Putin Calls Missile Deal More Likely if Obama Wins

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
NYTimes | September 6, 2012

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sauntered into American presidential politics on Thursday, praising President Obama as “a very honest man” and chastizing the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, for describing Russia as “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

Mr. Putin was asked about the presidential race during an interview with the state-controlled television network RTV. The interview was recorded earlier this week but broadcast on Thursday to coincide with Mr. Putin’s arrival in Vladivostok for the annual Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit conference, which is being held in Russia for the first time.

Mr. Putin said he believed that that if Mr. Obama is re-elected in November, a compromise could be reached on the contentious issue of American plans for a missile defense sysem in Europe, which Russia has strongly opposed. On the other hand, he said, if Mr. Romney becomes president, Moscow’s fears about the missile system — that it is, despite American assurances, actually directed against Russia — would almost certainly prove true.

“Is it possible to find a solution to the problem, if current President Obama is re-elected for a second term? Theoretically, yes,” Mr. Putin said, according to the official transcript posted on the Kremlin web sire. “But this isn’t just about President Obama.

“For all I know, his desire to work out a solution is quite sincere,” Mr. Putin continued. “I met him recently on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, where we had a chance to talk. And though we talked mostly about Syria, I could still take stock of my counterpart. My feeling is that he is a very honest man, and that he sincerely wants to make many good changes. But can he do it? Will they let him do it?”

Mr. Putin mentioned the American military establishment and the State Department as obstacles to a compromise, and said he faced similar challenges working with Russia’s own generals and career diplomats.

With a reminder of Mr. Romney’s remark about Russia, Mr. Putin was asked if he could work with a Romney administration.

“Yes, we can,” he said. “We’ll work with whichever president gets elected by the American people. But our effort will only be as efficient as our partners will want it to be.”

He added a sharp rebuke , accusing Mr. Romney of using inflamed rhetoric for political gain.

That criticism might seem curious coming from Mr. Putin, whose own campaign for office made use of some pointed anti-American rhetoric, including criticism of the missile plan, claims that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had sent “a signal” to prompt antigovernment demonstrations after a disputed parliamentary election, and allegations that the American ambassador, Michael McFaul, was meddling in Russian domestic affairs.

“As for Mr Romney’s position, we understand that this is to a certain extent motivated by the election race,” Mr. Putin said in the interview televised on Thursday. “But I also think that he was obviously wrong, because such behavior in the international arena is the same as using nationalism and segregation as tools of U.S. domestic policy. It has the same effect on the international arena when a politician, a person who aspires to lead a nation, especially a super-power like the U.S., proclaims someone to be an enemy.”

He then circled back to Russia’s concerns about the missile defense program. “Our American partners keep telling us, ‘This is not directed against you.’ But what happens if Mr Romney, who believes us to be America’s No. 1 foe, gets elected as president of the United States? In that case, the system will definitely be directed against Russia, as its infrastructure looks to be configured exactly for this purpose.

“And you also have to think about its strategic character — it’s built not for a year or even a decade — and the chances that a man with Romney’s views could come to power are quite high. So what are we supposed to do to ensure our security?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/07/world/europe/putin-calls-missile-deal-more-likely-if-obama-wins.html?ref=world

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