The GOP’s potential 2016 candidates are literally all over the map when it comes to Ukraine, Crimea and the broader issues of President Obama’s foreign policy. From the would-be elder statesman, Mitt Romney—who’s not really running, not yet anyway—to the emerging, pro-neoconservative hawk Marco Rubio, to the libertarian/isolationist Rand Paul and beyond, it’s clear that the Republican party is hardly speaking with anything like a unified voice on international affairs. Yet few of them any ideas about what to do.
Romney, writing in The Wall Street Journal this week, penned a scathing critique of Obama, perhaps seeking to justify his widely ridiculed 2012 comment that Russian is now America’s “Number One geopolitical foe.” (Back then, Vladimir Putin thanked Romney for his honesty, adding, “The most important thing for us is that even if he doesn’t win now, he or a person with similar views may come to power in four years. We must take that into consideration while dealing with security issues for a long perspective.” That 2012 remark by Putin might provide some insight as to why the Russian autocrat is acting so forcefully vis-à-vis Ukraine.)
In his Journal piece, Romney says that lately it seems that the only thing the United States can do is to “wring our hands” in the face of crises from Crimea to Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama, he said, always acts too little, and too late. And he concludes:
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton traveled the world in pursuit of their promise to reset relations and to build friendships across the globe. Their failure has been painfully evident: It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office, and now Russia is in Ukraine. Part of their failure, I submit, is due to their failure to act when action was possible, and needed.
It should be noted that Romney has no solutions or suggested policies for all of these problems now, only saying that they could have been averted if Obama had acted sooner. To Romney’s credit, he doesn’t propose military action of any kind, not does he suggest, say, bringing Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. Instead, he bemoans Obama’s earlier inaction, adding: “We failed to act at the propitious point; that moment having passed, we were left without acceptable options.”
Marco Rubio, in recent weeks, has been trying to corner the GOP market on hardline, neoconservative foreign policy, and he’s got lots of ideas about what to do now over Crimea. It should be noted that at his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland two weeks ago, with Christie Watch in attendance, Rubio delivered a sharp critique of Obama’s foreign policy, but unlike Romney he hewed much more closely to the hawkish view and to the idea of American “exceptionalism.” He said: “We are on the verge, if we make the right decisions, of a new American Century.”