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Romney's Shot at the "Reset": Is Russia the United States' Number One Foe?
Vladimir Frolov, Dale Herspring, Alexander Rahr, Nicolai N. Petro, Ira Straus, Eric Kraus, Srdja Trifkovich,
Patrick Armstrong, James George Jatras, Edward Lozansky, Darren Spinck, Dick Krickus, Vladimir Belaeff
- Russia Profile Weekly Experts Panel - Russia Profile - russiaprofile.org - 4.6.12 - JRL 2012-64

U.S. Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney seized upon President Barack Obama's open-mic gaffe at the nuclear security summit in Seoul, where Obama was overheard asking his Russian counterpart, President Dmitri Medvedev, to give him more space during the difficult election year and indicating he might have more flexibility on the thorny issue of missile defense during his second term. Do Republicans really think Russia is the United States' number one geopolitical rival and foe? How will Romney's attack on Obama's Russia policy and his management of foreign affairs help the Republicans at the polls in November?

Arkady Dvorkovich
file photo
Romney said on CNN that Obama "signaled that he's going to cave to Russia," calling the country the United States' "number one geopolitical foe." He followed that up with an op-ed in Foreign Policy magazine, the title of which ­ "Bowing to the Kremlin" ­ contended that Obama's diplomacy is endangering America.

Indeed, Obama's comments made him look weak and cynical. His pleading tone also makes one feel that a tough guy like Vladimir Putin can push him around, according to one seasoned Washington observer of U.S.-Russia relations. Others noted that Obama conveyed to a foreign leader the impression that he was assured of his reelection in the fall, a huge faux pas in American politics.

File Photo of Barack Hussein Obama II and Dmitry Medvedev Shaking Hands Before Flags
file photo
The Republicans rushed to launch a full-scale offensive to destroy Obama's foreign policy legacy. As the Washington Post reports, Romney is preparing to broaden his challenge to Obama's management of foreign affairs, sensing political vulnerability in an area in which the incumbent has received his strongest public support.

During the campaign, Romney offered a more confrontational approach to Russia, China, Iran and other countries, while using blunt language on the stump that harks back to the Cold War, such as his pledge to "devote myself to an American century," and "never, never apologize for America." This is largely the result of the foreign policy coaching Romney gets from his neo-con advisors, many of whom served in George W. Bush administration.

But his label of Russia as the United States' "number one geopolitical foe" has probably gone too far, highlighting Romney's lack of foreign policy experience and even putting in question the soundness of his judgment in foreign affairs and U.S. national security interests. Obama's supporters immediately faulted the Republican presidential contender for demonizing Russia and misreading the threat from Moscow ­ a valuable partner for the U.S. on a host of international issues.