Seoul: President Barack Obama told Russia`s
leader on 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
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 US 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
"Since 2012 is an election year in both countries, with
an election and leadership transition in Russia and an
election in the United States, it is clearly not a year in
which we are going to achieve a breakthrough," White House
deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
Tensions over missile defense have threatened to upend
the overall thawing of relations between the US and Russia in
Both leaders acknowledged as much in their public
statements to reporters following their meeting. Obama said
there was "more work to do" to bridge their differences;
Medvedev said each country had their own positions on missile
defense, but there was still time to find a solution.
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 US missile defenses," Turner said.
"As the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee,
which authorizes US 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
authorisation act language constraining Obama`s ability to
share classified US missile defense information with Russia.
Obama signed that legislation into law.