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Where the presidential candidates stand on foreign policy


President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal calls for scaling back spending by $487 billion over 10 years; defense spending would continue to grow but at a slower rate. He would also refocus priorities from Europe to the AsiaPacific region.

Mitt Romney wants to increase defense spending to 4 percent of GDP, estimated to mean an extra $2 trillion over 10 years. He has not specifically accounted for how he would spend the extra money but has called for building as many as six more Navy vessels a year.


The White House says sanctions against Iran are working, but that all options, including military force, are on the table to stop the country from acquiring nuclear weapons. Despite pressure from Israel, the administration has declined to specify under what conditions it might take military action.


Romney has given shifting explanations for when he would use force against Iran. In a speech this summer, he said his red line would be if Iran acquired the capability to build a bomb; in a September interview he said his red line “is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon,” appearing to mirror the president’s stance.


Obama plans to withdraw US troops in 2014. The administration says that only by announcing a firm deadline will the Afghan government understand it has to take responsibility for its security.

Romney agrees with the 2014 withdrawal but criticized Obama for disclosing its timing. Romney also says if he is elected the withdrawal “will be based on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders.”


Shortly after taking office, Obama relaxed travel restrictions and allowed CubanAmericans to send money back to their relatives on island.

Calling the Obama policy on Cuba naive, Romney promised that he would reimpose the travel and remittance restrictions.



After Obama refused to meet the Dalai Lama early in his term — a gesture to placate China — he toughened his stance, especially on trade. He has endorsed a military strategy of focusing on the AsiaPacific region, which some Chinese officials fear will turn into a Cold Warstyle “containment” policy.

Charging that Obama’s trade policies have been inadequate, Romney promises to designate China a currency manipulator. Such a move could lead to tariffs to protect American manufacturers but could also trigger a trade war. On military policy, Romney also favors an emphasis on the region.


Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia has yielded mixed results. Russia helped pass sanctions against Iran and canceled the sale of military equipment to the country and initially backed the air war against Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy. But it has broken with the United States to back the Syrian regime. Nonetheless, the Obama administration has prodded Congress to formally normalize trade relations with Russia.

Romney has said Russia represents the nation’s “number one geopolitical foe.” He opposes normalizing trade relations until Congress passes a bill that would punish Russian officials involved in human rights abuses.


Obama initially resisted calls to aid rebels against Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy with a nofly zone, instead assembling a coalition before intervening last March. Instability continues, culminating in the assassination of the US ambassador in Benghazi last month.

Romney had criticized Obama’s aid of Libyan rebels as “tentative.” Since then, Romney has criticized the administration for failing to provide adequate security before the Benghazi attack and for initially partially blaming protests over an antiIslam video for the attack.