Center for Arms Control

Nuclear Terrorism

by Andrew Carpenter [contact information]

by Ulrika Grufman [contact information]

Mitt Romney vs Barack Obama on National Security Issues

The U.S. presidential election is right around the corner. To help prepare you for the campaign debate on foreign policy and defense issues, the Center has put together a foreign policy profile for President Obama and candidate Romney.

Mitt Romney
Barack Obama

Mitt Romney

Romney has been highly critical of the “reset” with Russia. In a Washington Post interview, Romney stated that he believes Prime Minister Putin is currently “rebuilding the Russian empire.” He stated that reset “has to end,” and “We have to show strength.” In an interview with CNN, he called Russia “without question our number one geopolitical foe.”

Before New START was ratified, Romney said in a Washington Post opinion piece: “Despite all of this, the president's New-START with Russia could be his worst foreign policy mistake yet. The treaty as submitted to the Senate should not be ratified.” On his website, he refers to New START as part of a “we give, Russia gets” policy and promised to review it to “determine whether they serve the best interests and national security of the United States.”

On missile defense, Romney alleges that “Under pressure from Russia, President Obama early in his term scrapped President Bush’s plan to deploy [long-range] ground-based interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.” He also claims that the administration has underfunded US national missile defense programs.

On Afghanistan, Romney has been highly critical of the President's plan on withdrawal. He has stated that he would only withdraw if the Generals on the ground in Afghanistan recommended that step. After Defense Secretary Panetta's announcement that the U.S. would withdraw all U.S. combat troops by the end of 2013, Romney condemned the decision as misguided and naive because it puts U.S. mission in Afghanistan in jeopardy. He continued, “Why in the world do you go to the people that you’re fighting with and tell them the date you’re pulling out your troops? It makes absolutely no sense.”

On defense spending, Romney pledges to increase the defense budget to a floor of 4% of GDP. This would mean an additional $2.1 trillion in defense spending over the next ten years.

Romney has called the decision to withdrawal from Iraq in a Washington Post opinion piece an “astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women.”

On Iran, Romney states, "Of course you take military action. It's unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon." During an interview with Face the Nation, he claimed that “We cannot survive a…course of action which would include a nuclear Iran.”

Romney also mentioned his willingness to act unilaterally against Iran, if need be, in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

In his White Paper, Romney on North Korea states, “A nuclear weapons capability in the hands of an unpredictable dictator like Kim Jong-Il or his eventual successor poses a direct threat to U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere in East Asia, threatens our close allies South Korea and Japan, destabilizes the entire Pacific region, and could lead to the illicit transfer of a nuclear device to another rogue nation or a terrorist group.”

In a Washington Post opinion piece Romney said on China “I will begin on Day One by designating China as the currency manipulator it is.”

Barack Obama

On Afghanistan, Obama has begun reducing our troop numbers and has committed to ending the war by 2014. He has also endorsed a political solution, saying “We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement. So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban.”

On defense spending, Obama reached a deal with congressional leaders that would cut $487 billion from the Pentagon’s budget over the next ten years. During a speech at the Pentagon, Obama said “Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow, but the fact of the matter is this: It will still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership.”

Obama announced the Iraq War in October, 2011, saying “When I took office, roughly 180,000 troops were deployed in both these wars. And by the end of this year that number will be cut in half.”

Obama has pursued a policy of diplomacy, sanctions and covert action towards Iran. He said the following in a speech to AIPAC: “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” He has stated that the military option is on the table but responded to the GOP’s positions on Iran by saying “When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war.”

Obama has responded to the Asia Pacific’s growing geopolitical importance by announcing a ‘pivot to Asia’ and opening a new Marine Corps base in Australia. In a speech to the Australian parliament, he said “Our new focus on this region reflects a fundamental truth -- the United States has been, and always will be, a Pacific nation.”

Obama said that foreign aid “potentially saves us from having to deal with some military crisis somewhere down the road that could be even more expensive,” and that it is “part of our overall security strategy.”

In a 2009 speech in Prague, Obama outlined a vision for a world without nuclear weapons and declared that “the United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.” He also pledged to pursue U.S. ratification of the CTBT.

In 2010, Obama signed the New START Treaty, which caps American and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads at 1,550 and deployed delivery vehicles at 700. He said at the signing: “While the new START treaty is an important step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey. As I said last year in Prague, this treaty will set the stage for further cuts. And going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons.”

*This fact sheet has been updated by our Spring 2012 interns, Matthew Fargo and Tara Chandra and our Summer 2012 intern Ari Kattan.

Andrew Carpenter

Andrew Carpenter is a Fall 2011 intern from the University of Pittsburgh.

Ulrika Grufman

Ulrika is a Fall 2011 intern at the Center for Arms Control and Non Proliferation.

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