For a second day in a row, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney attacked President Donald Trump’s foreign policy as helping China and Russia but hurting U.S. allies.
That came as he questioned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday.
Romney — the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, who once was interviewed by Trump as a potential nominee to be his secretary of state — praised Pompeo for trying to rally global opposition to China’s misdeeds and aggression, but at the same time criticized the president.
He said Pompeo’s actions are “a welcome departure from the president’s fawning praise of [Chinese leader] Xi Jinping and celebration of agreements that China hasn’t honored.”
Romney added that Pompeo’s attempt to rally opposition to China is hobbled by “actions we have taken that have offended our allies at a time when we need to be drawing them closer to us,” such as Trump imposing “steel and aluminum tariffs against our friends and allies that I thought was misplaced. I would have rather focused our entire ammunition on China.”
Romney said another slap at key allies came Wednesday when the Trump administration announced plans to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Germany after Trump complained that Germany is not spending enough on NATO defense.
“I have heard from the highest levels of the German government that this is seen by them as an insult to Germany,” Romney said. “I can’t imagine at a time when we need to be drawing in our friends and allies so that we can collectively confront China, that we want to insult them.”
A day earlier, Romney issued a statement calling Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Germany “a grave error. It is a slap in the face at a friend and ally when we should instead be drawing closer in our mutual commitment to deter Russian and Chinese aggression.”
He added then, “It is a gift to Russia coming at a time when we just have learned of its support for the Taliban and reports of bounties on killing American troops.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., grilled Pompeo about the troop withdrawal in Thursday’s hearing. She said the only country she has seen that publicly supports the troop removal is Russia and asked if the administration took into account the effect the move would have on countering Russian and Chinese aggression.
Pompeo did not answer that directly, but said, “I saw comments out of Russia this morning that are different than you describe that viewed the actions that we took as threatening because we will have soldiers that are deployed closer to the Russian border” in Poland.
Pompeo added “we are still fully capable of executing” the NATO mission to deter Russia. He also said, “Conditions have changed around the world and our forces need to be repositioned to appropriately confront today’s challenges.”
Romney is not the only Republican to join Democrats in criticizing the move. Earlier, 22 Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee wrote to Trump saying a reduced U.S. commitment to Europe’s defense would encourage Russian aggression and opportunism.
However, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted Wednesday that he supports Trump’s action.
“Reducing the heavy concentration of troops in Germany enhances our defense posture,” he wrote. “Repositioning U.S. troops East will clearly enhance Russian deterrence.”
He added, “I hope that members of Congress will take time to really understand this issue.”