Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney voiced strong criticism of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy record on Wednesday during an appearance at Duke University.
Romney took questions from a professor and students during an event at the Fuqua School of Business. He said he disagrees with how Obama has handled Russia, Syria and the Iran nuclear negotiations.
“I think the president’s foreign policy has been disastrous for America and for the world,” Romney said.
Romney – who lost to Obama in the 2012 election – said the president has been weak in dealings with Russia, emboldening President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Ukraine.
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“I don’t think (Putin) is finished,” Romney said. “I think Putin’s objective is to try and reassemble in some respects the old Soviet empire.”
He also said Obama should have intervened sooner in Syria, which he says was “an enormous opportunity for America missed.”
“We could have had a very different setting in Syria ... if we had pulled together the moderate voices in Syria, made sure they were armed, and have them remove Assad,” Romney said.
Romney said he agrees with Republican senators’ critique of the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran.
“Any deal with Iran will be celebrated by the mainstream media, and will be seen by the public at large as being a success – whether it is or not,” he said. “I happen to think this deal is not as good as it should have been, not as good as it could have been.”
He says Obama has been too critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel fights the Iran deal.
“There’s only one person on the world stage who can stop it – Bibi Netanyahu,” Romney said. “He’s trying to diminish Bibi Netanyahu in any way possible.”
Romney was also asked about the 2016 presidential race, and he named Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio among the top Republican contenders.
He called on the GOP candidates to spend more time courting minority voters early in the campaign, when most campaigns are focused on predominantly white Republican primary voters. He said he wishes he’d done a better job of that in 2012.
“It’s essential for us as a party to connect with minorities,” he said.