Romney: 10 years later, Russia remains ‘geopolitical foe’

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sen. Mitt Romney on Sunday addressed his controversial 2012 comment that Russia is “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

“A geopolitical foe they obviously were and continue to be, because Russia continues to fight us in every venue they have. They support the world's worst actors,” Romney said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about his original statement from a decade ago, for which he was widely mocked at the time.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney’s Democratic opponent, President Barack Obama, blasted the Utah Republican for being out of touch during a time when al Qaeda posed a major threat to the U.S.

“When you were asked, 'What's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America,' you said, 'Russia.' Not al-Qaeda. You said Russia," Obama said during a presidential debate with Romney in October 2012. "And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War's been over for 20 years."

“I have clear eyes on this. I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin,” Romney said at the time.

Asked on Sunday by CNN’s Dana Bash about the 2012 exchange, Romney asserted that China is currently the greatest threat to the U.S. “long term.” But he also backed up his statement on Russia in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Thursday invasion of Ukraine.

“They are a geopolitical adversary, poking us where they can,” Romney said.

Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops have pushed into Ukraine, and fighting continues to intensify across the country. The U.S. and its allies are piling sanctions on the Russian president and threatening to completely cut off Russia from the global banking system.

Romney said Sunday that he doesn’t look back and “worry about what is said during a political campaign,” but he does have concerns about “president after president” — including Obama, George W. Bush and Donald Trump — “who were resetting relations with Russia, hoping as they looked in the eyes of Vladimir Putin they could see a responsible person.”

“John McCain was right. He said he looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes and saw the KGB,” Romney said of his late former Senate colleague from Arizona. “And that’s what we’re seeing: a small, evil, feral-eyed man who is trying to shape the world in the image where once again Russia would be an empire. And that’s not going to happen.”