Where Do Obama, Romney Stand on Foreign Policy?
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney worked to distance himself from President Obama in a foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute in Virginia on Monday, but how exactly do they differ?
We have a roundup of the candidates' stances on some of the most pressing global issues:
Ties between the United States and its largest foreign creditor have been tense for decades, but the friction has increased recently as China continues to enhance its military, pumps funds into energy-rich developing countries and grows more assertive in its territorial claims against key American allies in the Asia Pacific:
The Obama administration has tried to walk a fine line between cultivating its fragile relations with China and countering its expansion in the Pacific through a greater regional presence -- both diplomatically and militarily.It has repeatedly challenged China's trade practices in the World Trade Organization and condemned China's decision to join Russia in blocking tough new sanctions on Syria over the violent crackdown on an anti-government uprising.
Romney has slammed President Obama's actions for being soft and pledged to do more to combat imbalanced trade relations should he enter office. His camp also has pitched the idea of establishing a free trade zone with East and Southeast Asian neighbors to counter China's economic muscle and prevent it from "expanding its influence through coercion."
The Obama administration has spent much of the last four years trying to boost trade ties with Russia and convince its leaders to reduce the country's nuclear weapon stockpile. A so-called reset in 2009 led to Russia's signing of the strongest sanctions to date on Iran. Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the United States would end Cold War-era trade sanctions on the former communist country.
But some of that progress has been tempered this year with the return to power of President Vladimir Putin and human rights controversies, including the conviction of three punk rocker/activists. Congress is weighing legislation that would punish Russian officials accused of abusing human rights -- a move that has infuriated the Kremlin.
Romney has called Russia America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe" and lambasted President Obama for what he calls his anemic handling of a major economic competitor and potential security threat. He's also criticized the administration for its scaling down of a planned missile defense shield in Europe -- part of the Iran-sanctions agreement.
Like others before him, President Obama has pledged to back Israel in the event of any future attacks -- namely from Iran. He's also called for a peaceful two-state solution for the long-bubbling territorial dispute between Israel and the Palestinian territories, based on 1967 pre-war borders. In 2009, he urged Israel to stop its expansion into the Palestinian-occupied West Bank.
President Obama has come under repeated fire by critics for not visiting Israel during his first term, and his relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has at times seemed rocky (Netanyahu criticized the president last month for not drawing a harsh enough line against Iran, but he adopted a softer tone following President Obama's Israel-positive address before the U.N. General Assembly.)
Romney has chastised the president for threatening ties with America's strongest ally in the Middle East. Romney visited Israel in July, and has vowed to defend the country against future attacks and to stay out of its handling of the Palestinian dispute.
Both candidates have similar plans to continue withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and hand over control to trained Afghan security forces. Despite an increase in so-called "green-on-blue" attacks, in which Afghan troops turn on their coalition counterparts, the Obama administration has said it will stick to the departure of most American troops by the end of 2014:
Romney has indicated he thinks the 2014 transition to Afghan control of security is too soon and unrealistic. He's declined to set a specific exit date, saying instead he would use his first 100 days in office to better assess the situation and then come up with a timetable.
The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran has prompted new rounds of economic sanctions against the country. But Netanyahu has urged the drawing of a "red line" on Iran's nuclear energy program before it can achieve the final stages of enriching uranium to build an atomic bomb.
Romney and President Obama have each talked of harsher measures, but only Romney has aligned himself directly with Netanyahu, drawing a line of action at the development of nuclear "capability," rather than a "weapon".
The Obama administration appeared to be making progress over the last four years toward defusing the North Korean nuclear threat, through sanctions and talks, but those hit a snag in April when the tight-lipped communist nation staged a failed rocket launch:
Romney has called President Obama's dealings with North Korea's dictatorship weak, and has pledged once in office to issue harsher sanctions and work more with the Chinese to rein in North Korea's long-time nuclear ambitions.
The Obama and Romney campaigns have penned general positions on Africa. For example, Romney's camp speaks of clamping down on Sudan's violence in Darfur and border areas of South Sudan.
The White House, in a strategy report released last summer aims to tackle economic and democratic development and investment.
Beyond the issue of immigration, U.S. relations with Latin America have received minimal mic time with the candidates.
According to Romney, decades of American-led democratic progress throughout Central and South America have stalled in recent years as socialist movements like those in Venezuela and Bolivia further take root and as President Obama dragged his feet in finalizing new free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.
President Obama defended his commitment to Latin America this year during a scandal-plagued visit to Colombia (the scandal involved U.S service agents and prostitution), stressing the need to for enhanced trade and energy cooperation, and improved efforts to combat drug trafficking.
Either candidate likely will face challenges in the region. Some Latin American leaders have discussed legalizing drugs. The United States continues to take flak from abroad over its embargo against Cuba. And U.S. unions continue to decry trade agreements with countries like Colombia.
Judy Woodruff talked to Romney adviser Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman, and former Democratic Sen. Norm Coleman about how the nominee would approach the crisis in Syria and negotiating with China, in addition to President Obama's track record in this Aug. 29 interview:
The Council on Foreign Relations' Campaign 2012 Issue Tracker
President Obama's foreign policies from the White House website
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