President Barack Obama doubled down Tuesday on his statements that Mitt Romney was wrong to overstate Russia’s potential threat to the United States, dismissing Russia as a “regional” power and claiming he is much more concerned about the possibility of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer in the leadup to the 2012 election, Romney claimed that Russia was “without question our No. 2 one political foe.” At the time, Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed Romney’s belief as outdated. In the wake of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, Romney has accused Obama of “naiveté” regarding Russia, but Obama told reporters that he still maintains the nation poses no significant threat to the United States.
“The truth of the matter is, America's got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength, but out of weakness," Obama told reporters at a press conference at The Hague, Netherlands, during an EU conference on nuclear security.
"The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more," he continued. "And so my response then continues to be what I believe today, which is Russia's actions are a problem, they don't pose the No. 1 national security threat to the United States."
Obama continued by illustrating a scenario he finds more threatening, namely the idea that a rogue nuclear weapon could detonate in Manhattan.
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“I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan,” he added. “Which is part of the reason why the United States, showing its continued international leadership, has organized a forum over the last several years that’s been able to help eliminate that threat in a consistent way.”
Obama’s statements come just one day after the United States and other G7 nations Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and the UK formally denounced Russia’s invasion of Crimea as a violation of international law. The G7 nations opted to cut Russia out of its G8 trade agreements, boycotting a planned upcoming meeting in Sochi in favor of a G7 summit in Brussels.
Watch Obama’s statements on Russia’s threat to the United States below.