July 25th, 2012
08:11 AM ET
11 years ago

Romney arrives in London on foreign swing

(CNN) – Mitt Romney arrived in London early Wednesday, his first stop on a three-country tour meant to bolster his foreign policy credentials months ahead of November's general election.

Romney and his wife Ann were seen entering the Park Lane Hilton in Mayfair, a day before the presumptive GOP nominee was 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 Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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On Tuesday, Romney delivered a foreign policy address in Nevada that was sharply critical of President Barack Obama, who Romney blamed for weakening America's military and reducing the country's global stature. Romney also blasted the president and his administration for leaking classified intelligence details, and placed blame for upcoming cuts to the military squarely on the White House.

READ MORE: Romney calls for 'American century' in foreign policy address

Romney advisers said last week that the GOP candidate will avoid making direct comparisons between his own plans and Obama's and that the trip was intended to "listen and learn" rather than to generate any new proclamations of policy.

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.

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.

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.

On Tuesday, Romney said he supports the timetable agreed to by NATO of withdrawing combat troops by the end of 2014, but criticized Obama for announcing plans to bring home some troops before the November election.

Cameron, a member of Britain's Conservative Party, said last 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 London 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, as they both worked together 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 campaign hopes that show of support will play well among Jewish voters in the United States, as well as pro-Israel evangelicals who Romney struggled to court during the GOP primaries.

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.

READ MORE: Romney walks political tightrope on foreign policy

Romney has used tough language when describing Obama's record on Israel. In his address Tuesday, Romney said the president had a penchant for "lecturing Israel's leaders."

"The people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world," Romney said. "And the chorus of accusations, threats, and insults at the United Nations should never again include the voice of the president of the United States."

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.

READ MORE: Romney blasts Obama for leaks and military cuts

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Filed under: 2012 • Foreign Policy • Mitt Romney • United Kingdom
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. A Kickin` Donkey

    OMG, we`re not that stupid!

    Look, let`s call it like it is. Romney`s trip to London had it`s origins in being there to see his & his wife`s horse PRANCE AROUND at the Olympics. As an afterthought, his PR people threw in some other photo ops hoping to make Mitt look like less of an out-of-touch ELITEST. You know, that label the GOP tried to hang on Barack Obama in 2008.

    July 25, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  2. Wake up people

    This guy is clueless and dangerous. If he wins so many of us will lose.

    Wake up people. Read for yourself and stop listening to crazy people.

    OBAMA 2012!

    July 25, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  3. Franklin, Seattle WA

    I guess Romney is fronting in London as a generic American and not as a republican prototype.

    July 25, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |

    He should go to somila ,he might be able to get elected there ,not here ,Gop train wreck in Nov with BACHMANN and romney driving !!

    July 25, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  5. RE McKay

    what airline did he fly on to London? Hope not American as he had recommended firing 13,000 American Airlines workers ...

    July 25, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  6. Arun

    So is Mitt pro union now?? He's meeting with Lech, the founder of the Solidarity trade UNION!!

    July 25, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |

    I bet nobody even wants to talk to him ,he can't fill Obamas shoes,although he was in charge of the state police in mass,when he wasn't MIA .where's your tax returns and disk drives and Olympic records that are missing.romney the clown couldn't even be his own vp with the records he's released ,Gop train wreck in Nov,BACHMANN and romney the clown !!!

    July 25, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  8. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    So, I am waiting to see how long Romney goes without breaking his pledge not to critize the president while overseas. I think it might happen in Israel or Poland.

    July 25, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    How many times has Mitt Romney visited Iraq or Afghanistan?

    This current trip is a "safe" one. Political risk is at a minimum. He's visiting two of our most loyal allies. Poland is arguably our strongest ally among the fomer Soviet-bloc countries. They don't like or trust the former Soviets at all.

    July 25, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  10. Pete

    Romney ,foriegn policy is like oil and water,they just don't coexist.He's to arrogent and out of touch to actually find common ground on anything,his my way or the hiway attitude has to stop.You're not telling China,Russia and other countries how to do business especially when they know about his business past and that's not good for foriegn policy is it.Typical of his foot in mouth disease ,the pot calling the kettle black so to speak..Who's going to listen with any concern or respect of a person who's sole motive in business was making money for his investors at any cost,eventually costing employees their jobs,benefits and in most cases their place of work because of Romneys cannalbilizing of said corporations.It's Romneys arrogence as governor who ran Massachusetts to a 47th in job creation,while saying publicly unemployement was down ,but in essence 200,000 residents actually vacated the state,nice play on facts wouldn't you think...And you want that candidate for president,God help us if he does get elected cause you'll see another clone of a loser with Romney,the shadow policy maker like Bush and all those republican losers who eventually ruined our country,at our costs,not his!!

    July 25, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  11. Expat American

    "And the chorus of accusations, threats, and insults at the United Nations should never again include the voice of the president of the United States."
    More preposterous pandering from Romney, the cowardly windbag.

    It was Republicans who lied to the United Nations and collectively pleasured themselves under the conference table while they fired missiles into Muslim women in children.

    July 25, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  12. Lynda/Minnesota

    Ah, yes. The Romney's ... taking the "United States Presidential-Wannabee Continental Campaign" tourist route.

    Sure are a lot of ex Bushies giving Mitt his "foreign" experience talking points. What's up with that?

    July 25, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |