Rom­ney ham­mers White House on for­eign pol­icy in first speech

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION - By Kather­ine Tully-McManus

WASH­ING­TON — Mitt Rom­ney’s first of­fi­cial speech in the Se­nate of­fered thinly veiled crit­i­cism of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­eign pol­icy agenda, in­clud­ing China and Rus­sia, with­out nam­ing the pres­i­dent. He urged con­sis­tency with al­lies in Europe in Asia and caution and vig­i­lance to­wards China and Rus­sia.

The Utah Repub­li­can’s speech called for strength­en­ing ties with tra­di­tional Amer­i­can al­lies, on the heels of a joint news con­fer­ence the pres­i­dent held with out­go­ing Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May in Lon­don.

“We need to hold our friends closer, not ne­glect them or drive them away. These al­liances are a key ad­van­tage we have over China: Amer­ica has many friends, China has very few,” said Rom­ney.

Trump has moved to pivot U.S. for­eign pol­icy to­ward bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with in­di­vid­ual coun­tries and away from re­liance on broad al­liances like the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion. Trump has ma­ligned NATO and com­plained that other na­tions don’t pay their fair share, in­clud­ing on Tuesday from Lon­don.

Rom­ney, who sits on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Committee, warned that Rus­sia is on the de­cline and in des­per­a­tion will be­come more an­tag­o­nis­tic and dan­ger­ous.

“Rus­sia con­tin­ues its ma­lign ef­fort, of course, vi­o­lat­ing treaties, in­vad­ing sov­er­eign na­tions, pur­su­ing nu­clear su­pe­ri­or­ity, in­ter­fer­ing in elec­tions, spread­ing lies and hate, pro­tect­ing the world’s worst ac­tors from jus­tice, and pro­mot­ing au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism,” said Rom­ney.

“As it falls fur­ther be­hind, we must ex­pect Rus­sia’s in­evitable des­per­a­tion to lead to fur­ther and more aber­rant con­duct,” he con­tin­ued.

Trump has main­tained praise for Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and has re­peat­edly re­jected as­ser­tions from U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III that Rus­sia in­ter­fered with the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Rom­ney also warned his col­leagues about China’s rise and is­sues, in­clud­ing re­pres­sion of dis­sent and censorship of the me­dia and In­ter­net. Rom­ney said that the United States must join to­gether eco­nomic and mil­i­tary might with al­lies and fo­cus of stop­ping what he called “China’s pre­da­tion.”

“Eight years ago, I ar­gued that Rus­sia was our num­ber one geopo­lit­i­cal ad­ver­sary. To­day, China is poised to as­sume that dis­tinc­tion,” the 2012 Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent said. At the time, he was mocked for mak­ing such an as­ser­tion.

He crit­i­cized the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts with China, call­ing them “ad hoc, short term or piece­meal.”

“It is past time for us to con­struct a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy to meet the chal­lenge of an am­bi­tious and in­creas­ingly hos­tile China,” he said.

Rom­ney said that the Amer­i­can peo­ple must be alerted about the threats fac­ing the coun­try and those in power should work to unite the coun­try to re­spond.

ALEX WONG/GETTY IM­AGES

U.S. Sen. Mitt Rom­ney, R-Utah, speaks to mem­bers of the me­dia after a closed brief­ing for Se­nate mem­bers on May 21 in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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