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He claimed that Republicans want to hide their support of the debt deal last year that set into motion the $1.2 billion in defense and domestic spending cuts, which will take effect Jan. 1 if Congress fails to find common ground on alternative spending reductions.

“Instead of making tough choices to reduce the deficit, they’d rather protect tax cuts for some of the wealthiest Americans, even if it risks big cuts in our military,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Romney tried to turn the tables Tuesday, blaming Mr. Obama for the budget impasse. “This is not the time for the president’s radical cuts in the military,” he said.

Mr. Romney is preparing for a three-nation overseas trip that includes meetings this week and next with top leaders in England, Poland and Israel. The trek will put him on par with what many Democrats see as one of the president’s strong points.

“One thing the governor did not talk about today was al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden said after the speech. “That’s not surprising. When he last ran for president, Gov. Romney was asked what he would do about bin Laden. He said then: ‘It is not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.’”

Mr. Romney instead focused in on the notion that the president’s failure to speed up the nation’s recovery has diminished its stature.

“The president’s policies have made it harder to recover from the deepest recession in 70 years, exposed the military to cuts that no one can justify, compromised our national security secrets,” Mr. Romney said. “And in dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it is not earned, insult where it is not deserved, and apology where it is not due.”

In attempting to “reset” relations with Russia, he said, Mr. Obama abandoned Poland and the Czech Republic by walking away from the Bush-era anti-ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe. He said Russia thanked the United States by arming Syrian President Bashar Assad “as he slaughtered the Syrian people.”

Mr. Romney also said he would be more supportive of Israel and there is “no greater danger in the world today than the prospect of the ayatollahs in Tehran possessing nuclear weapons capability.” If elected, he said, he would fight to ensure that any talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear program be based on stopping their enrichment of uranium — though the same basic request has been made before.

“The Iranian regime claims the right to enrich nuclear material for supposedly peaceful purposes. This claim is discredited by years of deception. A clear line must be drawn: There must be a full suspension of any enrichment, period,” he said, without explaining what he would do if Iran did not agree to those terms.

Susan Crabtree contributed to this report.