Josh Rogin reports that the Romney campaign isn't backing down on its tough rhetoric toward Russia:
"Russia is a significant geopolitical foe. Governor Romney recognizes that," Romney advisor Rich Williamson said at a Tuesday afternoon event hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative. "That's not to say they are the same sort of direct military threat as they were."
Williamson, joined on the panel by top advisor Pierre-Richard Prosper, said that the Russian government under Vladimir Putin has made strategic opposition to the West and the United States in particular a premier plank of its agenda. A Romney administration would end the Russian "reset" and confront Russia on Syria, Georgia, Iran, and several other issues, he said.
"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," he said. "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. We're better to be frank and honest."
So the Romney campaign is basically arguing that Russia's internal governance is going to be a matter of high priority for them and that Russia's lack of cooperation with the U.S. is a result of a failure of the Obama administration's reset policy. In other words, the Romney campaign seems to be suggesting that they will not only shame and excoriate Russia at every turn over their domestic shortcomings, but also extract more cooperation from them on matters vital to U.S. interests.
I wonder how this will work.
The only evidence we have to suggest this would work is Williamson reminding us that Reagan called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire" yet still negotiated arms limitations treaties with them - ignoring the fact that these negotiations were almost universally opposed and derided as appeasement by neoconservatives.
It's obvious the Romney campaign wants U.S. relations with Russia to get worse. What's not clear - and where the campaign still needs to show its work - is how this deterioration is going to redound to America's benefit.
Update: Larison unpacks the campaign's thinking:
The thinking seems to have been something like this: 1) the “reset” is a signature Obama initiative; 2) Romney is therefore against the “reset” no matter what; 3) if that isn’t enough of a reason, Romney is against the “reset” because it represents appeasement and weakness; 4) Russia only respects strength and resolve, so Romney will undo the “reset” to show that America is “strong.” There is no evidence that Russia would respond well to being hectored over its domestic political and legal systems, and there is even less evidence that the Russian government and Putin in particular would respond well to direct confrontation of the sort Romney’s adviser Richard Williamson endorsed yesterday. There is a great deal of evidence supporting the opposing view...