President Obama Attempts to Diffuse Tensions Over Comments to Medvedev in Seoul (VIDEO)
As President Obama helped lead the charge in South Korea on Tuesday for securing materials around the world that can be used to make a nuclear bomb, he spent time dealing with another situation – comments he made to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday that were caught on camera but were supposed to be private.
Just before a joint press conference on Monday, a Russian reporter, who was not authorized to be filming at the time, picked up part of a conversation between the American and Russian Presidents.
“This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility,” President Obama told Medvedev. Obama told the outgoing Russian President that he needed “space” from incoming President Vladimir Putin on a planned European based NATO missile shield which has been a source of tension between the U.S. and Russia.
“I understand your message about space,” Medvedev told Obama.
After a media uproar in the United States and a response from presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who called the President’s remarks “an alarming and troubling development”, Obama pushed back on Tuesday by saying the comments made between himself and his Russian counterpart were in line with the political realities of such a delicate issue as missile defense.
“I don’t think it’s any surprise that you can’t start that a few months before presidential and congressional elections in the United States and at a time when they just completed elections in Russia,” said Obama.
“The only way I get this stuff done is if I’m consulting with the Pentagon, if I’m consulting with Congress, if I’ve got bipartisan support. Frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations.”
Inside the United States, the President’s comments on Monday are a reflection of the reality in Washington, where the administration and Republicans are out of sync on just about every issue, including on the planned missile defense shield and arms reductions treaties in coordination with Russia, one of President Obama’s key foreign policy initiatives since taking office.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seemed to agree with Obama on Tuesday, saying stability is key for negotiations between the two countries.
“There’s a good period to resolve political issues. The best period is when all political forces are stable, regardless of who does what,” he said.
In an open letter to the Obama administration on Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s foreign policy staff wrote, “Too often, the United States under your leadership has been neither strong nor constant. Your inadvertently recorded remarks to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in South Korea raise questions about whether a new period of even greater weakness and inconstancy would lie ahead if you are reelected.”
President Obama also spent time on Tuesday with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Pakistan is currently armed with nuclear weapons and is believed to be investing heavily in expanding their arsenal.