What would Romney do?

As world leaders meet this weekend for back-to-back summits hosted by President Barack Obama six months ahead of US elections, they would be forgiven for asking themselves a maladroit question: What would Mitt Romney do? Obama is locked in a tightening re-election battle against a presumptive Republican nominee who has already raised hackles in G8 and NATO member states for his positions on Afghanistan, China and Iran and for calling Russia the United States' 'number one geopolitical foe.'

With the struggling US economy front and center for voters, and Romney picking away at Obama's inability to generate a more vibrant recovery, foreign policy has been pushed to the back burner at Romney's campaign appearances. But that hasn't stopped him from accusing the President of coddling Russia, or being soft on China and Iran, or Obama from painting Romney as a foreign policy lightweight naive to the complexities of a world beyond the Cold War. As Obama basked in the global spotlight of the G8 gathering at the presidential retreat in Camp David and prepares to host NATO's 28 member states in Chicago to discuss war politics, Romney has laid low, with no public events and fundraisers. But he hasn't been silent. The White House challenger issued four statements on foreign policy in under 36 hours, including one praising the G8 for seeking to boost oil supply as a way to 'strengthen our hand in confronting Iran' and criticising Obama for taking 'precisely the opposite approach.' He also blasted Obama for fa iling to sufficiently pressure the Castro regime in Cuba, saying if he were president 'the regime will feel the full weight of American resolve.'

It is hard to know what European leaders may be thinking about a possible Romney presidency, although it is unlikely to be effusive, given the Republican Party flagbearer's propensity to bash Europe on the campaign trail. In January he warned of Obama's plan to turn America 'into a European-style entitlement society,' even as the continent has pursued a plan of austerity – Romney's remedy for excessive US government spending – to bring fiscal balance to a teetering eurozone.

He's toned it down since, only to see France offer a belt-tightening backlash by electing President Francois Hollande of the Socialist party who urges an easing of austerity measures. And Hollande insisted to Obama before meeting with G8 leaders that his vow to pull French combat troops out of Afghanistan this year – ahead of NATO's 2014 deadline – was not negotiable.

Romney's view on NATO before the 28 member states gather in Chicago, and just after Hollande took office, NATO members must 'carry their own weight,' and that Obama's policies on missile defense and military cuts have only served to 'undermine the alliance.' European diplomats have said they expect Romney would reveal himself as a pragmatist should he win the White House. 'The core of the transatlantic partnership will not change under a President Romney,' a German diplomat said. 'The harsh rhetoric on Europe is motivated by the primary campaign.'

Romney has packed his team with several former officials in President George W Bush's administration, including Paula Dobriansky, a Bush undersecretary of state now at Harvard University's John F Kennedy school who opposes what she calls a 'politically driven timetable' for withdrawal in Afghanistan.

'The US has nothing to gain by propping up the euro, which is increasingly likely to break apart,' Gardiner, a senior expert at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in a paper 'Washington should play no role in keeping it on life support.'
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