Obama as "most acceptable" future president for Russia

Text of report by the website of Russian business newspaper Vedomosti on 28 March

[Article by Aleksey Nikolskiy and Natalya Kostenko: "Obama’s flexibility. Barack Obama’s remarks at the meeting with Dmitriy Medvedev, which provoked attacks from the Republicans, confirmed that he is the most acceptable future US president for Russia"]

Yesterday [ 27 March] Mitt Romney, the chief presidential contender from the Republicans, stated that Russia, and not Iran or the DPRK, is the main geopolitical enemy of the United States and that he is concerned at Obama’s attitude towards missile defence in connection with his remarks in Seoul. The day before, at a meeting "on the fringes" of the nuclear security summit, Obama said to Medvedev before the start of the press conference (and these words were heard by journalists): "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility (on missile defence issues)." "I understand. I will convey this information to Vladimir (Putin)," Medvedev replied, and he took an envelope from Obama.

"This was not a mistake, it was planned this way: As soon as they let the journalists in, they switched on the sound," a member of the Russian delegation says. "No conspiracy theories." Admittedly, Vedomosti’s source adds, Obama and Medvedev might not have realized that the sound had already been switched on, as they were talking quietly between themselves. The envelope that Obama handed to Medvedev, to which the Western media drew attention, has no connection with the subject of missile defence: This message contains a few kind words about the results of cooperation, written by Obama in his own hand, the member of the Russian delegation explained.

Yesterday Obama was also criticized for his flexibility on missile defence by another Republican contender, Newt Gingrich, but it was Romney who spoke more harshly than anyone. In turn, a White House spokesman described Romney’s words as inaccurate, pointing out that Russia is the partner of the United States on important issues, despite disagreements on missile defence and Syria. And Medvedev himself suggested that Romney be guided by reasonable arguments and remember that this is not the 1970s.

Previously a high-ranking Russian politician had said that Moscow is counting on an Obama victory: He is a much more convenient partner than any of the Republicans. In the opinion of the member of the Russian delegation, in referring to having more room to manoeuvre after the election, Obama might have two possibilities in mind: either a future strengthening of Democratic representation in the Congress, which would make it possible to reach a compromise with Russia on missile defence, or the adoption of certain measures without the participation of the Congress, at the level of intergovernmental agreements.

This furor will change nothing fundamental in the situation ahead of the US election, in the view of Mikheil Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council International Committee: Romney is not a rival to Obama, and Russia is not a top topic for the American electorate.

Obama’s words indicate that he needs counter-moves by Russia, which he would be able to present to the Congress as evidence of the correctness of the "reset" course, Moscow Defence Brief editor Mikhail Barabanov says. It is well known that the Republicans were critical of the concluding of the START Treaty, which, thanks to Obama, proved beneficial to Russia, the expert reminds us. But on the missile defence issue no serious concessions to Moscow on Washington’s part are possible under any administration, since the issue is regarded there as a fundamental question of eliminating any threat to the United States.

Source: Vedomosti website, Moscow, in Russian 28 Mar 12

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