WASHINGTON — A look at where President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney stand on key foreign policy issues:
President Obama, as a result of a 2011 deficit reduction agreement, could face an automatic federal budget cut of more than $100 billion at the end of the year if there is no compromise agreement with Republicans. The plan, known as sequestration, slows the rate of U.S. defense spending. During the foreign policy presidential debate, Obama said his military budget proposal would not be "reducing" spending but "maintaining" it. He accused Romney of proposing military spending that had not been sought by military leaders.
Romney wants to reverse what he calls "Obama-era defense cuts." The former Massachusetts governor said his goal would be to set core defense spending, which includes funds for military personnel operations, procurement and research and development, at a minimum of 4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. During an October presidential debate, Romney defended his plans to build a larger military by cutting spending on government programs, including the president's health care plan which critics call "Obamacare."
Obama said his administration has shown strength by enforcing what he calls the "toughest, most crippling sanctions" ever on Iran as part of international efforts to deter Iran from its alleged nuclear weapons goal. He said the United States will not perpetually engage in nuclear negotiations with Tehran that go nowhere and that the U.S. would only accept an agreement that ends Iran's nuclear program. The president said Romney's proposals on Iran are not that different from what he has already done.
Romney has said Iran's nuclear program is the United States' greatest threat. He pledged to work with Congress and U.S. allies to implement new and broader economic sanctions against Iran and tighten existing sanctions. Romney has also said he would push for greater diplomatic isolation. During the October debates, the Republican challenger said Obama's policies had brought the U.S. "four years closer to a nuclear Iran."
The role of the United States in the Afghan conflict was a key issue during the 2008 presidential election. Then-senator Obama visited Afghanistan during his campaign. With U.S. involvement in the conflict growing less popular with voters, Obama has pledged to end U.S. combat operations by 2014. On Syria, Obama wants international pressure to be exerted on President Bashar al-Assad's government. He has expressed reservations about arming rebels, saying "we have to be absolutely certain of who were are helping." In Libya, Obama has pledged to find those responsible for the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans.
Romney, like Obama, supports ending U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014. Romney, however, has said the withdrawal should be based by conditions on the ground, as assessed by U.S. military commanders. On Syria, he has proposed a three-part strategy that includes increasing sanctions targeting the Syrian government, working with Syrian defectors and intelligence resources to prevent the export of Syrian weapons of mass destruction and facilitating efforts to supply arms to "responsible members of the opposition." Romney has criticized Obama for what he called a "lack of security" leading up to the September raid in Benghazi.
The president sought a more conciliatory approach towards China and has stopped short of calling Beijing a currency manipulator. In an October presidential debate, Obama said his administration had a record of winning trade violation cases against China. He said he would continue to press Beijing on currency issues and would insist that China plays by "the same rules as everyone else."
The Republican challenger has branded China a currency manipulator and has also accused Beijing of stealing U.S. intellectual property and patents and counterfeiting U.S. goods. Romney says he will pursue policies that will discourage what he calls "imbalanced trade relations" between China and its neighbors. Romney has also said he favors maintaining and expanding the U.S. naval presence in the Western pacific region, in part to discourage any Chinese aggression against its neighbors.
Obama has expressed a desire for a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He has called on both sides to base talks on borders that were in place in the West Bank and East Jerusalem before the territories were captured by Israel in a 1967 war. The president has chastised Israel for continued settlement building in disputed areas, but he has said his administration has ramped up security cooperation with Israel.
Romney has said as president, his first foreign trip would be to Israel. He has accused Obama of alienating the Jewish state, and has said he would work with Turkey and Egypt to shore up what he calls "fraying" relations with Israel. Romney said he supports a Palestinian state, but would reduce assistance to Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations statehood recognition or if they form a unity government that includes Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by the United States and Israel.