Mitt Romney traveled to traditional U.S. allies, while his candidacy for president is gaining momentum. Three months before the presidential elections, it is a very close race between Romney and Obama according to a Gallup poll. The polling agency Rasmussen, which is normally very reliable, estimates: Obama at 44%, Romney at 47%. Foreign policy is not the main theme of the campaign - the state of the U.S. economy is - but it can certainly have an influence, in particular mounting stress in the euro zone.
A traveling American presidential candidate runs risks. George Romney, Mitt's father, immersed himself into the struggle for the presidential elections of 1968. In the primaries he was up against Richard Nixon. George, governor of Michigan, traveled to Vietnam and said afterwards that he had undergone “brainwashing” at the hands of military leaders. The seasoned Nixon did not pass on the opportunity to use this. Romney was portrayed as a brainwashed candidate with no experience in foreign policy. With Vietnam as the “main dish”, Nixon, the former vice president under President Eisenhower, got the ideal profile.
Mitt knows his family history and is instinctively cautious. Before his trip he said he was not going to criticize Obama. Obama himself did not show the same courtesy to the incumbent President Bush when he traveled to Berlin in 2008, calling himself a “citizens of the world”. Last month I paid a visit to some of Romney’s foreign political advisers, who mainly come from the foreign political establishment of the Republican Party.
Romney and Obama use different concepts. On 23 July 2007 Obama announced a break with Bush during a debate between Democratic presidential candidates in Charleston, South Carolina. He wanted to reach out to adversaries of the United States, like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea. America, despite still being a great power, was according to him no more or less 'exceptional' than, for example, Luxembourg.
That remark was immediately mitigated by his advisors, but it became the core idea of his presidency. In April 2009 he made a deep bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, as if apologizing for America. He canceled the missile shield and began a vacuous reset of the relationship with Russia. Poland was left in the cold. He distanced himself from Israel, which caused the Palestinian Authority to act as if they did not have to make any concession. His relationship with the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu became frosty. Obama first announced troop reinforcements in Afghanistan, followed shortly after by a timetable for accelerated withdrawal. U.S. military leaders protested. In Afghanistan, Obama replaced 3 commanders in 3 years. His relationship with Afghan President Karzai turned sour. The accelerated withdrawal from Iraq gave Iran greater influence in that country. The Kurds, allies of the US, were ignored. Furthermore, true citizens of the world saw nothing of Obama's Hope and Change. Obama ignored the protest movement in Iran which he respectfully calls: The Islamic Republic of Iran. He missed the Arab Spring, limited himself to leading from behind in Libya and rarely speaks about the Syrian massacre of approximately 20,000 'citizens of the world'. Obama's policies will increase the appetite of America’s opponents and demoralize its most loyal allies.
Romney wants the allies to be the cornerstone of foreign policy again, he does not want to make apologies for the American ideal of freedom and he wants a tougher attitude towards opponents. It corresponds to the Realpolitik that Republican presidents pursued in the past. However, it is more 'father Bush' than George W. Bush.
But allies are also troublesome. How 'special' is the special relationship between the US and the UK today? Romney has noticed that this relationship is full of sensitivities. Obama sent the bust of Winston Churchill, which stood in the Oval Office, back to the British Embassy. Romney got the whole British press and political class against him after he made some remarks about the logistics of the Olympic Games, speaking as an 'expert by experience'. The 'empty chairs' proved that there are always some hick-ups.
A top U.S. politician visiting 'Europe' always travels to London first, while mentally the UK is actually outside of the EU. Romney avoided the euro zone. A visit to Berlin has more economic relevance than a visit to London.
It is no secret that Romney is more interested in true European nation states than in the European hybrid structures of Brussels, which appear opaque and rather undemocratic to U.S. eyes. European integration and prosperity is a common denominator of American politics, but not necessarily through the bureaucratic centralism that Republicans inherently distrust.
In 2008, "Europe" was the example for Obama. Now he is silent. According to Romney, Europe is the specter of cumbersome government systems giving rise to enormous debts. This autumn, stress in the euro zone will spike. Will Greece remain in the euro zone? Can Spain be saved? Can Germany finance all of Mediterranean Europe? The euro crisis is putting a brake on the world economy and hence on the US, whose economy is stagnating. The fate of the euro zone - avoided by Romney and ignored by Obama - can have a decisive impact on the U.S. presidential elections. And this European development, generating its own dynamic, may appear to be the 'October surprise' in the American presidential race.