Romney trip to highlight foreign policy flashpoints
July 21st, 2012
12:01 AM ET
10 years ago

Romney trip to highlight foreign policy flashpoints

(CNN) – Mitt Romney's upcoming international swing will provide the presumptive GOP nominee an opportunity to lend authority to his presidential bid, but it will not generate any new proclamations of policy, advisers to his campaign said this week.

Romney will travel to London, Israel and Poland beginning Wednesday, meeting with top leaders in each country for sessions meant to "learn and listen" rather than to advance any particular policy contrast with President Barack Obama.

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The trip, Romney campaign policy director Lanhee Chen said, would be about "locking arms with our allies."

"We don't anticipate that this is an opportunity for the governor to make any specific policy pronouncement," Chen added, saying Romney would have an opportunity to make pointed foreign policy remarks when he addresses the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Tuesday, the day before he departs.

On his trip, however, Romney will come across some of the United States' most delicate diplomatic issues, which he has largely avoided speaking about in detail on the campaign trail in America. As a former businessman and governor, Romney will face the challenge of appearing presidential without any actual negotiating power. And his campaign will confront the logistical hurdles faced by presidents without the support structures that come with the office.

Romney's first stop is London, where Romney is slated to meet with virtually every major British political leader, including Prime Minister David Cameron, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and opposition leader Ed Miliband. He will also meet with William Hague, the U.K. foreign secretary, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The U.K.-U.S. relationship has long been considered the United States' most important bilateral alliance, and London will be a key stop for Romney given the two countries' shared economic and military interests. Romney foreign policy director Alex Wong said the GOP candidate "understands the significance of the relationship," and said Romney's trip there reflects his understanding of the partnership.

"Today as we face a number of fiscal and economic challenges around the world, a turbulent Middle East and Iran pursuing nuclear weapons, the U.S.-U.K. relationship is as important as ever, and this leg of the trip really highlights that theme," Wong said on a conference call previewing Romney's foreign swing.

Britain currently deploys 9,500 servicemen and women in Afghanistan, according to the website of the Ministry of Defence, and remains a key ally to the United States as the two countries prepare to withdraw troops from the country.

Romney has called an American plan to reduce troops earlier than the 2014 deadline "naïve" and "misguided," and says on his website he would formulate a withdrawal strategy based not on electoral politics but on the "conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders."

Cameron, a member of Britain's Conservative Party, said this week on a visit to Afghanistan there would be no "cliff edge" after NATO troops withdraw in 2014.

Romney, who mentions often on the campaign trail his leading role in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, will be in the British capital for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Games. Ann Romney, the candidate's wife, co-owns a dressage horse competing in London.

"This is a moment of pride for London, and the entire United Kingdom, so Gov. Romney is looking forward to celebrating this moment with the English people," Wong said.

From London Romney will travel to Israel, a staunch U.S. ally that Romney has made clear he would support as president. There, Romney will have several public events, according to his campaign, and will meet with officials including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority.

The former Massachusetts governor, who last traveled to Israel in January 2011, has had a long relationship with Netanyahu, with whom he worked at the Boston Consulting Group in the 1970s.

In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Netanyahu expressed admiration for Romney but did not go as far as making what could be considered an endorsement.

"I respect Mitt Romney as I respect Barack Obama, the president of the United States. And that's the end of the ranking," the prime minister said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront." "I have enough politics here than to get into American politics."

On the trip, Romney "is looking forward to not only reconnecting with a number of leaders, but to listen and to learn. He feels strongly about the importance of locking arms with these leaders," according to Dan Senor, a foreign policy adviser to Romney's campaign.

Romney's visit to Israel will be his fourth, according to Senor. Previous trips included a visit with his family in the late 1990s and a four-day tour in January 2007, during which Romney participated in economic and security briefings.

Romney has used tough language when describing Obama's record on Israel. The candidate addressed the ongoing peace process at a CNN sponsored presidential debate in January, including the two-state solution that would result in an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"There are some people who say, should we have a two-state solution? And the Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution. It's the Palestinians who don't want a two-state solution. They want to eliminate the state of Israel," Romney said. The debate was held in the heat of the GOP primaries.

Romney continued: "The best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say, 'We stand with our friend Israel. We are committed to a Jewish state in Israel. We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally, Israel.'"

In Poland Romney will meet with the country's president, prime minister and foreign minister, as well as visit historical sights.

