But former Secretary of State James Baker, the dean of the realist bloc, strongly defended Zoellick’s foreign policy views against neoconservative criticism, particularly in connection with the U.S. response to Tiananmen Square. Baker told Foreign Policy’s The Cable: “The fact of the matter is that, when Tiananmen Square broke, we ended up sanctioning China in many, many ways. We didn’t fire up the 101st Airborne, but we did put political and diplomatic and economic sanctions on China. But we kept the relationship going. Now, Bob Zoellick was a part of all that — he wasn’t the lead on it or anything, but he sure is not, as far as I can tell, soft on China.”
On Russia, his criticism of the “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations is nearly set in stone. Richard Williamson, a top adviser, told The Cable that Romney isn’t backing off his much-criticized comment about Russia as a geopolitical foe. “The reset has failed,” said Williamson “They are our foe. They have chosen a path of confrontation, not cooperation, and I think the governor was correct in that even though there are some voices in Washington that find that uncomfortable. So those who say, ‘Oh gosh, oh golly, Romney said they’re our geopolitical foe’ don’t understand human history. And those who think liberal ideas of engagement will bend actions also don’t understand history.” The GOP platform enumerates Republican charges against Russia: “[The] suppression of opposition parties, the press, and institutions of civil society; unprovoked invasion of the Republic of Georgia, alignment with tyrants in the Middle East; and bullying their neighbors while protecting the last Stalinist regime in Belarus.” No wonder, then, that President Vladimir Putin of Russia rebuked Romney and suggested that a missile accord with the United States is more likely if Obama wins.
And on Iran, Romney has been sharply critical of Obama’s policy of engagement while seeming to align his views more closely with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The campaign’s militant rhetoric was echoed by the GOP platform: “A continuation of [Obama’s] failed engagement policy with Iran will lead to nuclear cascade.” One key Romney adviser, Eliot Abrams, has called on President Obama to “seek a formal authorization for the use of force from Congress,” adding that if such a resolution in Congress failed “everyone would be clear that the United States was not going to act and that Israel need delay no longer so as to leave it to us.” Another, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, rejects administration efforts to restrain Israel, suggesting outright that Israel be allowed to make its own decision and act independently. So far, although he seemed confused about the difference between preventing an Iranian bomb and preventing an Iranian nuclear capability, however, despite his anti-Iran rhetoric, Romney has enunciated an Iran policy that remains very close to Obama’s: sanctions, pressure, negotiations, and military readiness.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
So, in the end, it will be left to Romney to sort out these disputes, perhaps during the presidential debate with Barack Obama on foreign policy and national security. Until then, seeking to focus the campaign on domestic economic policy, Romney may downplay foreign affairs: During his convention speech, Romney famously didn’t mention Afghanistan at all.