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27 Mar, 2012 09:16

‘Russia is Public Enemy No. 1’ – Mitt Romney

US presidential candidate Mitt Romney has branded Russia as America’s number one geopolitical enemy. He slammed President Obama’s comments to Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev over flexibility concerning US missile defense as alarming and worrying.

"This is without question our number one geopolitical foe; they fight for every cause for the world's worst actors. The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed," he saidThe presidential hopeful cited this case, along with the new START treaty and the decision to reduce missile defense sites in Poland and Alaska, as “unfortunate developments.”While saying that the greatest current threat to the world is a “nuclear Iran,” he lambasted Russia for consistently “standing up for the world’s worst actors,” referencing the Russian veto of the Security Council resolutions on Syria. “The idea that our president is planning to do something with them [Russia] that he’s not willing to tell the American people is something I find very alarming,” Romney stressed.Russia’s outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev responded to the Republican frontrunner, saying Romney’s remarks had a “Hollywood” flavor and pressed the American hopeful to check his watch: “It's 2012 now, not the mid-1970s."Romney appeared on CNN to comment on President Obama’s off-the-record moment with Medvedev during the international nuclear summit in South Korea. Obama was caught on camera saying that he would have more “flexibility” on thorny issues such as missile defense following the November elections.Medvedev said he would pass the message on to President elect Vladimir Putin.Obama addressed the wave of republican criticism following his statements on Monday, saying that he had no secret agenda with Russia and he was not trying “to hide the ball.”Washington released a statement in an effort to underplay Obama’s words. The Whitehouse said the fact that both countries were going through elections this year meant a “breakthrough” in negotiations on the matter was not going to happen.The US president then echoed this statement to the press during a break in the summit in Seoul on Tuesday, describing the current political climate as “not conducive” to these kinds of negotiations.The planned US missile defense shield for Europe has been a major stumbling block for Russian-NATO relations. The US maintain that the shield will only be used for targets outside of Europe, while Russia says there is no guarantee the facility could not be turned against them.Following his meeting with his US counterpart, President Medvedev described the last three years of US-Russian relations as the most productive ever.

Playing the Cold War card

Romney’s harsh statement is really a remnant of the Cold War – and much of the Republican elite has expressed a negative attitude towards Russia before, said Aleksey Pushkov, the head of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee.“Mr. Romney is not the only person to say such things. We have witnessed the same ideology proclaimed by Mr. Cheney when he was vice-president of the United States. Mr. Rumsfeld, the former US Defense Secretary, disliked Russia very much too,” Pushkov told RT. “Also, Mr. McCain, when he was running for the presidency four years ago, he was basically saying the same things – that Russia is one of America`s adversaries.”However, Pushkov pointed out, Romney is considered to be a moderate Republican, and if a moderate Republican says that Russia is enemy number one, it is hard to imagine what a real conservative Republican might say.Chris Lapetina, an analyst for the journal Democratic Strategist, also says the Cold War legacy is the engine behind Romney`s remark. “There is some sentiment left over from the Soviet Union, there is an element of Americans both on the liberal side and the conservative side that almost suffer from paranoia about enemies seen and unseen,” he said, adding that “Republican candidates are trying to tap into some of these people.”