Video: Obama tells Russia he will have more flexibility on missile defense after November elections

President Barack Obama with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, March, 26, 2012

From the AP:  President Barack Obama told Russia’s leader Monday that he would have more flexibility after the November election to deal with the contentious issue of missile defense , a candid assessment of political reality that was picked up by a microphone without either leader apparently knowing.

Outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he would pass on Obama’s message to his successor, Vladimir Putin, according to an audio recording of comments the two leaders made during a meeting in Seoul, South Korea. Obama and Medvedev did not intend for their comments to be made public.

Once they were, the White House said Obama’s words reflected the reality that domestic political concerns in the both the U.S. and Russia this year would make it difficult to fully address their long-standing differences over the contentious issue of missile defense.

Obama, should he win re-election, would not have to face voters again. . . .

Obama’s remarks had immediate repercussions back home.

Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, wrote to the president requesting an “urgent explanation of (his) comments to President Medvedev in Seoul this morning.”

“Congress has made exquisitely clear to your administration and to other nations that it will block all attempts to weaken U.S. missile defenses,” Turner said. “As the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which authorizes U.S. missile defense and nuclear weapons policy, I want to make perfectly clear that my colleagues and I will not allow any attempts to trade missile defense of the United States to Russia or any other country.”

Congress included in the fiscal 2012 defense authorization act language constraining Obama’s ability to share classified U.S. missile defense information with Russia. Obama signed that legislation into law.

From David Nakamura and Debbi Wilgoren, the Washington Post:  [I]n an unscripted moment picked up by camera crews, the American president was more blunt: Let me get reelected first, he said, then I’ll have a better chance of making something happen.

“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama can be heard telling Medvedev, apparently referring to incoming Russian president — and outgoing prime minister — Vladi­mir Putin.

“Yeah, I understand,” Medvedev replies, according to an account relayed by an ABC News producer, who said she viewed a recording of the discussion made by a Russian camera crew. “I understand your message about space. Space for you …”

“This is my last election,” Obama interjects. “After my election I have more flexibility.”

Medvedev, who last week demanded written proof that Russia is not the intended target of U.S. missile defense efforts, responded agreeably.

“I understand,” he told the U.S. president. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

The exchange was a rare glimpse of a world leader speaking frankly about the political realities he faces back at home. It could expose Obama, who was in Seoul for a nuclear security summit, to criticism that his international security agenda is being compromised by a reelection calculus.  (photo: AP)


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