During an interview with CNN on Sunday during the fifth day of Russia’s invasion, Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “small, evil, feral-eyed man” who is trying to rebuild Russia’s empire.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of Union” with host Dana Bash, Romney said Russia supports “the world’s worst actors, whether Assad in Syria, Maduro in Venezuela, Kim Jong-un in North Korea. This is what they do. They basically poke us in the eye everywhere they can.”
“Russia, in a lot of aspects, is circling the drain given their shrinking population,” Romney continued. “John McCain used to say Russia is a gas station parading as a nation. They’re poking us where they can.”
“What does concern me is we’ve had president after president—not just President Obama—but President Trump, President Bush who were resetting relations with Russia, hoping as they looked in the eyes of Vladimir Putin they could see a responsible person,” Romney continued. “John McCain was right. He said he looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and saw the KGB. That’s what we’re seeing. A small, evil, feral-eyed man who is trying to shape the world in the image where once again Russia would be an empire.”
“And that’s not going to happen. The people of the world see him and see Russia for what it is. They’re saying no, we will fight for freedom. What we’re seeing is inspiring. It is powerful, and it will help change the world in a positive way.”
Romney said China is the “greatest threat” to the U.S. in the long term from both a military and economic standpoint, while Russia continues to be a leading geopolitical foe.
Asked to reflect on the threat Russia poses to other countries, Romney said, “Every tyrant will judge what next step they take based upon the response to the last step.”
“Now, of course, in the past he invaded Georgia. He invaded Ukraine by going into Crimea. He has obviously gone into our elections and attacked our cyber systems. And in each of these things our response was tepid,” Romney said. “As a result he feels emboldened to go to Ukraine. We finally are saying no, and in part because of people with phones and courage from the people of Ukraine, the world recognizes the difference between good and evil here.”
Romney also said that if Russia attacks member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the alliance would act on Article 5, “Where, in fact, an attack on one is an attack on all, we will respond with full force.”