In 2012, Mitt Romney was mocked for seeing Russia as a threat. He didn’t forget.

"The '80s called' and we didn't answer."

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks to reporters during votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 15. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Nearly 10 years ago, soon after former Gov. Mitt Romney settled into his third debate against then-President Barack Obama, he was quickly painted by his presidential opponent as being out of touch — especially with foreign policy.

“A few months ago, when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not al Qaeda. You said Russia,” Obama told him.

“And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” he quipped.

But this week, as suspicions swirled — and then were confirmed Thursday — around Russian President Vladimir Putin launching an attack on Ukraine, it was that moment in 2012 that came roaring back, thanks to the spotless, collective memory of the internet.


Clips of Obama’s remarks circulated on Twitter, making Romney, now a U.S. senator in Utah, a trending name.

And Romney apparently took notice.

“Putin’s impunity predictably follows our tepid response to his previous horrors in Georgia and Crimea, our naive efforts at one-sided ‘reset,’ and the shortsightedness of ‘America First,'” Romney said in a statement late Wednesday night, as news broke of the initial attack.

“The ’80s called’ and we didn’t answer,” he added.

Russia Attacks Ukraine

Russian forces targeted cities and military bases with airstrikes on Thursday, leaving civilians to rush to trains and cars in attempts to flee.

The Ukrainian government called the actions “full-scale war.”

Putin, meanwhile, took a hard stance against the prospect of any foreign country attempting to intervene in the attack: Should they do so, those nations, he said, will face “consequences you have never seen.”

Romney, in his statement, noted that the invasion marks the first time in 80 years “that a great power has moved to conquer a sovereign nation.”

“It is without justification, without provocation and without honor,” he said.

The Republican senator called on the United States and its allies to subject Russia to “the harshest economic penalties,” to expel the nation from global institutions, and to commit to “the expansion and modernization of our national defense.”


“The peril of again looking away from Putin’s tyranny falls not just on the people of nations he has violated, it falls on America as well,” Romney said. “History shows that a tyrant’s appetite for conquest is never satiated.”

Here’s how Massachusetts lawmakers responded to the attack on Thursday:

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu: ‘Boston stands with the people of Ukraine.’

Sen. Ed Markey: ‘This is a fabricated conflict that could have a massive human toll.’

Rep. Stephen Lynch: ‘Vladimir Putin will have blood on his hands.’

Rep. Seth Moulton: ‘Vladimir Putin ignored diplomacy and chose war. He will be held accountable.’

Rep. Katherine Clark: ‘Putin has illegally and callously threatened the sovereignty and security of Ukraine.’

Rep. Lori Trahan: ‘Vladimir Putin and his enablers must pay a heavy price for their unjustified aggression.’

Rep. Bill Keating: ‘This is an act of aggression and violence against all who value peace and democracy.’

Rep. Jim McGovern: ‘America must continue to focus on coordinated diplomacy to de-escalate and resolve this crisis.’

Rep. Richard Neal: ‘Ukraine is a sovereign nation, and we must support them and their people.’

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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