WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama could have done more to persuade Russia not to annex Crimea.
Romney says Obama didn’t have the foresight to anticipate Russia’s intentions.
During the 2012 presidential race, Romney took criticism from Obama for saying Russia was America’s “number one geopolitical foe” — not al-Qaida.
Now Romney is using Russia’s action in Crimea as a way to sort of say “I told you so.”
Romney tells CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Obama’s “naivete” and “faulty judgment” about Russia has led to a number of foreign policy challenges.
Romney says the U.S. should have worked sooner with allies to make clear the penalties that Russia could have faced if it moved into Ukraine.
Romney acknowledges that would only have had the potential for preventing the invasion.
KEVIN FREKING, ASSOCIATED PRESS
HERE’S THE FULL TRANSCRIPT, VIA CBS NEWS
BOB SCHIEFFER: And now to the crisis in Ukraine. This morning, the head of N.A.T.O.’s military command says the Russian forces who are massed at the eastern border of Ukraine are very, very sizable, and “very, very ready,” to use his words. U.S. military estimates put the number of Russian forces at 20,000.
Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is joining us to talk about that and other news this morning from San Diego. Good morning, Governor, and welcome back to Face the Nation. During the campaign, and I want to start with this, you took a lot of heat for saying that Russia was our greatest geopolitical foe. In the third debate, the president came down pretty hard on you about that.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, two months ago, when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not Al Qaeda, you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I’m sure, Governor, you’re tempted this morning to say, “I told you so.” But do you really believe that what happened in Ukraine had anything to do with what President Obama has or hasn’t done?
GOV. MITT ROMNEY: Well, there’s no question but that the president’s naiveté with regards to Russia, and his faulty judgment about Russia’s intentions and objectives, has led to a number of foreign policy challenges that we face. And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia’s intentions, the president wasn’t able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you’re seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you’re seeing in Syria.
We really need to understand that Russia has very different interests than ours. This is not Fantasyland, this is reality where they are a geopolitical adversary. They’re not our enemy, but they are certainly an adversary on the world stage.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, should we have known this? Should we have anticipated it? Because it caught a lot of people by surprise, it seems to me.
GOV. MITT ROMNEY: Well, there may have been some people surprised, but there were many, many others who predicted that Russia would try and grab additional territory. And certainly, when we saw the demonstrations going on in Ukraine, and we recognized that Russia has a major base in Sebastopol in Crimea, it couldn’t be a surprise to folks that Russia might take the opportunity to grab that territory.
After all, we see reports saying that Russian soldiers came in without Russian insignia; that their trucks didn’t have Russian insignia. This had been prepared for some time. And we certainly have taken action early on. We would have had far more options to try and shape events to keep Russia from moving in. For instance, working with our allies around the world to develop the sanctions; communicating those to Russia very, very clearly; at the same time saying, “Look, we’re not going to interfere with your base in Sebastopol, nor your influence in Kiev.”
These kinds of things had the potential of keeping Russia from making a devastating move, one that changes the whole political landscape of the entire world, and certainly that of eastern Europe.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we have put on some sanctions now. They don’t seem to have done much good. You’re saying if we had done it earlier. How actually would we have done that? And are the sanctions they put on now– do we need stronger sanctions?
GOV. MITT ROMNEY: Well, let’s step back. I think effective leaders typically are able to see the future to a certain degree, and then try to take actions to shape it in some way. And that’s of course what this president has failed to do, and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well. They thought resetting relations with Russia, handing out gifts to Russia, would somehow make Russia change its objectives. Well, that certainly wasn’t the case.
Had we, from the very beginning of the demonstrations in Ukraine, had we worked with our allies and said, “Look, let’s talk about the kinds of severe sanctions we would put in place if Russia were to decide to move,” and had we then communicated that to Russia beforehand, not put in place the sanctions but communicate, “Look, Russia, stand down here. Don’t you think about grabbing territory or these are the things that will have to happen. These are the actions we will take.”
