Romney is reportedly in the running to run the State Department, despite Trump’s vocal desire to move closer to Russia and Romney’s famous denunciations of Vladimir Putin’s government during the 2012 election. The Russian press hasn’t forgotten that either.
“Secretary of State Russophobe,” bellows the headline at the Obozrevatel. “Mass media found out about plans to appoint as Secretary of State Romney, who called Russia an enemy of the U.S.” Lenta.ru explained. State-owned channel NTV declared that "in America and beyond its borders, Romney is called one of the biggest Russophobes."
The headlines harken back to the 2012 election, when Romney called Russia the United States’s “number one geopolitical foe.” (President Obama ridiculed him at the time, saying
“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”)
“They fight every cause for the world's worst actors,” Romney insisted.
Romney even hit Russia for its support of regimes in Syria and Iran, which, four years later, is even more appreciable in the ongoing war with ISIS.
“When Assad, for instance, is murdering his own people, we go to the United Nations, and who is it that always stands up for the world's worst actors?” Romney asked. “It is always Russia, typically with China alongside.”
Those comments have all but faded from American public consciousness. But the memory of the slights is alive and well in Russian media, which this week put out a plethora of press on Romney’s insults to Russia and Putin himself.
They dredged up alleged quotes of Romney calling Putin a “tyrant, dreaming of restoring the Russian Empire,” or “a threat to the stability and peace of the world.” And the media didn’t forget that Romney accused Barack Obama, no friend of the Russian Federation, of being too soft on Moscow.
“Under my presidency our friends will see more loyalty and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone,” Romney promised.
Trump, in contrast, has long taken a friendlier approach to Russia. During the campaign cycle, he famously suggested that Russian hackers should take a stab at getting Hillary Clinton’s private e-mails. But that was just the top of his warm ties with the world power. At the same time, he denied that Russia was behind the Democratic National Committee hacks. (A week later, the U.S. would formally attribute the attacks to Russia.)
“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” he said. “[Clinton is] saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t—maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
The Trump campaign also tried to gut the Republican Party platform of language critical of Russia, particularly around the ongoing war in Ukraine. But that should have been expected, as his then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was previously employed by ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. (The FBI is reportedly conducting a preliminary inquiry into Manafort’s foreign dealings.)