Following up on the last post, I should add that Romney’s rhetoric about Russia throughout the campaign frequently exaggerated Russian power and antagonism to the U.S. for two reasons: threat inflation is a major part of current Republican hawkish foreign policy thinking, and bashing Obama’s Russia “reset” policy was an easy way to score points with members of his own party. Claiming that Russia was “our number one” foe in the world combined these two views by saying that cooperation with Russia was pointless and insisting that Obama was making “concessions” to a foe. This required him to ignore the benefits of cooperation and to invent concessions that never happened, but he did it anyway. The point of all this was not to describe the world or Russia accurately, but to demagogue the issue to make people think that Obama had “appeased” a foreign dictator. Unfortunately for Romney, simply shouting “appeasement” when confronted with modestly successful cooperation with another state made him less credible on foreign policy instead of improving his credentials.
Romney’s complaints about Russia policy were structurally very similar to his complaints about the rest of Obama’s foreign policy: in every instance, Obama “conceded” too much to authoritarian rulers and “abandoned” allies. This was the standard party line view when Romney was competing for the nomination. Romney was horrified by the supposed “abandonment” of Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense, which made sense only if one knew nothing about U.S. missile defense plans in Europe and Polish and Czech views on the subject. He was likewise scandalized by New START for its supposed “sell-out” to Russia, but all of his objections to the treaty were nonsense and easily refuted. The point is that the “number one geopolitical foe” comment was a clumsy attempt to justify Romney’s anti-Russian posturing, but it simply made his criticism of Russia policy seem even more absurd than it already was.