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Top HASC Dem Hits Romney Over Claim Russia Is Chief U.S. Foe

Sep. 21, 2012 - 12:30PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
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A senior U.S. House Democrat knocked GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his stance that Russia is America’s top threat, saying there are multiple issues on which the Cold War foes can partner.

Romney continues to take fire from President Barack Obama and other Democrats — and some GOP foreign policy experts — for saying during a March television interview that Russia is America’s “number one geopolitical foe.”

Obama and his campaign-trail surrogates have questioned whether the quote shows Romney is too much of a foreign policy novice to be president. Romney’s running mate, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said Romney was merely ranking Russia ahead of China when he made the remark.

House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Ranking Member Adam Smith took a shot at Romney, saying during a Sept. 21 forum in Washington that when threats to the United States are ranked, “Russia is down the list” and is “not the biggest geostrategic foe.”

Many hawkish congressional Republicans believe Washington should treat Moscow as a potential foe and slam Obama’s ongoing efforts to improve relations with Russia.

But Smith, a White House ally, cast U.S.-Russia relations differently, telling a Center for American Progress forum in Washington that the former foes must find a way to work together on a range of issues.

In many respects, “Russia is still a great power … and they want to be taken seriously,” Smith said, noting Moscow wants to feel Russia remains “a major player” in its own neighborhood.

While Washington and Moscow will inevitably disagree on “big issues,” the two sides must do so “in a way that recognizes this is a relationship we cannot walk away from.”

One delicate issue on which U.S. and Russian officials disagree is an American plan to deploy parts of a missile defense system across Europe. Moscow has objected, alleging the system is really designed to target its missiles.

Even if Russian leaders never are swayed by U.S. officials’ claims that the system is aimed at Iranian missiles, “we’re just going to have to go ahead and do it anyway,” Smith said.

Still, Smith seems mystified by GOP calls to close talks with Russian officials.

“If we can get Russia to a place where they’re [at least] not opposed, why wouldn’t we want that?” Smith asked.

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