Romney warns that no one knows where ‘megalomaniac dictator’ Putin’s invasion will stop

As global sanctions clamp down on Russia, Sen. Romney said Utah could help supply Europe with natural resources for energy.

(Sarahbeth Maney | The New York Times) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during a briefing with the Senate Budget Committee about the Democrat’s tax and spending legislation, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.

Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday that he was “generally pleased” with President Joe Biden’s resolve to stand with Ukraine and NATO allies but was disappointed with the rest of the president’s first State of the Union.

“By and large ... what President Biden spoke about was a rehearsal of the place where Democrat ideas go to die. It was a liberal policy graveyard,” the Utah Republican said of the address.

“I would hope that at some point the president and the administration will acknowledge that the world has changed in some very big ways,” Romney explained, “and that should require us as a nation to rethink some of our policies.”

Romney’s remarks came during a half-hour virtual news conference hosted by the senator from his Washington office on Wednesday afternoon. Along with Tuesday night’s State of the Union, the senator also discussed the United State’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, global energy policy and domestic concerns like federal spending and inflation.

(Screenshot) Utah Sen. Mitt Romney takes questions from members of the Utah media during a Zoom news conference on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

The former Republican presidential nominee and freshman senator agreed with Biden that the U.S. needed to honor its commitments to defend NATO allies, adding that he couldn’t be sure that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not push his military forces through the borders of Ukraine and into NATO countries.

“You don’t know where a megalomaniac dictator is going to head,” Romney said of Putin.

Of Ukraine’s top statesman, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the senator had much kinder words.

“My goodness, Zelenskyy is an extraordinary leader, a Churchill-ian leader,” the senator said, comparing Ukraine’s president to the former wartime prime minister who led the United Kingdom through the German blitzkrieg of World War II. “And the people [of Ukraine] are strong and resilient and impressive as well.”

“But we do not have a treaty agreement with them,” Romney explained, “and we will not be going into war against Russia.”

After Biden’s State of the Union, Romney said Tuesday evening that he was pleased that the president had outlined some areas for bipartisan cooperation, which included inflation, family-centric policies and “shoring up American energy resources.”

The senator explained that sanctions on Russia will directly affect energy prices, here and abroad, and said the U.S. should be less reliant on Russian oil. He added that Utah could help make up the difference where sanctions have prevented Russian natural resources from making it to the global market. Essentially, Utah could help balance the global energy equation.

“In order for us to maintain sanctions over a long period of time against Russia, we’re gonna have to think about our own energy, as well as the energy of our allies in Europe in particular,” Romney said.

One example, he explained, was that if Germany is to extend the operations of their nuclear or coal facilities, while not relying on Russian resources, Germany may need more uranium or coal to keep those plants operational. Both coal and uranium could come from Utah, he said.

“We produce a lot of coal in Utah. And whether we’re the ones that ship it to Europe, or whether others in the U.S. do and then we backfill them, is an uncertain question,” he said.

Romney added that it was clear the U.S. needs to be producing more of its own coal and gas, some of which that could be coming from Utah’s Uinta Basin, and the federal government needs to speed up the approval process for green energy.

“I would also note that, in that regard, we need a much faster permitting process for the development of solar farms, for wind farms, for carbon recapture,” Romney said.

If the government could compress the decadelong approval process for vaccines, he explained, “we probably need to do the same with regards to permitting as it relates to renewables and other ways to reduce carbon emissions.”

Referring back to Biden’s State of the Union, Romney said he was also disappointed that the president did not recognize the need to rein in federal spending. He lauded Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona for “holding the line” on programs that, if passed by Congress, would ”add massively to the deficit and fuel more inflation.”

When asked about a pair of Republicans in Congress who had interrupted in Biden’s address, the senator said he was embarrassed and called the behavior “repugnant and repulsive.”

He added that there are people who get into politics who claim to be fighting for their constituents but are really “bent on performing as opposed to legislating.”

“Fighting for someone is actually working on a project with Republicans and Democrats with the prospect of it becoming law and actually improving people’s lives,” Romney said.