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Obama vs. Romney on Russian Foreign Policy

During President Obama’s acceptance speech at the 2012 Democratic convention, he took Romney to task on a host of foreign policy issues. Obama started throwing punches on the issue of Russia by claiming that Romney had named Russia America’s number one enemy. More recently, Putin himself stepped in to subtly endorse Obama in the election. Here’s what Obama said to the DNC,

“My opponent and his running mate are . . . new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to bring us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy unless your still in a cold war mind warp.”

Obama’s cut was sharp and the crowd at the DNC cheered, but was it true? Indeed, Romney did claim that Russia is “without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world’s worst actors” in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer back in March of 2012.

Blitzer challenges Romney on his statement asking, “you think Russia’s a bigger foe right now than Iran or China or North Korea?” Romney responded immediately by saying, “well, I’m saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent. The nation that lines up with the world’s worst actors. Of course, the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran . . . a nuclear North Korea is already troubling enough. But when these terrible actors pursue their course in the world and we go to the United Nations looking for ways to stop them when … when Assad for instance is murdering his own people. We go to the United Nations and who is it that always stands up for the world’s worse actors? It is always Russia, typically with China alongside.”

Now, the key to remember in regard to the entire back and forth between Obama and Romney is how Russia came into the conversation to begin with. It started, not with a political speech to the masses, but when Obama spoke into a microphone that he thought was not working while conversing with Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev.

During the discussion, Obama mentions that he will have “more flexibility” after his election. The full context of this conversation is unknown to most, but simply the idea that Obama would do something after the election that he has difficulty doing before is troubling. Not surprisingly, this is the context of Romney’s “greatest foe” comment.

I have no idea what Medvedev and Obama were speaking about, but I’ll bet they were speaking about America’s missile defense shield. Why? Because when Putin speaks about American foreign policy to his own press, he speaks mostly about the missile shield. This is how Putin frames the American election and why he is personally pushing for Obama to win over Romney.

If Romney and Obama are going to speak about Russia, I hope they can shift the conversation to the defense shield, or to nuclear disarmament, or even to how Russia behaves at the U.N. All of these issues actually have long lasting implications for the rest of us.

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