Washington (CNN) – Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida boosted his vice presidential buzz Wednesday as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, giving what his office billed as a "major foreign policy speech."
The freshman senator, who ran as a tea party favorite in 2010, voiced an "internationalist" perspective on major global issues, emphasizing the need for American leadership and intervention in areas like Syria, Russia, and Iran at the Brookings Institution, a prominent international think tank based in Washington.
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"What happens all over the world is our business. Every aspect of lives is directly impacted by global events," he said. "It's impossible for us to focus only on our issues here at home."
Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-independent senator from Connecticut, introduced Rubio, giving him a platform to speak about the effectiveness of American strength around the world. Lieberman noted Rubio's bipartisanship on these issues, putting him in the "tradition that links together our greatest Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and our greatest Democratic presidents like Harry S. Truman."
Notably, Rubio did not use the widely covered speech as an opportunity to harshly attack the Obama administration. Instead he offered areas of disagreement with both the president, like on Russia, and members of his own party that argue for a more isolationist policy.
"I feel like we have gotten precious little from Russia in exchange for concessions on nuclear weapons," he said about the Obama administration's "reset" with the country, a critique Romney often emphasizes on the campaign trail.
Though Rubio disputes the policy, his view on how to mend the U.S.-Russia relationship showed his fervent belief in U.S. global leadership.
"We need to re-energize and lead a united coalition with European nations to tackle issues ranging from missile defense to the continued enlargement of NATO," Rubio said. "Furthermore, if we are successful in forming a Western Hemisphere energy coalition that takes advantage of the shale-gas revolution, we will be able to help our European allies reduce their coerced dependence on Russian energy as well."
On China, Rubio agreed with Romney's criticism of the country's handling on many issues, but his thoughts on resolving them did not mirror the candidate's promise to label the country as a currency manipulator on day one of his administration.
"The United States, Europe and East Asia represent 71% of the world's economy," he said. "That's a lot of leverage, and we should use it to address problems such as China's disregard for intellectual property rights, gross human rights violations, its unfair trading practices, its currency manipulation, and the looming presence of China's state-owned industries."
On one of the biggest tea party issues – the United Nations – Rubio offered his frustrations with logjams there but still insisted on the importance of such institutions. Many Republicans, tea party and not, have introduced bills to stop U.S. payments to the U.N. because of these problems, something he did not mention.
"When American influence is diminished, for example, by the one-nation one-vote formula of the U.N. General Assembly or the U.N. Human Rights Council, we see absurd and often appalling results," he said, evoking Republican irritation. But he also mentioned that "multi-lateral international organizations can be a forum for forming international coalitions."
When it comes to Iran, Rubio was most in line with the president, endorsing negotiations while leaving open the possibility of military strikes on the country.
"The prospect of a nuclear capable Iran is so unacceptable that we must be prepared to act," he said. "We should be open to negotiations with Iran. But always remember that they should not be deemed a success when they only lead to further negotiations."
Showing off his understanding of complex foreign issues, Rubio insisted on the need to help the Syrian opposition against President Bashar al-Assad's government as a way of weakening Iran.
"The fall of Assad would be a significant blow to Iran's ambitions," Rubio said. "On those grounds alone, we should be seeking to help the people of Syria bring him down."
Rubio also spoke about engaging with democratic countries in South America, which have been stronger and more economically prosperous, as a way to overcome regional challenges like Venezuela. He did not offer any thoughts on Cuba, the country from which his parents emigrated to America.
Rubio concluded his speech by quoting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's 2003 address to Congress about America's essential role around the world. The Florida senator added his own views on U.S. leadership, sounding like a statesman waiting to gain residence to the Naval Observatory.
"Above all else, the 21st century provides us the opportunity for more freedom," Rubio said. "A world where more people are free. Free to grow their economies. Free to pursue their dreams. Free to become prosperous. This is the promise of this century. But it will not happen if we are not engaged. It will not happen if we do not lead."