McKay Coppins: During the 2012 election, you identified Russia as America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe and were mocked for it by President Obama, then–Vice President Joe Biden, and many commentators. You were repeatedly accused of having an outdated Cold War mindset. Do you believe you understood something about Russia and its ambitions that they didn’t?
Mitt Romney: You know, it’s hard for me to believe that they didn’t realize that I was right at the time, because it was so obvious. Russia was supporting all of the dictators in the world, whether in Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea. They were opposing us at the UN whenever a critical measure came forward. They were our geopolitical adversary … And if anybody didn’t see that, who was watching carefully, I find it hard to believe.
I guess politics can be blinding. My guess is the Obama team thought that would be politically advantageous to say, and the compliant media picked up the message and drove it home as hard as they could … I mean, I think it was The New York Times that said, “This proves Romney is unqualified to be president.” Like, oh my goodness, guys. Come on. Who do you think was our geopolitical adversary back in 2012? I’d love to know what their suggestion was. Clearly, today, China is a greater threat to our security and our economic vitality. But they weren’t a geopolitical player in the sense that Russia was back in 2012.
The reality is President Obama’s underestimation of Russia’s intent, Vladimir Putin’s intent, is only magnified by what happened over a couple of decades. It’s not just Obama. We’ve seen this for many years. We had not sufficiently responded to villainy in the past, whether in Georgia, Ukraine, with the Crimea, with Syria, and with assassinations. We’ve downplayed those things and somehow pretended that if we just reset, that everything would be fine. President Trump invited Russian ambassadors and foreign ministers to the White House as soon as he got there. He said, “Why don’t we have Russia brought back into the G7?”
It’s this blindness to reality that sometimes accompanies politics that, I think, has been most unfortunate.