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Mitt Romney announced Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate Saturday morning. Rep. Ryan is a shrewd decision from a domestic policy angle. He is a major architect of the Republican’s Path to Prosperity, a vocal member of the GOP majority in Congress, as well as youthful, fresh and predicted to invigorate the Republican base.
But between a relatively young Wisconsin Congressman and the former Governor of Massachusetts, where is the foreign policy experience? What are their views on the United States as a global actor? These questions undoubtedly will be asked and debated in the coming months.
Here are some major points to keep in mind, quite a few mentioned in Foreign Policy’s own report, “What’s Paul Ryan’s Foreign Policy”:
1) Paul Ryan foreign policy rejects American isolationism: “Today, some in this country relish the idea of America’s retreat from our role in the world,” Ryan said. “They say that it’s about time for other nations to take over, that we should turn inward, that we should reduce ourselves to membership on a long list of mediocre has-beens. Instead of heeding these calls to surrender, we must renew our commitment to the idea that America is the greatest force for human freedom the world has ever seen.”
2) Gov. Romney has famously called Russia “without question our number one geopolitical foe.” Additionally, one of his foreign policy advisers recently referred to Russia as the Soviet Union.
3) Gov. Romney has threatened to get tough with China on currency manipulation, as one of his first actions in office. Rep. Ryan has said in the past, “a liberalizing China is not only in the interests of the world, but also in China’s own best interest as it copes with the tremendous challenges it faces over the next couple of decades.”
4) Staunchly pro-Israel, Gov. Romney’s recent international tour stopped in Israel, where the presidential candidate held a campaign fundraiser along with support from billionaire Sheldon Adelson. He also managed to stir up some controversy with statements contributing culture as the difference maker in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. “Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” said Romney.
5) In his Path to Prosperity budget, Rep. Ryan supports slashing budgets dedicated to diplomacy and international relations, while boosting national defense spending. “…his proposal would see the international affairs account slashed from $47.8 billion in fiscal 2012 to $43.1 billion in fiscal 2013, $40.1 billion in fiscal 2014, $38.3 billion in fiscal 2015, and $38.1 billion in fiscal 2016. The State Department and USAID wouldn’t see their budget get back to current levels until after 2022 if Ryan were to have his way,” says Foreign Policy magazine.
For Rep. Ryan, foreign policy funding is intrinsically related to the aims of the Republican budget proposal. “Our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course; and if we fail to put our budget on a sustainable path, then we are choosing decline as a world power.”
The selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Vice President is clearly not motivated by a desire to beef up an outward expertise in foreign policy. Rep. Ryan does not currently serve on foreign policy House committees, and Gov. Romney’s international experience is largely limited to a Mormon mission in France, business relations during his time with Bain Capital, and the coordination of the 2000 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Rep. Ryan will face off against current Vice President Joe Biden in debates this fall. Vice President Biden, in contrast, was a long-term member and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Rep. Ryan, of all of the VP frontrunners, was one of the least experienced in terms of foreign relations. This lack of formal foreign policy experience might not make a difference to American voters more concerned with domestic economic policy. One would recall then-Senator Barack Obama had merely two years as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prior to election as head of state.
The pick does, however, diverge from recent presidential strategies. Both President Obama and President Bush chose to augment their expertise and charisma with a vice presidential pick with foreign policy expertise.