Romney defends international alliances in first Senate floor speech
© Greg Nash
 
Romney argued that leaning into international alliances is crucial to combating the rise of China, saying that America has "many friends" but "China has very few." 
 
"Alliances are absolutely essential to America's security, to our future, I can't state that more plainly. … We need to hold our friends closer, not neglect them or drive them away," Romney said. 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The former GOP presidential nominee and Massachusetts governor added that the United States should be focused on strengthening alliances and coordinating with them more closely, including promoting a "strong" NATO and Europe as part of an effort to combat China. 
 
Romney didn't specifically mention Trump, who is London as part of a state visit, during his speech. But the forward-leaning foreign policy is at contrast with the president, who has dismissed traditional U.S. allies, including NATO, while sidestepping criticism of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' Highly irregular: Rudy, the president, and a venture in Ukraine Biden responds to North Korea: 'I wear their insults as a badge of honor' MORE
 
Romney tipped his hand to Trump, arguing that the president needs to help unite the country against attempts by foreign governments, including China, to use social media to stir division. 
 
"Each of us must make an effort to shut out the voices of hate and fear, to ignore the divisive and alarming conspiracies and to be more respectful. … There's no more powerful medium than the bully pulpit of the president of the United States," Romney said. 
 
Romney's speech marks a shift from remarks he made in 2012, when he pointed to Russia as the country's biggest foreign policy threat.
 
“Russia continues its malign effort, of course, violating treaties, invading sovereign nations, pursuing nuclear superiority, interfering in elections, spreading lies and hate, protecting the world’s worst actors from justice and promoting authoritarianism,” Romney said.
 
But he argued on Tuesday that Russia was now on a "declining path," while China "is on a rising path." 
 
"It's possible that freedom itself would be in jeopardy. If we fail to act now, that possibility may become a reality," Romney said about China's growing influence. 
 
Romney said the administration needs to "confront China's aggression," arguing that so far actions have been "ad hoc or short term."
 
"It's past time for us to conduct and construct a comprehensive strategy to meet the challenges of an ambitious and increasingly hostile China," Romney said.
 
-Updated 2 p.m.