And, “By the way, Russia, we’re not going to interfere with your base in Sebastopol,” and so forth. Had we communicated those things, there’s always the potential that we could have kept them from invading a country and annexing it into their own.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So what would be your advice to the president now? What should we be doing now, and what do we do next? For example, what are we going to do if Putin decides to move those troops that he’s got poised on the border into other parts of Ukraine?
GOV. MITT ROMNEY: Well, given the fact that there’s a real potential that Russia might be thinking in that direction, we need to communicate with our allies what actions would we take. Tell Russia before they’ve acted. Say, “Look, Russia, if you do these things, these are some of the things that are going to happen.” And of course you keep other options on the table as well.
Right now, you do the kinds of things that are only available to you after something bad has happened, which options are typically far less effective. But you do put in place the sanctions, you do strengthen our relationship with our friends, particularly in eastern Europe. You welcome those that seek entry into N.A.T.O. to join N.A.T.O. You rebuild our military budget; you don’t shrink our military budget at a time like this.
You begin cooperation, military cooperation, with nations in eastern Europe that want that cooperation. For instance, you reconsider putting in our missile defense system, back into the Czech Republic and Poland as we once planned. And as you recall, we pulled that out as a gift to Russia.
Look, these are the kinds of actions you take, and the president’s taking many of those. I’m saying what he should have done from the very beginning was have the judgment to understand that Russia was not our friend, that Russia had very different ambitions and interests than we did, and that you have to stand strong. And by the way, the president’s actions in Syria, I believe, are one of the things that led to the kind of aggression that you’re seeing from Russia today.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Have we reentered the Cold War?
GOV. MITT ROMNEY: No, we haven’t entered that level of, if you will, cold conflict. But we certainly recognize that Russia has very different interests than ours. That Russia is going to push against us in every possible way. They’ve been doing it.
Look, they blocked for many years the toughest sanctions against Iran. They stand with Assad in Syria. They stand with Kim Jong-un in North Korea. They link with some of the world’s worst actors. They sent a battleship into the Caribbean and into Cuba. They harbor Edward Snowden.
All these things are designed to say, “Hey, look, we’re pushing against the United States. They are our geopolitical adversary.” They’re not our enemy, but they’re an adversary on the playing field of the world, and this is a playing field where we’re going to determine whether the world is going to see freedom and economic opportunity, or whether the world is going to see authoritarianism. And Russia and Putin want to be an authoritarian, and that’s not something that the world needs or wants.
BOB SCHIEFFER: How would you judge America’s place in the world right now?
GOV. MITT ROMNEY: Well, you look and see what’s happening in the world and ask yourself, after five years of the Obama administration and Secretary Clinton, her administration, and now a new secretary of State who, by the way, I hope does well, but you look over the past five years and say, “What’s happened?” Good things have not been bursting out all over.
The Middle East is in turmoil. Iraq is fragile and may fall back into a devastating setting. We’re not making the kind of progress in Afghanistan that had been promised. And our esteem around the world has fallen. I can’t think of a major country, it’s hard to think of a single country that has greater respect and admiration for America today than it did five years ago when Barack Obama became president. And that’s a very sad, unfortunate state of affairs.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Final question, Governor. Have you been thinking, are you thinking about running for president again?
GOV. MITT ROMNEY: No, I’m thinking about the people who I want to see running for president, and there’s quite a group. I mean, we have a very strong field of leaders who could become our nominee and could stand up for the kind of leadership I think America wants.
Look, a lot of people are looking back to the 1980s and saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had leaders like Ronald Reagan and George Bush and Jim Baker and George Shultz?” and some of the strong presidents and secretaries of State that led us during very difficult times. That’s the kind of leadership we want. I think we have those kinds of leaders in the party, and I wholly anticipate that I’ll be supporting one of them very vigorously.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us and giving your thoughts on all this, Governor. It’s nice to see you again.
GOV. MITT ROMNEY: Thanks, Bob, good to be with you.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And later in the broadcast, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who’s just back from Ukraine, and Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, who’s in Ukraine now, plus some personal thoughts from me about these two big stories.
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