Romney clarified his remarks during an interview with Fox News pundit Sean Hannity. The 2012 Republican presidential nominee — on a publicity blitz to promote the "Mitt," a documentary that chronicles his two White House bids — pointed to the crisis in Syria and the START Treaty as examples of Putin besting Obama.
"The President has been outmaneuvered on the world stage by President Putin," Romney told Hannity. He quickly added, "But by the way, President Putin is a terrible president." Romney then criticized Putin's character.
"He's a thug," Romney said of Putin. "He's killed, from what we can tell — I don't know that I want to accuse him of killing —but there have been members of the media that have disappeared and opposition voices that disappear and have been put in jail and so forth. This is not a good guy. Our President's a lot better president than President Putin but it breaks my heart to watch President Putin outmaneuver him on the world stage."
Romney never hid his enmity for Putin during the 2012 campaign either, famously referring to Russia as America's "number one geopolitical foe." The comment was widely panned and Obama's supporters said it showed Romney's cluelessness about national security. A year later though, a top aide argued that Romney had it right.