Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2014

Romney vs. Obama: what the Atlantic Alliance can expect from the next U.S. President

Patrick Keller

October 2012

NATO Defense College


The American President is still the most influential actor in international affairs. Despite the talk of American decline and the evidence of rising powers, despite the new complexities of globalization and the increased relevance of non-state actors, the U.S. President continues to play a special role. As head of the strongest of all national economies, commander in chief of the mightiest armed forces in the history of the world, and leader of the present-day democracy with the oldest constitution, his policies and his bearing shape international politics more than those of any other actor. It is thus understandable that not just the American people but also U.S. allies in NATO and the world at large follow the current presidential campaign with keen interest. Given that the United States is first among equals in the Alliance, strategists in NATO member states have a particular desire to discern the future President's stance on international security affairs because they will need to plan accordingly. However, in contrasting the positions of President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, they encounter three basic problems.