The Day asked Dr. Matthew Rojansky, deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Steven Pifer, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former US ambassador to Ukraine, what dividends Romney can reap by visiting London (where he will participate in the Olympic opening ceremony), Israel, and Poland.

Matthew Rojansky
Rojansky, formerly executive director of the Partnership for a Secure America, is an expert on U.S. and Russian national security and nuclear-weapon policies.

Matthew Rojansky: “I think any candidate for the US presidency will reap some benefit by showing that he has foreign-policy experience, is respected by foreign leaders, and maintains friendly relations with the US’s close allies. I doubt that only one tour like this will change the campaign’s pace because most of us agree that foreign policy is just not the main issue, when the economy is still slowly recovering from a deep recession and there are signs now that it may roll back.

“The visit to Poland perhaps fits in with the efforts to play in ‘common values’ with our allies. George Bush Jr. once focused his attention on Poland as a role model of ‘Western values,’ although that country has not-so-easy relations with its neighbors. But, on the other hand, Poland is taking good advantage of the fact that many ethnic Polish voters live in the US Middle West.”

Steven Pifer: “Governor Romney’s tour of Britain, Israel, and Poland very much resembles foreign trips by other candidates in the summer before the US presidential elections. The aim of Romney’s team is to show that he is knowledgeable about foreign-policy matters on the whole. They are trying to project the image of an individual who, if elected to the White House, will be able to really manage the US foreign policy, especially taking into account that President Obama is generally rated as a strong leader in foreign-policy matters. The governor’s visit to London to take part in the Olympic Games opening ceremony was planned to remind US voters of the role the governor played in the successful organization of the 2002 winter Olympics in the state of Utah. In the course of his visit to Israel, he will be emphasizing his support for that country.”

Will this tour increase Romney’s chances to be elected president, taking into account that a similar trip of Obama to Europe in 2008 promoted his popularity?

M.R.: “In my view, this trip can also be of benefit for Romney. But it is wrong to think that Obama’s tour of Europe in 2008 was a decisive factor for his victory. In reality, he was subjected to a lot of criticism and told that a candidate should pay more attention to domestic problems. In all probability, the same will occur in the case of Romney. I doubt that foreign policy may be one of the key issues in the election campaign. There has not been a precedent like this in history. Besides, Romney has already harshly criticized Obama in foreign-policy matters. But this does not change the fact that the coverage of the campaign, advertising materials, and speeches mainly focus on the economy.”

S.P.: “Governor Romney should exercise caution during this trip. A candidate may criticize the incumbent president’s foreign policy as much as he pleases. Therefore, the US electorate is taking a dim view of the candidates who express criticism from abroad.”

Can the Bain affair and reluctance to make public the tax declaration be a serious obstacle for Romney to win these elections?

M.R.: “I think the margin between the two candidates will be slim. I doubt that Romney’s taxes, the Bain situation, and the country’s financial condition under Obama’s presidency will be a crucial issue. What will really matter is the economic situation in the fall of 2012 as well as which of the candidates is better prepared, in the opinion of voters, to improve the overall situation in the country.”

S.P.: “As for the trip’s impact on the presidential campaign in general, I cannot say I am an expert in the question of US politics, but I suspect that the campaign will focus on the domestic problems that will most strongly influence the voters’ choice. Foreign policy will be a secondary issue when the Americans go to the polls in November.”

This interview originally appeared in The Day.