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Did Mitt Romney Really Say He Intends To 'Destroy Russia'?

Did former U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney really say, "Our goal is to force Russia to consume itself from within, bringing chaos and strife to its society"?

A photograph has appeared on social media that appears to show a senior Russian general using a fake quotation attributed to former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney declaring Washington's intention to "destroy Russia."

Russian journalist Ostap Karmodi, who is a contributor to RFE/RL's Russian Service, posted a photograph showing General Sergei Kuralenko, who commanded Russia's military operation in Syria, giving a presentation in Moscow on September 7 with the quotation projected on a screen behind him.

The source of the photograph has asked not to be identified, but Karmodi told RFE/RL that "I got the photograph from a person that I trust completely."

Russian journalist Aleksei Kovalyov -- who runs the Noodle Remover website, which debunks Russian disinformation, and who wrote an article on the photograph -- told RFE/RL that he knew the image was taken by "a trusted source, a journalist who was present at the roundtable."

The slide, in Russian, says that Romney declared in 2012 that "our target is Russia."

"It is a wild country that threatens not just the United States. Russia presents a threat to all of humanity," the purported quote reads.

"Our goal is to force Russia to consume itself from within, bringing chaos and strife to its society. We will make Russia take up arms. We will set the Chechens, Tatars, Bashkirs, Daghestanis against one another. We must make them fight each other. We must intensify our efforts to discredit the Russian Orthodox Church," it continues.

"If none of this works, we will have no choice but to declare a swift and victorious war on Russia. We destroyed the U.S.S.R. and we will destroy Russia," it concludes.

There is no evidence in available sources that Romney ever said anything like this, although he did say repeatedly during the 2012 presidential campaign that Russia was the United States' "No. 1 geopolitical foe."

The fake quotation, however, has appeared on dubious Russian websites and blogs repeatedly over the last few years. The same quotation has also been attributed to former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Kuralenko was speaking at an academic forum, titled Army-2016, sponsored by the Russian Defense Ministry. The title of his roundtable was Russia In A Changing World: Challenges, Dangers, Threats.

The quotation is in the spirit of the so-called Dulles Plan, another conspiracy theory that has been used by Russian politicians in recent months as evidence of U.S. ill-will toward Russia.

The Dulles Plan, attributed to Eisenhower-era U.S. CIA chief Allen Dulles, is supposedly a secret plan to break up the Soviet Union by using fifth columnists to undermine the society's morals and heritage.

It originated in a 1971 Russian novel but has been repeatedly used as factual by top politicians and public figures, including Liberal Democratic Party of Russia head Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leftist presidential economy adviser Sergei Glaziyev, and filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov.

Samara Oblast Governor Nikolai Merkushkin cited the Dulles Plan last month in an election-campaign speech in which he criticized opposition politician and anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny as "devoted to Uncle Sam."