Romney chides Russia on last leg of bumpy tour


GDANSK/WARSAW, AP and AFP

Reuters — U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney held up Poland’s transition from communism to democracy as an example for the rest of the world while saying on Tuesday that Russia had faltered on the path to freedom. Romney was speaking in the Polish capital at the end of a three-country foreign tour that also took him to Britain and Israel.

In a speech in the library of Warsaw University, Romney evoked Poland’s struggles two decades ago to bring down the Iron Curtain and praised its efforts since then to embrace small government and a market economy — the same model he says is needed to revive spluttering U.S. growth.

“In the 1980s, when other nations doubted that political tyranny could ever be faced down or overcome, the answer was, ‘Look to Poland,’” Romney said. “And today, as some wonder about the way forward out of economic recession and fiscal crisis, the answer is to ‘Look to Poland’ once again.” Romney’s comments on Russia will resonate in Poland, which has a history of occupation by its eastern neighbor and has looked to the United States as a friendly counterweight to the Kremlin’s influence. “Unfortunately, there are parts of the world today where the desire to be free is met with brutal oppression,” Romney said, listing the Moscow-allied state of Belarus, the Syrian leadership, and Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chavez. “And in Russia, once-promising advances toward a free and open society have faltered,” he said. Alluding to the trade union movement Solidarity, which helped topple communist rule, Romney said: “I believe it is critical to stand by those who have stood by America. Solidarity was a great movement that freed a nation. And it is with solidarity that America and Poland face the future.” Solidarity on Monday distanced itself from Romney’s visit to Poland, saying he had supported attacks on unions in his own country. Romney Endorsed by Lech Walesa In Gdansk, Romney was endorsed by former Polish President Lech Walesa, who led the Solidarity anti-government movement in the 1970s.

Walesa suggested the U.S. needs Romney’s leadership to restore its standing in the world. He told Romney: “Be successful.”

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Mitt Romney’s aide on Tuesday added a fresh incident to the Republican White House contender’s growing list of gaffes, telling journalists to “kiss my ass” as they chased the candidate for answers.