Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on CNN this morning and discussed Mitt Romney’s campaign trip abroad. An early Romney endorser, Chaffetz was asked about Romney’s recent remark that Russia “is without question our number one geopolitical foe.”
Chaffetz told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien that Romney was right: Russia is “absolutely” the U.S.’s top geopolitical adversary before O’Brien bails him out by mentioning other top U.S. adversaries:
O’BRIEN: Here’s what Governor Romney said to Wolf Blitzer on March 26: Russia “is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world’s worst actors.” Do you think that is true? Russia is our “number one geopolitical foe”?
CHAFFETZ: Well, as you look at behind the scenes what’s going on — and how they support terrorism; how they supported some of the worst actors in the world, including Iran; if you look at what’s going on in the cyber-security front, some of the classified briefings we hear there — absolutely.
O’BRIEN: Worse than North Korea? Worse than Iran? Worse than China?
CHAFFETZ: Well, look, those are probably your top three. But certainly you cannot dismiss the Russians even though sometimes they stay out of the news.
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Romney’s comment about Russia drew widespread, bipartisan ridicule. Former George W. Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell denounced the remark as a “cataclysmic sort of pronouncements,” and called on Romney to be more “mature.” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said the comment was “naïve.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a Romney supporter, dodged a question about the comment. A Russian politician, for his part, said Romney’s comment could portend “a full-scale crisis” in relations should he be elected president.
On an Obama campaign conference call Monday, former Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy said that while “everyone recognizes that the relations with Russia will be difficult” at times, the Russians have helped the U.S. in international coalitions against Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs — a fact noted by the Washington Post when it described Romney’s “number one geopolitical foe” remark as “puzzling.” Flournoy went on to say: “Frankly, we woudln’t be able to sustain this cooperation if we go back to the Cold War and treat russia as our biggest enemy in the world.”
CNN’s Will Cain asked Chaffetz about the Syrian civil war, where Russia supports Bashar al-Assad’s embattled government. Cain asked for “some specifics”: “How would [Romney] handle the situation in Syria were he president?” Chaffetz responded that Romney would “work very closely with” and “strengthen” Israel.