Growing Consensus on Russia: Should've Listened to Mitt

A look back at Romney's 2012 remarks on Russia being 'without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2022 9:50 AM CST
Growing Consensus on Russia: Should've Listened to Mitt
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is seen Jan. 11, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

(Newser) – As the world waits anxiously for his next move on Ukraine, Vladimir Putin continues to make demands over the crisis, exacerbated this week by his ordering of Russian troops into eastern Ukraine. Now, comments made about Russia a decade ago by Sen. Mitt Romney, then a presidential contender against incumbent Barack Obama, are being resurfaced, and the general consensus on the matter: Romney was right all along. More on the topic:

  • Romney's original remarks: Obama had been caught on a hot mic in March 2012 telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that Obama would have more "flexibility" on missile defense after the next election, a comment that riled the GOP. In an interview following that remark, Romney said he was "very concerned" about what Obama had said, noting that Russia "is, without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe," per ABC News.
  • The fallout: Romney was roundly ridiculed in Democratic circles after saying as much, including by Obama in their final presidential debate, per Fox News. "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back," Obama mocked. "Because the Cold War's been over for 20 years." Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton piled on in an interview at the time, noting, "I think it's somewhat dated to be looking backwards instead of being realistic about where we agree, where we don't agree." And Biden himself, then vice president, added: "Romney acts like he thinks the Cold War's still on ... I don't know where he's been."
  • Fast-forward to 2022: David Axelrod, a former Obama adviser who's now a political commentator for CNN, told the network's Brianna Keilar this week that clips from Democrats on the issue during the 2012 campaign cycle didn't age well. "Looking back, [Putin] is a problem," said Axelrod, who himself at the time had said Romney was living in a "time warp," per Fox. Axelrod added to Keilar: "You know, there's no other way to look at it. Romney had a point."
  • From CNN: The outlet's Chris Cillizza takes a similar look back at the 2012 commotion, when he says what looked then like a "major flub" by Romney was used as a "political cudgel" by Obama. "It should serve as a reminder that history is not written in the moment—and that what something looks like in that moment is not a guarantee of what it will always look like," he writes.
  • From the 'Wall Street Journal': The conservative-leaning newspaper's editorial board applauds that "the '80s got their foreign policy back," riffing on Obama's original mockery. The Journal's word of advice for Biden? He "could do worse than to invite Mr. Romney to help fight the new Cold War."
  • Not his first vindication: The apology tour for Romney actually started a few years ago. In 2019, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a Democrat, offered him a personal mea culpa, per ABC News. "I think that we underestimated what was going on in Russia," she said at the time.
  • Romney's latest take: On Monday, the senator tweeted that "Putin's KGB mentality drives his malevolent obsession for repression and regression: he shamelessly abuses the sovereignty of a democratic nation to foster his foolhardy dream of rebuilding a soviet empire." Romney added: "The response from NATO must be unified and withering."
(The White House is officially calling Russia's move into Ukraine its latest "invasion.")

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