Romney's stop in Poland came after an invitation from Lech Walesa, the shipyard worker who went on to inspire the Solidarity trade union and the eventual fall of the Iron Curtain. In 1989, Poland formed the first noncommunist government in the Soviet bloc, and Walesa later was elected president. Romney will meet with Walesa in Gdansk.

In May 2011 Walesa declined to meet with President Barack Obama, telling Agence France-Presse the meeting "would only amount to a photo opportunity."

And in 2009, Walesa – who won 1983's Nobel Peace Prize - was quoted in The Wall Street Journal expressing surprise that Obama had also won the award.

"Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast - he hasn't had the time to do anything yet," the Wall Street Journal's website quoted Walesa as saying.

Obama's image in Poland was further shaken in May when his use of the term "Polish death camp," rather than Nazi death camp, sparked outrage.

Romney's presence in Poland will also put the candidate's position on Russia in the spotlight. Romney has sharply criticized Obama's stance toward Russia, and said on CNN in March that Russia was the United States' "number one geopolitical foe."

Romney, however, will not use his trip to the country to criticize the president.

Ian Brzezinski, a Romney campaign foreign policy adviser, said the trip would instead reflect "support for shared values of Democracy and civil society that bind our two countries."

"This is a trip that is a great opportunity for the governor to express appreciation for this longstanding alliance and to explore the political, economic and military opportunities and challenges that are before the transatlantic relationship today," Brzezinski said.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. Dr. D. Miller

    Gov. Romney trip will not help him, cheaters never win. Even tax evaders will be caught and shown to be the thieves that they are. Governor Romney has proven himself to be a leader among those who know how to think outside of the lines and this will prove to be his own down fall.

    July 22, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  2. Chipster

    @Michael B. President Obama didn't think he had earned it yet either and said in his acceptance speech that he would try to live up to it. He ended the war in Iraq and is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. He ordered the pursuit of Al Qaeda and has had success at reducing that threat. He ended the torture policies of the previous administration, requiring our military to abide by the U.S. military field manual. I believe he's well on his way to earning that peace prize.

    July 22, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. Babette

    Obama might be a likeable man but is not and never has been Presidential material.
    I just can't believe that a large country such as yours with so many smart people , you always end up having to choose the lesser evil.
    Take the money out of your campaigns and politics and become a responsible voter by doing your own research.
    There isn't another country in the civilized world that allows money and celebrities to influence the political process.
    It is paramount that you chose somebody to get your country back on course.

    July 22, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  4. Lilyrosalie

    I'm worried that the Super Pacs don't allow us to see if foreigners are funding US candidates. That makes a huge difference to me. I don't understand why he is allowed to do this. Why does he have a foreign policy guy already, does he think he already won??? What a joke.

    July 22, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  5. Gurgyl

    Just because he is going to some foreign place closeby does it qualify him to have foreign affairs experience? Drive all these cult members away, PLEASE. Yes, on OBAMA12.

    July 22, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  6. Gene Bartz

    He's probably just going overseas to visit the money he stashed away in foreign bank accounts.

    July 22, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I don't think Romney realizes it is Americans who makeup the vast majority of our military and until he adheres to our request for his tax returns, he has not right committing our support(military) to any country. But then again, no Romney has ever shown support of our U.S. military, they've never served.

    July 22, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  8. apple pie

    Now all the Romneyites will be crying from the mountain tops about Mitten's vast experience in international affairs. Only question: Why a stop in "socialist Europe"? Why the paling around with communists?

    July 22, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. kathy/Minnesota

    Learn what????? HOW TO SEND OUR JOBS AWAY???? just another stunt. SHOW "US PEOPLE" THE TAXES!!!!

    July 22, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    If you are upset with President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, then take it up with the Nobel Committee. The President had nothing to do with being nominated or winning, so GET OFF IT!

    July 22, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  11. romneycares less

    He's going to the Olympics to see his dancing horse. Ahh, I wish I could get a $77,000 write off for my dancing dog!

    July 22, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    WIll Mittens tell Cameron that his country is a socialist state that ruins people's lives and leads to the destruction of nations?

    July 22, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Mittens will visit his wife's horse, that is competing in the Olympics and for which he took a $70,000+ "business expense" write-off on his taxes in 2010. (Don't know how much he wrote off before or after that because Mittens IS TOO CHICKEN TO RELEASE HIS TAX RECORDS.)

    July 22, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
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