Putin: Obama Is ‘Very Honest’ And ‘Sincerely Wants to Make Many Good Changes’

September 7, 2012 - 4:30 AM

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President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev talk missile defense and elections in Seoul, South Korea on March, 26, 2012 (AP Photo/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) – Six months after President Obama was overheard offering Moscow “more flexibility” on the missile defense issue after November’s election, Russian President Vladimir Putin has characterized Obama as sincere about wanting to resolve the long running bilateral dispute.

A President Mitt Romney victory, on the other hand, would make the situation worse, Putin suggested.

In an interview with the pro-Kremlin television network, Russia Today, recorded earlier this week and released Thursday, Putin discussed a wide range of domestic and foreign issues, including the contention over U.S. plans for a ballistic missile defense system in Europe.

Russia strongly opposes the shield – which is designed to counter attack from Iran – saying it will weaken its own nuclear deterrent, an assertion the Pentagon has consistently denied.

At a meeting in Seoul, South Korea last March, Obama in an unguarded moment was heard telling Dmitry Medvedev – then the outgoing president – that Putin needs to give him “space” on the missile defense issue.

“This is my last election,” Obama told him. “After my election I have more flexibility.”

“I understand,” Medvedev was heard to reply. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to an interviewer with the pro-Kremlin television network, Russia Today, at the president’s residence near Moscow. (Photo: Russian Presidency)

Speaking to Russia Today this week, Putin suggested that Obama would indeed shift on the issue – unless he is held back by “quite conservative” elements in Washington.

“Is it possible to find a solution to the problem, if current President Obama is re-elected for a second term? Theoretically, yes,” he said. “But this isn’t just about President Obama. For all I know, his desire to work out a solution is quite sincere.”

“My feeling is that he is a very honest man and that he sincerely wants to make many good changes,” Putin said. “But can he do it, will they let him do it? I mean that there is also the military lobby, and the Department of State, which is quite conservative.”

At the time of Obama’s “hot mike” moment in Seoul, Romney slammed the president for hinting at second-term concessions to Russia, a country he described as “our number one geopolitical foe.”

The “more flexibility” comments featured in the GOP’s 2012 platform, released last week: “A Republican President will be honest and forthright with the American people about his policies and plans and not whisper promises to authoritarian leaders,” the document states.

Russia Today asked Putin about Romney, and the Russian leader said he would “work with whichever president gets elected by the American people.”

But he also expressed doubts that a President Romney would be cooperative on missile defense.

“When we talk about the missile defense system, 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 number one 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,” Putin continued, referring to the proposed missile shield. “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?”

Obama’s plan envisages the deployment – in phases between now and 2018 – of missile defense facilities in Turkey, Poland and Romania, under NATO aegis, to defend the U.S. and its allies from the threat of missile attack from hostile states, primarily Iran.

The proposal replaced an earlier one by the Bush administration, which reached agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to host missile interceptors and a radar station respectively.

Obama’s reworking of the original initiative came after a lengthy review, and formed part of his so-called “reset” of strained relations with Russia.

Speaking to reporters Friday in Vladivostok – where Putin is hosting an Asia-Pacific summit which Obama is skipping – presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down the notion that the U.S.-Russia relationship would suffer under a Romney administration.

“American voters will decide who will win that race,” state-owned news agency RIA Novosti quoted him as saying. “For us, the key thing is to be confident that regardless of the result, relations will continue to develop and both sides will have the political will for dialogue, for the resolution of all disputable issues through political and diplomatic means.”