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The Wall Street Journal made the obvious connection between this impasse and the “hot mic” incident in March where Obama told Russian Prime Minister Medvedev to tell Russian soon-to-be President Vladimir Putin to temporarily back off regarding this issue since Obama would have “more flexibility” to deal with it after the November 6 elections.
As reporters gathered for a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, Obama leaned over to his Russian counterpart. Without realizing a microphone was open, he said: “This is my last election and after my last election I have more flexibility,” …referring to his ability to reach a deal with Russia on missile defense. Medvedev replied: “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” a reference to the incoming Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Obama attempted to weasel out of the implications of his gaffe by explaining to reporters in Korea that arms control negotiations are extremely complex and require bipartisan cooperation in the U.S.; so they cannot be a public issue just months before presidential and congressional elections. But “I don’t think it’s any surprise that you can’t start that a few months before a presidential and congressional elections in the United States,” simply does not address the core problem. His intention to hide his willingness to be flexible toward Russia about Russian demands couched in cold-war terminology relating to the possibility of nuclear war bespeak his awareness that these intentions will not be acceptable to the American voting public; and this is all the more reason to make them public.
Romney said it was alarming that Obama was “looking for greater flexibility where he doesn’t have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia … [Russia is] without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world’s worst actor. The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed.”
The New York Times version of this issue made no mention of the “hot mic” incident but did point out that Russian leaders have refused Obama’s request that the Kremlin pressure Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to comply with the UN’s cease-fire plans. The Times also noted that Obama himself stalled the progress of the NATO plans for the early warning and missile defense system because he sought a “reset” in the USA’s relationship with Russia, and Russian concerns about the NATO early warning system were a stumbling block to Obama’s plans. Obama’s willingness to be flexible toward the Russian demands may stem in part from the desire to co-opt the Kremlin into pressuring Assad; but it also seems clear that Obama, not knowing that he was speaking to Medvedev in front of a hot microphone, did not want to let the American electorate know of his intentions for flexibility toward Russia regarding the NATO missile defense system impasse. In other words, his flexibility toward Russia, if it were made public, might hinder his re-election.
And the Russians are not ungrateful. Obama’s pay-back for his willingness to be flexible next year is Russia’s endorsement of his re-election by telling the world, at this conference, that if the USA elects Romney, there might be war with Russia.
An American special envoy to the Russian conference indicated that the American delegation was not sympathetic to the Russian demands and unwilling to offer the limitations that Russia wants. She stated: “There’s nothing I can imagine that will stop us making these deployments on time.”
Well, actually there is: Obama’s re-election.
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