemoaning its decline, which, in the opinion of the Republicans, is what
Barack Obama is doing when he says he believes the U.S. should find common
ground with the rising powers. Candidate Romney declares his rigidity and
adherence to principle because this was a very successful U.S. approach relatively
recently - less than a quarter century ago. That was the opening statement of
the GOP platform: “We are the party of peace through strength ... We proudly
associate ourselves with those Americans ... who, more than three decades ago
in a world as dangerous as today’s ... announced their strategy in a timeless
slogan we repeat today: peace through strength - an enduring peace based on
freedom and the will to defend it ...”
Posted by Worldmeets.US
Hence, from this
“image of the desired past” stems Mitt Romney’s aforementioned bias against Russia.
Instinctively, the candidate would like to return to the world's former
two-pole model, when everything was simple and clear. After all, today’s biggest
challenge is the fuzzy strategic situation and the blurred frontlines. It isn't
clear who is on your side, who is right or wrong - or rather, the trouble is
that parties often switch sides. And even the possession of strength doesn't mean
one understands how to apply it.
The choice of a vice presidential candidate is telling. As
a rule, since the 1980s, politicians who have had the role have had significant
authority when it comes to global affairs, i.e.: George Bush Sr., Al Gore, Dick
Cheney and Joe Biden. Paul Ryan has no clout in this sphere of influence, and
his detractors assert that he is interested only in numbers and budget items.
Ryan is a devoted believer in budget cuts, and considering the acuteness of the
issue of the U.S. national debt, the topic will undoubtedly be used as a
battering ram against Obama. So the central foreign policy question is whether budget
cuts will affect the military sector.
The Republicans are usually happy to slash everything but
the cost of national security. Romney belongs in this category: antimissile
defense, for instance, is his sacred cow, because it is Reagan’s legacy.
His running mate comes across as a man who, naturally,
will say whatever is necessary about American security, but is fundamentally
removed from the matter and has no interest in it. The appearance of a vice
presidential candidate who is indifferent to foreign policy is symptomatic (the
last election and Sarah Palin are not indicative, because John McCain was a
recognized authority in foreign affairs). Even in the Republican camp, there is
a tacit understanding that in the 21st century, betting on America's global
dominance may simply be unaffordable.
Foreign Policy magazine
recently noted that even if Romney wanted to continue the tradition of a
foreign-policy-aware vice president, he would not have had much of choice in
terms of running mates. The "aces" in that sphere are gradually fading
from the scene and leaving the stage to activists of a different sort. A good
example would be the retirement of the legendary Senator Dick Lugar. He lost his
Republican primary to a Tea Party extremist and is no longer in the race for
the Senate. Ron Paul and his son Rand wield noticeable influence over the Republican
debate. Ron Paul, a veteran of American politics with libertarian and
isolationist leanings, fought Romney for the nomination until the end, while
Rand is a rising Tea Party star. Some commentators, noting the declining
interest of Republicans in foreign affairs, are talking about a relative
provincialization of the party. If Romney wins, it will be possible to test the
veracity of this claim in practice.
*Fyodor Lukyanov is Chief Editor for Russia in Global Affairs
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