Waking up to coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I noted a theme emerging among right-leaning commentators. In 2012 during a debate, President Barack Obama mocked Sen. Mitt Romney’s assertion that Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” Obama glibly chided. Anyone paying attention knew Obama was wrong then.
Now that Putin invaded Ukraine again and appears intent on taking control of the capital, there is a level of indignance regarding Obama’s 2012 comment emanating from the right. It is as if this is the first time Romney’s assessment has proven correct or as if he is the only person in modern politics who has made it. Several versions of “Mitt Romney deserves an apology!” have been floated in the coverage for the last few weeks and reached a crescendo following the invasion. Mitt Romney deserves no such thing.
In 2012, the media swooned over this throwaway line assisting Obama in positioning Romney and Republicans more generally as relics tied to the philosophy of the Cold War. His comment was emblematic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, and the view of the globalist left more broadly. In their opinion, America has no real enemies globally. They ooze moral relativism. Obama was not just wrong about Russia. His entire worldview was naive and underestimated the threats to our national security.
We see the echoes of that disastrous approach now as Biden’s team meets with the leaders of the European Union, China, and Russia to revive the Iran Nuclear Deal. Any “diplomatic freeze” does not extend to ensuring we enrich the mullahs while they continue to enrich uranium. President Biden also sees China, an existential threat in an open Cold War with the U.S., as a competitor rather than an ideological enemy.
For those in the cheap seats, Putin invaded Crimea in 2014. More than 13,000 people have already died in that conflict. “While the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine transitioned to a stalemate after it first erupted in early 2014, shelling and skirmishes still regularly occur, including an escalation of violence in the spring of 2021,” writes Global Conflict Tracker. It is no surprise Putin increased his troop movements in and around Ukraine in the fall of 2021 after Biden’s surrender in Afghanistan.
Romney and the rest of his Never Trump comrades are at least part of the reason we have President Joe Biden rather than the second term of President Donald J. Trump. The case that Kyiv residents could have woken up to a typical Thursday rather than making a run on the banks and to the Polish border is straightforward. Under Trump, America was a net exporter of energy. That mattered beyond the Middle East, making the world safer and more stable.
Specifically, years of green energy policy have created energy poverty in countries like Germany. America’s energy independence and ability to supply other nations weakened Russia. Putin’s economy is nearly wholly dependent on oil and natural gas, with some estimates saying the industry generates as much as 80% of the country’s economic activity. With high fuel production in America, prices stayed low, weakening Russia’s ability to deploy a significant number of troops.
Instead of maintaining America’s energy dominance, Biden kneecapped it in the first week of his term. He stopped pipeline construction, restricted new leases, and appointed activists in the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior. To strengthen Russia specifically, Biden waived the sanctions against Nord Stream 2 in May. These actions ensure German dependence on Russian energy and enrich Putin. It also means Germany will have limited stamina in opposing Putin’s incursion into Ukraine without punishing its own citizens with energy shortages.
Putin’s Ukrainian adventure is not proof that Romney was right about the threat posed by Russia. Instead, it highlighted an ideological difference between the right and the left. The invasion also proves how wrong Romney and every other Never Trump Republican were about President Trump and his foreign policy strategy. Romney and his comrades should be apologizing to Americans and Ukrainians.
Americans are far less prosperous and secure than before the pandemic and would have been again with the V-shaped recovery that preceded the election. High energy costs are at the root of the inflation that hurts middle and working-class families, and that will only worsen as of this morning. Ukrainians are fighting for their fundamental freedom to choose their own government and may have to lay down their lives for it. And Mitt Romney and other fair-weather Republicans share in the blame for that.