Watch CBSN Live

Romney marks Memorial Day with call for continued military strength

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, center, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, and San Diego Veteran of the year Marine David Dickey stand together during a campaign stop at the Veterans Museum & Memorial Center, May 28, 2012 in San Diego. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

(CBS News) SAN DIEGO - Addressing one of the largest crowds to see him during his presidential run, Mitt Romney on Monday steered clear of partisan politics - but expressed concern over the world's security while singling out countries that he contends pose a threat to it.

"I wish I could tell you the world is a safe place today. It is not," Romney said to an audience of more than 3,000 at an annual tribute to the military at Veterans Museum and Memorial Center.

The former Massachusetts governor pointed to the danger of Iran and its rush "to become a nuclear nation." He mentioned Pakistan and its growing nuclear program. And he discussed China's rise as a potential military superpower.

In addition, Romney cited Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose relations with the United States have been shaky. "Russia is rebuilding their military and is now led by a man who believes that the Soviet Union was a great, as opposed to evil, empire," he said of Putin.

Repeating a familiar theme, Romney stressed his commitment to a strong national defense. He briefly brought up the issue of military spending, and said that "shrinking our military smaller and smaller to pay for social needs" would create a world where "no one would stand to protect us."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is a veteran unlike Romney, appeared at the event and introduced the candidate. It was McCain who made the day's only direct reference to the presidential race when he introduced Romney as a "great man ... fully qualified to be commander-in-chief."

Earlier in the day, both Romney and McCain placed wreaths in front of the Veterans Museum and Memorial and observed a moment of silence in honor of the nation's fallen military members. The Romney campaign also released a video thanking veterans for their service.

View CBS News In