Every week leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the international challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.
James W. Davisdirector of the Institute of Political Science, University of St. Gallen
Old Europe or new Europe? Governor Romney’s visit this week to Poland was intended to signal a much stronger commitment to the defense of former Soviet satellites than that implied by President Obama’s qualified support for missile defense. Surrounded by neo-conservative advisors who earned their spurs during the George W. Bush administration, a President Romney would seek to rekindle close relations with the unabashedly pro-American new Europe, re-exposing an intra-European East-West divide at a time when North-South differences have placed the European Union under extreme strain. Should he match his tough rhetoric on Russia with deeds, expect old Europe to again fall victim to week bladder syndrome? But at least the price of Pampers under a Romney presidency is likely to fall. After all, he has called for the establishment of a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement, a project once championed by the de facto leader of old Europe, Angela Merkel.
Fabrizio Goriafinancial reporter at Linkiesta
Europe is facing the most virulent crisis of its history. The eurozone's financial stability is only one of the European Union’s problems. And the risk of contagion in the United States is much higher than two years ago. In a world without reliable leaders, Mitt Romney does not seem to be able to be the deus ex machina. After the Republican presidential candidate's European tour, should Europe be worried? Yes, because Romney's inconsistence is so high. His visits to Britain, Israel, and Poland didn't go very well and he missed expectations. In addition, President Barack Obama has shown several times his concerns about the eurozone crisis and supports Europe's fiscal consolidation. On the other side, what Romney will do is full of uncertainty, especially after his EU tour. And now Europe needs continuity and certainty.
Jackson Janesexecutive director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University
Governor Romney's recent tour through London, Jerusalem, and then on to Poland should not worry Europeans. The purpose of the trip was not to impress them. It was aimed at American voters, many of whom do not know Romney well. The effort to present himself as a potential president capable of interacting with foreign leaders actually had limited impact in the United States. It also managed to leave many people on both sides of the Atlantic uncertain about what a President Romney would do significantly different from President Obama, aside from rhetorical flourishes he espoused when it comes to dealing with Iran, Syria, or a range of other challenges. As the November 6 election will not be decided by foreign policy concerns among voters, but rather by domestic economic worries, just how much a President Romney might change foreign policy parameters would only be measurable after he would be in office with a team which would then tell us more about his first steps. Yet the experiences of President Obama—and other presidents before him—shows that whatever a president might promise before an election is no guarantee that he can deliver afterwards. Much depends not only what is discussed in the White House, but what is also debated on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, in Congress. And then there are events, like 9/11, which can also rearrange an agenda overnight. Romney, like Obama before he became president, has little foreign policy expertise. The few speeches he has made dealing with foreign policy are full of many clichés and pronouncements about issues which demonstrate limited depth. But should he be in the White House next year, it is likely that he will assemble a team of experienced professionals drawn perhaps from both of the Bush administrations. Barring another catastrophe at home, as was the case early in the G. W. Bush administration, it is unlikely that President Romney would or could change a broad range of foreign policy strategies or options quickly or significantly, despite claims to the contrary. Europeans should not fear what they might see as another George W. Bush in the person of Mitt Romney. That image was more a caricature than the reality anyway. There were then and still are sharp realities which will shape either a potential Romney presidency or Obama’s second term. They still include a large degree of dependence shared between Europe and the United States when it comes to our economic futures as well as our stakes in the global arena. The challenge on both sides if the Atlantic will be to find productive ways of articulating that message to each other and to our respective publics. Right now, Romney is focused solely on one public arena until November 6. Europeans should have an ample supply of salt grains handy between now and then.
Almut Möllerhead of the Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Policy Studies at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
Worried? No, entertained actually, for the time being at least.
about the dedication of the crowd of transatlantic analysts in Europe assiduously following every move of the presidential hopeful, ready to jump to the defense of those in need like the Palestinians, President Obama, perhaps less so the Olympic Brits who have not exactly been reliable allies in the euro crisis, and waiting with excitement for those days in the fall when the U.S. election circus will give its expertise a place in the sun once again;
about a miffed bunch of journalists trying to cast aspersions on Romney not playing ball;
about us political animals scoffing at his diplomatic gaffes, so wishing that it could be more about us than about his domestic audience;
about the temptation to feel some form of moral high ground while knowing that Romney’s view of the world has a high ground all of its own;
and finally about the extent to which Europeans and certainly we Germans continue to care about the question… if Europe should be “worried about Romney”.
Gianni Riottamember of the Council on Foreign Relations
I guess the Republican Party should worry about Mitt Romney. His performance so far has been below par. American presidential campaigns are not a gentle Olympic effort, they are a brutal full contact sport. Candidates are Roman gladiators fighting in the Colosseum arena, not white clad badminton players. If elected, Romney will follow the general consensus of post-G.W. Bush America. A mix of Bush senior’s multilateral pragmatism, some Clintonian smart moves, and a lot of Condoleezza Rice pre-September 11 attitude, when she famously wrote "we do not believe in nations building". Question is: can Mitt Romney be elected? The lukewarm economy says yes, the voters’ upset attitude says yes yes, Mitt Romney’s personality as a candidate seems to spell no, no. no. Europe will deal fine with President Romney, but is there going to be a President Romney?
Eugeniusz Smolarsenior fellow at the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw
No and yes.
Romney is an unknown quantity in international relations. So far, he has tried hard to differentiate himself from Obama with little success as he did not manage to point out a single element of present policies he would do differently. Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan, China... It is not enough to state, as he does, that he would be “more decisive”.
The worrying factor are neo-cons around him, all of them coming from the well-known George W. Bush school who, it seems, remember nothing about Iraq and Afghanistan and learned even less. Robert Joseph or Eric Edelman come to my mind. Other pro-republican experts (the so-called realists for example) who previously supported other candidates, openly disregarding Romney as a serious choice, are loyally keeping quiet now or are jumping on the bandwagon. What keeps them all together is hate for Obama and the Democrats.
As it seems, Romney is as weak as pragmatic, and he might go either way. Europe needs a strong and engaged United States, economically, politically, and militarily, but will hardly support another “war of choice”. It seems that most Americans feel the same way.
Stephen Szaboexecutive director at GMF, Transatlantic Academy
The short answer is no. Romney’s rhetoric on Israel and Russia is likely to be more worrisome than that of Obama, but even within his own party, there is little support for new foreign military commitments. His visit to Poland indicates that the Poles and other Central Europeans would welcome his presidency or at least would not regret Obama’s departure although he would not win an election in the United Kingdom. Obama is more restrained and seems to better understand the limitations on American power and remains generally popular with European publics, if not its leaders, but he has largely ignored Europe, with the exception of the euro crisis.
Although some Europeans worry that President Romney would be a replay of the G. W. Bush years, something his rhetoric may encourage, in practice the next president will be as constrained as the current one by the state of the American economy and the mood of the American public. The United States is exiting both Iraq and Afghanistan and will not wage war on Iran, unless it is provoked by Tehran. The country is divided and inward looking. When it does look beyond its borders, it is likely to look toward China and its neighborhood. Europe is seen as a more of a threat than a partner. In short, it’s a bad time for foreign policy and for American engagement. In this sense Europe needs to worry about both Romney and Obama at a time when it is also consumed by its own serious problems.