Washington (CNN) – New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, an early and ardent backer of Mitt Romney, defended the presumptive GOP nominee against accusations his foreign policy is backwards looking Wednesday, saying critics who label his views reminiscent of the Cold War were wrong.
"I've spent a lot if time with Gov. Romney. I think that he has a strong understanding of foreign policy, and he does not have a Cold War view toward Russia," Ayotte said after delivering a keynote address to a conference examining democracy in Russia.
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In March, Romney set off a small firestorm after describing Russia as America's primary enemy on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
"In terms of a geopolitical foe, a nation that's on the Security Council and as of course a massive nuclear power, Russia is the geopolitical foe," Romney said. That remark spurred criticism from high-profile members of President Barack Obama's administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, who said the view was misguided.
"I think it's somewhat dated to be looking backwards instead of being realistic about where we agree, where we don't agree," Clinton said in a CNN interview soon after Romney made his remarks.
Biden struck a similar tone Wednesday in Iowa, saying at a rally in Dubuque: "I think his foreign policy is right out of the Cold War and his economic policy is just doubling down on the eight years of the last administration that put us into this God-awful mess in the first place. I honest to God believe that is the fundamental difference between us."
Since Romney made his initial remarks, his supporters have pointed to growing tensions between the United States and Russia, including disagreements between the two countries on dealing with violence in Syria and imposing new sanctions on Iran.
On Wednesday, Ayotte said she shared Romney's view that the Obama administration was engaging Russia in a policy of accommodation.
"He, like me, very very much disagrees with the accommodations we have toward Vladimir Putin," Ayotte said. "Vladimir Putin is an autocrat, he's someone we shouldn't be supporting, and I think this administration has been much too accommodating toward Mr. Putin."
Ayotte, who acts as a surrogate for Romney on the campaign trail and whose name is floated as a potential running mate for the former Massachusetts governor, said the GOP candidate's lack of direct foreign policy experience was bolstered by a strong team of advisers.
"He really has very strong foreign policy advisers, and many of our great leaders have served as governors first, including Ronald Reagan," Ayotte, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. "I know who his foreign policy team is, he's got the very best advisers on foreign policy, and the other thing I know about Gov. Romney is he's someone who does his homework, he's very thoughtful, and he will reach out to leaders in Congress."
Ayotte mentioned Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 presidential candidate and ranking GOP member of the Armed Services committee, as one of Romney's team of foreign policy experts.
Ayotte wouldn't, however, respond to a question about the vice presidential vetting process, indicating only she was "focused on representing New Hampshire" as the fervor surrounding Romney's eventual pick heats up.
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