The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!

It didn’t get a great deal of attention; indeed foreign policy statements by Republican presidential candidates rarely do, unless they involve Iran. But Mitt Romney’s remark on CNN yesterday calling Russia “without question our number one geopolitical foe” was a reminder that the guy’s credibiity as a national security expert and well-qualified candidate to become commander-in-chief is based entirely on some speeches and one poorly crafted book.

Fortunately, Democracy Arsenal’s Heather Hurlburt was paying attention:

Mitt Romney reflexively saying that Russia is the U.S.’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe” today shows, yet again, how bad the U.S. political class is at geostrategy; it also shows how uncomfortable Romney is on national security issues, needing when in doubt to reach back to those comfortable certainties of the 1980s.

Today, Russia’s economy is dependent on extractive industries and stagnant; its nightmare demographics mean it fears Chinese takeover in its east and rapidly-aging cities in its West. It produces world-leading innovations in weapons, cybercrime, and high culture… Growing Arab-spring-style protests in its cities will dampen whatever global cachet as the anti-America its leaders have sought to build.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that Mitt’s at least roughly correct, and we need a much tougher policy towards the ancient adversary. Is Romney offering a plausible strategy for meeting that threat? Not so much, notes Hurlburt:

In geopolitical terms, Russia has three things which pose significant problems for the US – its energy, its nuclear weapons and its Security Council seat. Ironically, Mitt Romney is on record opposing just about everything we can do to reduce the salience of both. He opposed the New START Treaty, which required Russia to destroy hundreds of nuclear warheads; and he opposes efforts to shift US energy production and consumption away from the fossil fuels in which Russia is so rich. I don’t know his position on Security Council reform and diluting the veto. Might be fun to ask. Or, just check with his advisor John Bolton.

That’s reassuring.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.