Sen. Mitt Romney was quick to condemn what Russian President Vladimir Putin announced early Thursday morning as a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The Utah Republican blasted previous presidential administrations for what he described as “tepid” responses to past Russian aggression and “shortsighted” foreign policy. He also called for the U.S. to expand and modernize its military.
“The ‘80s called and we didn’t answer,” Romney said.
In a televised address, Putin said the action comes in response to threats coming from Ukraine. He added that Russia doesn’t have a goal to occupy Ukraine. Putin said the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime,” the Associated Press reported.
“Putin’s Ukraine invasion is 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,” Romney said late Wednesday in a prepared statement.
“Putin’s impunity predictably follows our tepid response to his previous horrors in Georgia and Crimea, our naive efforts at a one-sided ‘reset,’ and the shortsightedness of ‘America First.’ The ‘80s called’ and we didn’t answer.”
As the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, Romney said that Russia was America’s main geopolitical foe. President Barack Obama mocked him in a debate, saying “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.”
”America First” was the Trump administration’s approach to foreign policy and trade.
In his statement, Romney said “the peril of again looking away from Putin’s tyranny falls not just on the people of the nations he has violated, it falls on America as well. History shows that a tyrant’s appetite for conquest is never satiated.”
He called for the U.S. and its allies to protect freedom and subject Putin and Russia to the “harshest economic penalties, by expelling them from global institutions, and by committing ourselves to the expansion and modernization of our national defense.”
President Joe Biden called the Russian attack on Ukraine unprovoked and unjustified.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable,” Biden said in a statement.
The president said he would meet with his G7 counterparts Thursday morning and announce “further consequences” the U.S. and its allies will impose on Russia for this “needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security.”
Earlier this week, Biden imposed economic sanctions on Russia.
Putin warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen,” according to AP. He accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and offer Moscow security guarantees.
Putin said the Russian military operation aims to ensure a “demilitarization” of Ukraine. Putin said that all Ukrainian servicemen who lay down arms will be able to safely leave the zone of combat, the AP reported.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also weighed in on Russia’s invasion, tweeting “There is evil in this world. Tonight we pray for the safety of those in Ukraine.”