Party platforms aren’t all that important, but they can be useful as indications of what party leaders and activists consider to be priorities. What the platforms choose to omit can also be significant. Reading through an early version of the national security and foreign policy section of the Republican platform, I was struck by a few things. The first of these is that Europe and NATO continue to get remarkably short shrift from the Romney campaign. Considering how much we hear from Romney about the importance of solidarity with allies, America’s treaty allies in both Europe and Asia receive the most minimal lip service.
Interestingly, there is no mention of support for continued NATO expansion. The only reference to Georgia is an ignorant statement referring to Russia’s “unprovoked invasion.” This is a departure from the language of the 2004 and 2008 platforms. The 2004 platform endorsed the “continued enlargement of NATO.” The 2008 platform made a point of saying that the door to NATO membership should remain open “to all democratic nations who share our values and meet the requirements for NATO membership” and affirmed the importance of Georgian territorial integrity. The 2008 platform in particular seems to have reflected McCain’s obsession with these issues. The new platform fortunately does not include them. I don’t take that as proof that NATO expansion wouldn’t be on the agenda in the future, but there is evidently nowhere near as much Republican enthusiasm for the idea as there used to be.
The weirdest part of this section of the platform is its paragraph on Russia, which makes a point of lauding the sacrifices of the Russian people in “their Great Patriotic War.” That must be the first time a Republican platform has ever acknowledged this. Of course, this is followed by the standard vilification of the Russian government. The overall message of the Russia plank is still intensely Russophobic, but not quite as much as it was in 2008. Notably, the Russia plank endorses permanent normal trade relations, but it does so with the condition that the Magnitsky bill also be passed. Romney had taken no position on either of these before now. Romney’s position on Russia policy is still abysmal, which makes these hints of reasonableness all the more curious.