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. TingTong Ling Ping

    Me ruv Lomney rong timey

    July 21, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. Expat American


    Expat Americans

    Quite a contrast to Obama's apology tours.
    You see it as an apology tour because you don't have a passport. President Obama needed to rebuild the nation’s standing in the world after the failed foreign policies of the criminal Bush administration
    That rebuilding worked out about as well as the hope and change did...........
    You are naïve to believe that 8 years of failed Bush policies can be reversed or improved in less than half the time – domestically or abroad. It will take the better part of a generation, maybe two to fix the damage caused by those cherished ‘values’.

    July 21, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  3. Earl J Wagadorn

    We will enjoy the next three months and 4 years, thank you very much!

    July 21, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  4. larry

    Unfortunately, sarah palin gave him directions on how to get these countries, and he wound up talking to the wrong people.

    July 21, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  5. Earl J Wagadorn

    "I outsorced 70% of my business."
    Mitten's kind of patriot.

    July 21, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  6. A conservatave with brains

    I have friends in the UK and Europe. They are generally completely underwhelmed with Romney. They see him as a small cog in the big Republican machine that got them in so much hot water when Bush was president. In the US, the Middle East and Russia are far, far away. In Europe they are neighbors. When Romney proclaimed that Russia was global threat, the Europeans were apalled by his ignorance of the complexities of the relationship. If Romney is going to those countries, I'm sure they will be coolly polite and allow him to get the photo ops he needs to seem presidential. I would be surprised if prime ministers take the time to do anything more than meet with him for a few minutes to allow photographers to get their shots.

    July 21, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  7. dina

    You can't understand Foreign Policy from on short trip overseas. This man does not have a clue. He is like a used car salesman and would you trust that person?

    July 21, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  8. WeR4Freedom

    Romney 2012/2016!!!

    July 21, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  9. Nija

    More Romney more Money.

    July 21, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  10. CBR

    The trip to London was already planned because of the Olympics. The so-called mistakes by President Obama seem to be odd excuses for a trip to Poland and Israel. Unfortunately, a visit to the camps in Poland bring different reactions and to be offended by the President's words is a bit bothersome.

    The truth is money will come to the campaigns from outside of the U.S. Now that donors can hide behind the PAXs we will never know about that money.

    July 21, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  11. works4me

    Ohhhh now he going to "listen and learn". What a full of mitt phony.

    July 21, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  12. Gezellig

    "We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally, Israel.'"

    So does that mean he is going to release Abe Pollard?

    July 21, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  13. mjw

    Try as he must, he will never receive the appreciation and adoration Candidate Obama received on overseas trip. He seems so desperate to copy President Obama. Having his surrogates showing up at campaign events and it does not work. No one trusts him and the GOP is experiencing their greatest fear. You reap what you sow.

    July 21, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  14. jesse james. take them to street and shoot them like the dogs they are

    You cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Pass those tax returns.

    July 21, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  15. Corinne

    Do you all have your head in the sand that you can't see what is happening to your country.??
    Obama has been an empty suit after all , no experience and probably has divided the country more than any other President .
    How much longer will you be able to borrow and increase a fast growing debt .
    Overrated and overpaid Hollywood elite supports and contributes to Obama's campaign , they have no problem filling up their gas tanks and maintain their luxurious life styles while you struggle.
    Romney's business record is impressive and it made him rich , so what.
    It might surprise you how many wealthy Americans are keeping their money abroad , especially the way the economy is on a downward trend.

    July 21, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  16. redleg56

    But he still lacks the guts to go to Vietnam. Mitt is a stenchinthe nostrils of everyone who actually defended the US and especially of all the LDS members who have and are taking the risk of going into harm's way.

    July 21, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  17. Biotechdev

    Nice to see a candidate that listens. Obama didn't listen when he passed the still unpopular so-called helathcare "reform" bill. Hundreds of thousands of people marching against it, Congressional reps offices flooded with people, emails, faxes and phone calls – yet he still went ehind closed doors and bribed its passage through

    July 21, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  18. Zsmith

    Appears Obama pulling ahead in Florida. If this holds it is all over.

    July 21, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  19. Zsmith

    Appears Obama pulling ahead in Florida polls

    July 21, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  20. Notthistime

    Maybe he's going to London to save the Olympics, after which he will retro-retire from his run for POTUS.

    July 21, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  21. catmom

    So, why exactly is he going? Will he be undermining the duly elected President of the United States of America? I mean what exactly is the reason for his trip?

    July 21, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  22. 2buttercups

    Shouldn't he be "touring" the country he hopes to one day be president of? Doesn't he realize that the European heads of state cant vote for him, so any policy points he wants to make, he should concentrate on making them with the people who can actually vote for him: "you people."

    July 21, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  23. ge

    his foreign policy experience is sending some american jobs to countrys with cheap labour

    July 21, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  24. "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." --B. Obama

    President Romney will get us out of the mess created by the uhbama.

    Romney, 2012.

    July 21, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  25. ge

    are you better off now than you were 4yrs–you mean at end of the bush reign of terror–bank and housing scams deregulate everything ,no health insurance,endless wars for nothing .yep

    July 21, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
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