President Obama Caught Talking Missile Defense Over Open Microphone
“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.” Obama said to Medvedev.
“Yeah, I understand,” Medvedev said “I understand your message about space. Space for you ...”
“This is my last election,” said Obama. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”
According to ABC News:
When asked to explain what President Obama meant, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes told ABC News that there is room for the U.S. and Russia to reach an accommodation, but “there is a lot of rhetoric around this issue — there always is — in both countries.
A senior administration official tells ABC News: “this is a political year in which the Russians just had an election, we’re about to have a presidential and congressional elections — this is not the kind of year in which we’re going to resolve incredibly complicated issue like this. So there’s an advantage to pulling back and letting the technical experts work on this as the president has been saying.”
The conversation highlights the type of political wheeling and dealing that takes place, often behind the scenes.
The conversation was not intended to be overheard, and the White House has been responding to the accidental revelation since it became public.
Potential Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has already commented on the conversation.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported:
[Mitt] Romney, the leading Republican contender to face Obama this fall, said in a statement the president’s unguarded remarks “signaled that he’s going to cave to Russia on missile defense, but the American people have a right to know where else he plans to be ‘flexible’ in a second term.”
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who often faces charges of having been flexible on his own policies over the years, said Obama “needs to level with the American public about his real agenda.
Romney was not the only Republican to jump on the president’s mistake.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times:
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.
Missile defense has been one of several contentious issues between Russia and the U.S., including differing approaches to the conflict in Syria.