The major US Republican presidential contenders can boast tough rhetoric on Russia. As the party nomination process gathers momentum, candidates are digging up a little old school anti-Russian sentiment. Could the Cold War be making a comeback?
Upon taking office, Mitt Romney “will reset the reset” with Russia, his official website says in terms of what the presidential contender thinks about shaping the US policy towards Russia.
The former Massachusetts Governor is one the most ardent critics of Moscow among the contenders. He promises he will “implement a strategy that will seek to discourage aggressive or expansionist behavior on the part of Russia and encourage democratic political and economic reform.”
Romney accuses President Barack Obama of what he calls a “We give, Russia gets” policy and believes the new START treaty signed by the two countries in 2010 was part of this policy “failure”. He says he will “review the implementation of New START and other decisions by the Obama administration regarding America's nuclear posture and arms-control policies.”
Russia should not expect anything sweet from Mr. Romney. Another idea is that EU is over-dependent on Russian sources of energy – a situation he plans to change by pursuing policies that work to decrease the reliance. Moreover, he says his administration will be “forthright in confronting the Russian government over its authoritarian practices.”
In a recent move, Mitt Romney called the Russian presidential elections a “mockery of the democratic process,” saying flagrant manipulation and media restrictions marred the vote. Earlier he harshly criticized President-elect Putin, saying he "represents a real threat to the stability and peace of the world.”
He again accused Obama of pursuing a “set back” rather than “reset” policy.
Romney’s nearest rival Rick Santorum’s foreign policy program is vague, and therefore difficult to analyze. He has managed to stake out some hawkish positions, notably on Iran and China, which is traditional ware at the Republican store.
Santorum has described, for example, how the United States is “facing a global alliance that includes Russia, North Korea, China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and, of course, Cuba.” An old idea reminiscent of Cold War paranoia.
Analysts say many American politicians have mastered the art of creating and bashing bogeymen, especially when election campaigns are underway.
“During the Cold War for example being hard on Communism was considered a litmus test for a solid trustworthy politician. And on both sides of the ocean we saw some kind of Cold War inertia. But there’s a desire to talk tough on foreign policy in order to sell your campaign to the wider population,” Anton Fedyashin, professor of history at the American University in Washington DC told RT.
Ron Paul, another GOP presidential candidate, is known for his less hawkish position among Republicans. His official website states that, if elected president, Ron Paul will “continue his efforts to secure our borders, safely bring our troops back home, and finally overhaul the intelligence apparatus in cooperation with intelligence professionals rather than political opportunists.”
The Texan congressman accuses the current US administration of planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression with the US military spread thinly all across the planet and soldiers risking their lives in “dangerous power plays.”
This could imply that Ron Paul does not care a lot about the outside world and focuses on internal affairs. His criticism of the US policies of waging wars around the world is matched by his aim to withdraw troops from abroad: the country currently has more than 700 military bases in 130 countries around the world.
Ron Paul is also known for his “leave them alone” approach to Tehran, which definitely lies outside the Republican mainstream.
Paul has not won any of the primaries thus far, and is unlikely to gain the party’s nomination.
Newt Gingrich, who is also participating in the race for the Republican nomination, sticks to the more traditional foreign policy pillar of his fellow party members. That is imposing democracy in countries which are not considered by the United States to be democratic enough. Gingrich stands for “broader promotion of democracy around the world.”
Last year Gingrich was asked about the Arab Spring and the situation in Egypt in particular. He replied that promotion of democracy should not be limited to Egypt.
"I think we should be pressuring everywhere," he said, "including Russia, including China, including Cuba. We should be pushing steadily and saying, 'America stands for freedom.”
The “reset” policy launched in 2009 after Obama came to power was put forward, in theory, to overcome the Cold War mindset. But now many fear what could happen if ardent believers in American supremacy manage to return to the White House.