The Cable

TPaw: Gingrich is a flip flopper on foreign policy

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's foreign policy beliefs are largely undefined and he has already flip-flopped on important issues, said Mitt Romney surrogate and former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.

"Newt's current views on foreign policy are a work in progress," Pawlenty told The Cable in a Tuesday interview following his speech at the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) 2011 Forum. "Some of this has yet to be revealed as it relates to Newt. Mitt's been out talking about foreign policy issues in detail for a long time. So his foreign policy positions are much more developed than Newt's."

Calling Romney the most qualified GOP candidate on foreign policy and national security issues, Pawlenty -- who said he is co-chairman of Romney's campaign -- also accused Gingrich of twice changing his position on U.S. policy toward Libya.

"[Gingrich] was for the no-fly zone, then he backed off the no-fly zone, then he was for it again," said Pawlenty. "I think he whirled around two or three times on the Libya question."

In fact, Gingrich called for a no-fly zone on March 7, just before the Libya war began, and then said after the operation began, said "I would not have intervened." Romney has also come under fire for what many have seen as a shifting position on President Barack Obama's military intervention in Libya.

Pawlenty declined to say that Romney outright rejects Gingrich's recent claim that the Palestinian identity is "invented." However, he did say that Romney probably wouldn't use those exact words -- at least not before checking with the Israeli government.

"One of the tests that Mitt would apply to using phrases that characterize people or organizations in a tense situation would be to call the prime minister of Israel and say, ‘If I used a characterization like this, would it be helpful or hurtful to Israel's goals and objectives in the region and their security,'" said Pawlenty. "Mitt articulated that he doesn't think that kind of rhetoric would be helpful to that situation."

Gingrich's recent attack on Palestinian identity does seem to contradict his previous writing on the issue. In a memo sent to the Defense Department leadership in 2003 titled "Seven Strategic Necessities," he advocated strong support for moderate Palestinians who were fighting against Hamas.

"The only hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinian people is for the United States to overtly ally with those Palestinians who will accept Israel if they have safety, health, prosperity and freedom and in this alliance defeat and ultimately eliminate the threat of the terrorists, " Gingrich wrote at the time. "Victory in the Israel-Palestinian conflict thus inherently means victory both in a campaign against terrorists and in a campaign to build a safe, healthy, prosperous, free Palestinian society."

Pawlenty maintained that Romney has the clearest and most detailed foreign policy positions of any GOP primary candidate. "He is calling for a reset of the reset with respect to Russia, and he would take a much more forceful stance with China in regards to their manipulation and pegging of their currency," Pawlenty said.

In what seemed like a threat of a trade war, Pawlenty said that as president, Romney would label China as a "currency manipulator," give it "fair warning" to change its behavior, and then invoke "financial consequences" on various trade relations with China.

What foreign policy experience would Romney bring to the presidency, we asked?

"Well, he as a governor has had exposure to many of these issues, not in the same way a president would have," Pawlenty explained. "For example, he was the commander-in-chief of the National Guard on state duty and when you come into contact with the military that regularly, you obviously learn command-and-control structures, techniques, and the like."

Romney also led a homeland security committee inside the National Governors Association and has traveled extensively abroad, Pawlenty said.

"When you are an executive leader you learn executive function and in the case of being a governor, you are significantly immersed in security and homeland security issues," Pawlenty said.

Does Romney give Obama any credit for recent victories in capturing and killing Islamist extremists?

"Mitt has acknowledged that President Obama did a good job in hunting down Osama bin Laden and others, but he has also noted that many of the techniques and tools that were presumably used in finding and killing those individuals were developed in the previous administration, and some of which President Obama opposed," Pawlenty said.

During the Q&A session following Pawlenty's FPI speech, Brookings scholar Robert Kagan suggested that Pawlenty would be a good choice for secretary of state in a future Romney administration. Pawlenty declined to put himself forward for that role.

"I'm happy to help Mitt as a volunteer doing all that I can. In my view, on foreign policy, he is clearly the most knowledgeable, the most capable, and the most electable," Pawlenty said. "But it would irresponsible to the campaign to start talking about winning the election and dividing up positions."

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The Cable

Defense bill: Administration must tell Congress before giving missile defense info to Russia

If President Barack Obama's administration wants to share sensitive data about U.S. missile defense systems with Russia, it now must at least tell Congress in advance, according to the final version of the defense authorization bill.

It was revealed in November that the Obama administration was considering sharing sensitive missile defense information with Russia in a bid to assure the Russians that U.S. missile defense capabilities in Europe were not a threat to their ballistic missile forces. For example, the United States reportedly offered to give Russia the details of the burnout velocity of the SM-3 interceptor missile, which would tell the Russians how far our interceptor missiles could chase their missiles.

The House version of the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill banned any such sharing, but the conference report issued Monday evening softened that restriction. The final version of the legislation, which will land on Obama's desk later this week, requires that the administration give Congress 60 days notice before giving any classified missile defense information to the Russians. The defense bill is considered a "must pass" bill and Obama won't likely veto it over this provision.

The notification must include a detailed description of the information to be shared, an explanation for why such sharing is in the U.S. national security interest, an explanation of what the Russians are giving in return, and an explanation of how the administration can be sure the information won't be shared with third parties, such as Iran.

Of course, the future of U.S.-Russian missile defense cooperation is unclear. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seemed to announce the failure of the talks on Nov. 23, when he also announced a series of retaliatory measures to counter U.S. missile defense deployments in Europe and threatened to withdraw from the New START treaty. But the administration still insists that it plans to continue U.S.-Russian negotiations over how to work together on missile defense.

The concern on Capitol Hill is that the administration will give up valuable information before striking a deal, thereby undermining the effectiveness of U.S. missile defenses before they are even fully deployed.

"It's not at all clear that the Russians have any interest in so-called missile defense cooperation with the United States, but, assuming that the State Department or Defense Department propose to offer classified information to Russia on U.S. missile defenses, for the first time, they will have to tell Congress before they do so," a GOP congressional aide close to the issue told The Cable today. "Congress will have plenty of time to evaluate the proposal and raise objections as necessary."

Meanwhile, the top Russian official dealing with the issue, Russia's NATO Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin, has a new side job: accusing the United States of fomenting unrest in Russia. He gave a speech stoking fears of U.S. aggression against Russia at a rally this week for the ruling United Russia party. The demonstration was called to counter the protests that broke out last week in Moscow and elsewhere around the country after Russia's flawed parliamentary elections.

"There are forces today that consider Russia easy prey," Rogozin said. "They bombed Iraq. They destroyed Libya. They are approaching Syria. They stepped all over the people of Yugoslavia. And they are now thinking about Russia and are waiting for a moment when it is weak."

Rogozin, who got the red carpet treatment from the administration when he visited the United States in July, has also been keeping up his war of words on Twitter with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), whom he in July called a "monster of the Cold War," along with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

"My friend Kerk [sic] is relentless. He is now stifling Amb. Michael McFaul," Rogozin tweeted Dec. 4, linking to The Cable's article on Kirk's hold on McFaul's nomination to become ambassador to Russia. "With guys like Kerk US is pushing its way ahead."