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Romney's Russia Comments Reflect Long-Held Distrust

Romney's Russia Comments Reflect Long-Held Distrust

By Scott Conroy - March 29, 2012


When Mitt Romney referred to Russia as "our number one geopolitical foe" in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday, Russian officials and left-leaning American commentators alike portrayed the comment as one more befitting a Cold War spy movie than a serious American politician in 2012.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev dismissed the remark as stemming from "ideological cliches" and said that it "smacks of Hollywood."

MSNBC host Chris Matthews’ response was steeped in ridicule. “I don’t know what decade this guy’s living in,” he said on Tuesday night’s episode of “Hardball.” “It sounds like, if not ’72, ’52 even. It’s not Stalin over there, it’s not Khrushchev, it’s not Brezhnev. It’s Medvedev.”

Romney’s characterization of Russia as America’s foremost nemesis came after President Obama, at a South Korean summit meeting, was heard on an open microphone asking Medvedev for “patience” and “space” to make progress on bilateral issues, including a proposed missile-defense system for Europe that Russia opposes. Obama had suggested that he would be more capable of working toward an agreement with Medvedev’s successor, Vladimir Putin, after his own re-election.

While Obama’s comment caused an outcry among conservatives, who saw it as evidence the president plans to capitulate on missile defense in his second term, the consensus among Romney’s critics was that the former Massachusetts governor had overreached.

But his remark appears not to have been an off-the-cuff throwaway line. Instead, it reflects his long-held negative view of the Russian regime -- and his belief that the Obama administration’s “reset” policy has been unwarranted and ineffective.

The GOP front-runner has long suggested that the former Cold War adversary would be regarded by his administration as something closer to an enemy than a friend.

In his book, “No Apology,” Romney listed Russia as one of four powerful international actors -- along with China, “the Jihadists” and the United States -- that have competing strategies to control the direction of the 21st century.

“We are now obliged to be wary and vigilant once more, because by mid-century, our grandchildren may well view Russia with the same concern that we and our parents once did,” Romney wrote.

And in a December interview with RealClearPolitics, he asserted that Putin was aiming to return his country “to the glory days of the Soviet Union,” and he encouraged the Russian people to usher him out of office.

“I think his brand of democracy is not something we would recognize, and I hope the Russian people are able to find leaders that are more willing to represent the interests of the people,” Romney said.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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