Foreign Policy Blogs

Romney’s Russia Rant: Not Just Stupid, But Also Bad Politics

(Getty Images via CNN)

Poor Mitt Romney. He tried to play the All American tough guy, opportunistically seizing on Obama’s ‘hot mic’ moment with Medvedev to score some cheap Cold War points by calling Russia America’s “greatest geopolitical foe”. And he succeeded, at least in assuming the “John McCain” mantle in the presidential race.

Bashing Russia has become an intrinsic part of Republican electoral campaigning etiquette. In fact, Romney is nowhere as good at it as his predecessor John McCain, who spent much of the 2008 looking into Putin’s eyes and not ironically seeing the letters K, G, and B. But unfortunately for the GOP front-runner, when it comes to going head to head with Obama, McCain is probably the last person he should be emulating.

As soon as the Georgia war broke out, in the middle of the presidential campaign, McCain jumped on the hawk bandwagon to denounce Russia before it was even clear what had happened. Obama, on the other hand, initially took a much more measured stance. The beltway commentariat immediately praised McCain’s macho, aggressive stance and pounced on Obama for being a limp-wristed wimp, so much so that latter was forced to ratchet up his own anti-Russia rhetoric.

Guess what happened? Tired of years of war and aggression, voters ignored McCain’s swagger and elected wimpy, Russia lovin’ Obama.

What’s more, McCain was later exposed to have massively distorted the truth about the conflict, once details of Georgia’s role in the invasion became more clear.

And Romney is walking into the same double trap.

He has already become unmasked as an exaggerating blusterer. Even the usually anti-Russian Washington Post wrote that Romney “stretches the facts when he suggests Russia has been a hindrance on Iran or North Korea — or routinely blocks U.S. initiatives at the United Nations by “always” supporting evil regimes.”

In addition, he seems to have wildly misread the public mood, just as McCain did in 2008. He’s not just stuck in the Cold War past, as Medvedev suggested, but also he’s stuck in the pre-Iraq, pre-Occupy past. Today’s voters are tired of the U.S. throwing its weight around, and tired of seeing money taken away from social programs to pay for war.

As the Wall St. protests have shown, it’s not Russia that the people are afraid and suspicious of – it’s the growth of poverty and inequality, social intolerance and assault on reproductive freedoms, perpetrated mainly by conservatives, bankers and millionaires. In other words, people like Mitt.

It’s no wonder he wants to change the subject and turn back the clock!

 

Author

Vadim Nikitin
Vadim Nikitin

Vadim Nikitin was born in Murmansk, Russia and grew up there and in Britain. He graduated from Harvard University with a thesis on American democracy promotion in Russia. Vadim's articles about Russia have appeared in The Nation, Dissent Magazine, and The Moscow Times. He is currently researching a comparative study of post-Soviet and post-Apartheid nostalgia.
Areas of Focus:
USSR; US-Russia Relations; Culture and Society; Media; Civil Society; Politics; Espionage; Oligarchs

Contact

Great Decisions Discussion group