Earlier this year, Mitt Romney labeled Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe,” a comment that compelled many commentators to question his grip on U.S. foreign policy since we’re long past the days of the Cold War, and the Obama administration has taken recent steps to bolster the U.S.-Russia relationship with the new START treaty.
But in an interview broadcast on Fox Radio this morning, he continued to characterize Russia as a foe, though he softened his analysis: "The nation which consistently opposes our actions at the United Nations has been Russia," he said. "We're of course not enemies. We're not fighting each other. There's no Cold War, but Russia is a geopolitical foe in that regard."
Meanwhile, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to the need “to see a cessation of the violence” in Syria, according to Obama’s remarks after the two leaders met at the G-20 summit in Mexico on Monday.
Obama said the conversation was “candid and thoughtful,” but, according to the Washington Post, “there was little immediate evidence that the Russian leader would end his support of Bashar al-Assad, whose brutal crackdown on his own people has outraged the international community.”
So Romney is skewered for being too hard on Russia – but is President Obama being tough enough?
Delve asked Steve LeVine, author of Putin’s Labyrinth and a New America Schwartz Fellow, to assess Romney’s language and the president’s Russia strategy.
LeVine calls Romney’s “geopolitical foe” statement “absurd,” noting that “there is no scenario in which we go to war with Russia, while we cannot say the same for a handful of other countries.“
And on Obama’s diplomacy: “Russia in general and Putin in particular are superlatively tricky customers,” LeVine said. “Putin's Syria policy is domestically aimed -- he has both current and projected future trouble with his people, so is taking the natural step of: 1) defying the U.S. (always domestically popular); and 2) launching into a foreign adventure (also popular). If there is a mistake Obama is making, it is in suggesting larger-than-realistic dividends from a relationship with Russia. There is not so much to gain from Russia, apart from it not getting in the way in important foreign policy.”
Photo credit: Jason Reed/ Reuters