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Ten Foreign Policy Quotes from the Candidates

October 19, 2012

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Below is a list of quotes illustrating the positions of President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney on ten major topics. More detailed policy stances from candidates can be found in CFR's full list of issue trackers.

Editor's Note: Click here for other campaign 2012 resources, which examine the foreign policy and national security dimensions of the presidential race.


CHINA

"[A]s far as [China's] currency manipulation, the currency has actually gone up 11 percent since I've been president because we have pushed them hard. And we've put unprecedented trade pressure on China. That's why exports have significantly increased under my presidency. That's going to help to create jobs here."--Barack Obama at the October 16 debate in New York

"We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China's been cheating over the years. One by holding down the value of their currency. Number two, by stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents, our technology."--Mitt Romney at the October 16 debate in New York

RUSSIA

"The United States of America and the Russian Federation will only be able to achieve positive new results by acting together for the purpose of strengthening the democracy, security, and prosperity of the American and Russian peoples, and by solving other complex challenges confronting our countries and the international community."--Barack Obama in a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 18

"In terms of a geopolitical foe, a nation that's on the Security Council, that has the heft of the Security Council, and is, of course, a massive nuclear power, Russia is the geopolitical foe."--Mitt Romney in a CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer on March 26

ECONOMY

"I've cut taxes for those who need it--middle-class families and small businesses. But I don't believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don't believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we've been through, I don't believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home."--Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention on September 6

"His policy for the economy is more stimulus, more government spending. My course is very different than that. Mine says, 'Make government smaller. Don't build these massive deficits that pass debt onto our kids, rebuild the foundation of America's strength with great homes, great schools, with entrepreneurship and innovation. Keep government as a-- if you will, facilitator of freedom in America. But don't have government take away the rights and the freedoms of the American people.'"--Mitt Romney in a 60 Minutes interview on September 23

ARAB DEMOCRACY

"We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges that come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world."--Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly on September 25

"A Romney administration will pursue a strategy of supporting groups and governments across the Middle East to advance the values of representative government, economic opportunity, and human rights, and opposing any extension of Iranian or jihadist influence."--Mitt Romney on his campaign website

IRAN

"Let me be clear: America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained."--Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly on September 25

"I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region--and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions--not just words--that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated."--Mitt Romney in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute on October 8

ISRAEL/PALESTINE

"Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on the prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, and those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard but the destination is clear--a secure, Jewish state of Israel; and an independent, prosperous Palestine. Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey."--Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly on September 25

"There are some people who say: 'Should we have a two-state solution?' And the Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution. It's the Palestinians who don't want a two-state solution. They want to eliminate the state of Israel. And I believe America must say--and the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease--but is to say: 'We stand with our friend Israel.'" --Mitt Romney at the January 6 Republican debate in Florida

IMMIGRATION

"What I've also said is if we're going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that's what we've done. And what I've also said is for young people who come here, brought here often times by their parents. Had gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag. Think of this as their country. Understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers. And we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship."--Barack Obama at the October 16 debate in New York

"America is a nation of immigrants, and immigration is essential to our economic growth and prosperity. One million immigrants legally enter America every year--the largest number of any country in the world. I like that. I want to preserve our heritage of robust legal immigration. And I want to make sure that those who abide by the law and wait in line to immigrate here legally are not at a disadvantage. That's why I oppose amnesty, because amnesty will make it harder, not easier, to strengthen our legal immigration system. It's also why my administration will establish an employment verification system so that every business can know whether the people it hires are legally eligible for employment."--Mitt Romney in remarks at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on September 17

DEFENSE POLICY

"As we look beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the end of long-term nation-building with large military footprints -- we'll be able to ensure our security with smaller conventional ground forces. We'll continue to get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems so that we can invest in the capabilities that we need for the future, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction and the ability to operate in environments where adversaries try to deny us access."--Barack Obama speaking at the Pentagon on January 5

"I will roll back President Obama's deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military. I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure. The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow. The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war."--
Mitt Romney in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute on October 8

AFGHANISTAN

"Within this framework, we'll work with the Afghans to determine what support they need to accomplish two narrow security missions beyond 2014--counter-terrorism and continued training. But we will not build permanent bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its cities and mountains. That will be the job of the Afghan people."--Barack Obama in an address to the nation from Afghanistan on May 1

"As president, my goal in Afghanistan will be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. I will evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation."--Mitt Romney in remarks at the National Convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars on July 24

HOMELAND/NATIONAL SECURITY

"Over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban's momentum. We've built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda's leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set -- to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild -- is now within our reach."--Barack Obama in an address to the nation from Afghanistan on May 1

"Al-Qaeda remains a strong force in Yemen and Somalia, in Libya and other parts of North Africa, in Iraq, and now in Syria. And other extremists have gained ground across the region. Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East."--Mitt Romney in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute on October 8