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In 2014, Donald Trump was singing a different tune about Russia than he is today

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Before launching his bid for the White House, President-elect Donald Trump agreed with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, calling Russia the United States' "biggest problem" and greatest geopolitical foe.

"Well, Mitt was right, and he was also right when he mentioned in one of the debates about Russia, and he said, 'Russia's our biggest problem, and Russia is, you know, really something,'" Trump said during a March 24, 2014, interview on Fox News' "Fox and Friends."

The billionaire businessman continued:

He said it's a hell of a problem, and everybody laughed at him, including certain media, by the way. They laughed. It turned out that he's absolutely right. You look at what Russia's doing with Iran, how they controlled the situation, and Syria, and virtually every other place that ... We were thrown out of every place. I'm not saying we should be there. We should rebuild our own schools and our own bridges and highways and everything else. To be scoffed at and thrown around the way we're being thrown around is absolutely unthinkable.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney, then the Republican nominee for president, was mocked by President Barack Obama for calling Russia one of the country's biggest adversaries.

"The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because … the Cold War’s been over for 20 years," Obama quipped during a debate with Romney.

Regardless of Trump's past criticism of Russia, he turned a corner after starting his campaign for president.

In July, Trump said he "would be looking into" accepting Crimea as part of Russia and just one month later, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin is "not going to go into Ukraine," despite the fact that Crimea was recognized as part of Ukraine.

Trump later tried to walk that comment back, though he has made equally questionable comments about the situation with Crimea as recently as this past weekend.

Trump told The Times of London Saturday that he will propose offering to end sanctions against Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea in exchange for a nuclear arms reduction deal with the Kremlin.

"They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia," Trump said. "For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit."

The incoming president also said via Twitter earlier this month that the U.S. should establish a "good relationship" with Russia, tweeting that those against doing so are "stupid people, or fools." He also suggested that, as president, he will work with the Kremlin "to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the world."

In early January, after weeks of hemming and hawing, the president-elect reluctantly conceded that Russia is responsible for the hacks into the Democratic National Committee that occurred during the 2016 presidential election.

In addition, Trump has long criticized NATO, which has been no friend to Russia. Over the summer, he hinted that allied countries would be left on their own, absent of U.S. military aid, if Russia attacked them. He said U.S. involvement in NATO would be contingent on whether member states have met their financial obligations.

Trump doubled down on his criticism of the alliance over the weekend, calling NATO  "obsolete" — a comment that garnered praise from Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said on Monday that "the systematic goal of this organization is confrontation."

Trump's national security advisor, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, has also had regular contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to the White House, adding to the concerns about the president-elect's connections to Moscow.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, however, has denied any such connection.

But Trump hasn't always been so keen on taking Russia's side, according to video uncovered by CNN's Andrew Kaczynski. In a "Fox and Friends" interview a few weeks earlier, on March 3, the president-elect even suggested using economic measures against Russia.

"There are a lot of things we could be doing economically to Russia," he said at the time. "Russia is not strong economically and we could do a lot of different things to really do numbers on them if we wanted to."

And in a March 14 appearance on NBC's "Today," Trump said the U.S. "should definitely do sanctions" against Russia.

"And we have to show some strength. I mean, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has eaten Obama's lunch, therefore our lunch, for a long period of time," he said. "And I just hope that Obama, who's not looking too good, doesn't do something very foolish and very stupid to show his manhood. I just hope that doesn't happen."

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