By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a national security policy featuring stronger defense on Thursday, the next step in a conservative policy agenda rolling out as he works to unify Republicans after a divisive primary campaign.
The plan is sharply critical of President Barack Obama, blaming the Democrat for “eight years of broken promises, concessions, and retreat” in the Syrian civil war, nuclear deal with Iran, chilly relations with Russia and dealings with a bellicose North Korea.
It would overturn some of what Obama allies consider his foreign policy achievements, including the Iran deal and his moves toward normal relations with Communist-ruled Cuba. And it criticizes efforts to close the Guantanamo detention center.
While not providing figures, it also calls for an end to military rollbacks and demands “adequate, predictable budgets.”
The blueprint includes several departures from foreign policy statements by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whom Ryan has endorsed in the White House race.
It does not demand the erection of a massive wall along the Mexican border, a centerpiece of Trump’s campaigning. Ryan calls for border security measures including “high fencing,” aerial surveillance and radar.
But it echoes some of Trump’s concerns about Muslim immigrants, with calls to tighten refugee screening and discussion of ways not to radicalize youths. Trump sparked outrage by promising to temporarily ban Muslims from the United States.
“We must constantly reassess our defenses in order to find and close security gaps so that Islamist militants cannot slip into our country undetected,” Ryan’s plan said.
The plan is not isolationist. It takes a strong line on battling militants abroad, saying the United States must keep all options on the table and “eliminate terrorist sanctuaries.”
Trump has been critical of some U.S. alliances. Ryan’s plan, in contrast, underscores the importance of NATO, calls ties to Israel “the cornerstone of stability in the Middle East,” advocates severe sanctions on Iran and says the United States should stand up to Russian aggression while bolstering Ukraine.
It also calls for more trade agreements and says foreign aid programs should make recipient countries self-sufficient.
The plan calls for increased security for diplomats and facilities overseas. In that context, it mentions the 2012 attacks on Benghazi, which many Republicans cite to criticize then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump’s rival in the White House race.
Ryan, the country’s highest-ranking elected Republican, has described the agenda as a way to offer voters a coherent policy message for 2017. He unveiled an anti-poverty agenda on Monday. Initiatives on regulation, constitutional authority, healthcare and tax reform are expected in the coming weeks.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bernard Orr)