GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney thought his mediocre campaign stumbled upon a game changer this week when President Obama was caught on an open mic telling Russian President Dimitry Medvedev that he’d be more “flexible” on issues like missile defense after the election. Romney called Obama’s comment “frightening” because Russia “is without question our number one geopolitical foe.” As evidence, Romney said “it is always Russia” that opposes the United States at the United Nations.
The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler looked into this claim and concluded that “Romney’s comments are a bit puzzling”:
But on the broader question of Iran and North Korea, Romney’s comments are a bit puzzling. Russia has repeatedly supported resolutions that have sought to limit Tehran’s and Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, such as the 2010 Security Council resolution that paved the way for increasingly tough sanctions on Iran.
As we wrote in our book on former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, some of the negotiations leading up to those resolutions were difficult and contentious, but it would be wrong to say Russia was “standing up” for those “bad actors.” Russia has cast no vetoes on resolutions concerning Iran and North Korea.
Indeed, Romney has been misrepresenting Obama’s record on Russia and Iran throughout the presidential campaign. “Had he gotten Russia to agree to impose tough, crippling sanctions on Iran, we could have put a lot more pressure on Iran,” Romney said back in September.
But as this blog noted at the time, the Obama administration spearheaded an effort to apply tougher sanctions on Iran in 2010. In June, Russia voted for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, which imposed a fourth round of tough sanctions on Iran because of it’s failure to comply with earlier resolutions demanding an end to nuclear enrichment. Last Spring, a U.N. experts panel on the sanctions concluded that the new measures “are constraining Iran’s procurement of items related to prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile activity and thus slowing development of these programs.”
Romney said this week that he does not think Obama “can recover” from the fallout of his comments to Medvedev. But it might turn out that it’s the former Massachusetts governor who will have some more explaining to do. Apart from being wrong on the substance of his attack on Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) basically told Romney to stop criticizing the president and even some of Romney’s supporters have said publicly that he’s wrong to say that Russia is America’s “number one geopolitical foe.”