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Romney on Russia: a threat or a foe?

The statement

"A few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia."

President Barack Obama, Monday in a debate

The ruling

We've heard the president make that charge about Russia before, using similar words. Here's what we found.

In March 2012, at a summit in South Korea, Obama was caught in a "hot mic" incident. Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more ability to negotiate with the Russians about missile defense after the November election.

"On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it's important for him to give me space," Obama was heard telling Medvedev, apparently referring to incoming president Vladimir Putin.

"Yeah, I understand," Medvedev replied.

Obama interjected, saying, "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility."

The exchange drew swift rebuke from Republicans. Romney quickly joined the chorus.

In a March 26 interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, he said the president seemed to be willing to negotiate with Russians on matters he was hiding from the American people.

Said Romney: "This is without question our No. 1 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."

Romney spoke again to CNN's Blitzer in July, where he again said Russia was America's No. 1 geopolitical foe, though this time with a softer tone.

Romney: "There's no question but that in terms of geopolitics — I'm talking about votes at the United Nations and actions of a geopolitical nature — Russia is the No. 1 adversary in that regard. That doesn't make them an enemy. It doesn't make them a combatant. They don't represent the No. 1 national security threat. The No. 1 national security threat, of course, to our nation is a nuclear Iran."

In Monday's debate, Romney had a chance to respond to Obama's charge about Russia:

"First of all, Russia I indicated is a geopolitical foe. Not . . . Excuse me. It's a geopolitical foe, and I said in the same — in the same paragraph I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin. And I'm certainly not going to say to him, I'll give you more flexibility after the election."

Obama said Romney called Russia "the biggest geopolitical threat facing America." Actually, Romney has twice drawn the distinction between his concerns about Iran and Russia. He has called Russia the biggest geopolitical foe for the U.S., but he has said the biggest threat is Iran. We rate Obama's statement Half True.

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

Romney on Russia: a threat or a foe? 10/23/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 12:03pm]
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