Obama on 'Flexibility' with Putin: 'It's Hard to Negotiate Additional Treaties When I'm Off Campaigning’

By Elizabeth Harrington | October 29, 2012 | 10:42am EDT

President Barack Obama in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Oct. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama said the reason he told Russia’s Dimitry Medvedev back in March--more than seven months before this year's presidential election--that he would have “more flexibility” after the election to work with Russian leader Vladimir Putin was because  he was too busy campaigning and doing other "stuff."

“The discussion there very much just had to do with the fact that it’s hard to negotiate additional treaties when I’m off campaigning and doing all kinds of stuff,” Obama said on Friday, explaining his open-mic comments with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this year.

The president’s latest comments came during an interview with News 4 KRNV in Reno, Nevada in which the questions were sent in from audience members.

One viewer asked the president: “What did you mean when you said you will have more flexibility after the election when you thought you were off-mic with Dmitry Medvedev? Why is having more latitude after the elections significant?”

Obama said: “This was specifically about how we deal with Russia and nuclear arms. We’ve been able to negotiate a nuclear arms deal that reduced levels of nuclear arms both in Russia and in the United States and that’s something that was ratified on a bipartisan basis in the United States Senate.”

“The discussion there very much just had to do with the fact that it’s hard to negotiate additional treaties when I’m off campaigning and doing all kinds of stuff,” said Obama.

He continued: “At the time, Mr. Putin was still putting together a new government because he had just been reelected.  And so, when you’re negotiating between major nuclear powers about something of so much importance you want to make sure that everybody’s focused.”

He added that the “key point” is maintaining a “secure effective nuclear deterrent.”

“I think everybody recognizes that 20 years after the Cold War that it’s important for us to see if we can continue to reduce the levels of nuclear threat around the world,” Obama said.  “Part of that is us negotiating treaties to reduce the reliance on nuclear weapons.  Part of it is also making sure that we keep nuclear arms out of the hands of nations like Iran.”

“And that’s something that I’ve helped to organize around the world, toughest sanctions on Iran ever, to make sure that they don’t get nuclear weapons,” he said.  “And as I indicated last week, and as I’ve indicated for months now, Iran’s not going to get a nuclear weapon on my watch.”

In March 2012, a private conversation on missile defense between President Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was overheard on a live microphone at a nuclear summit in Seoul, South Korea.

"On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved," Obama said. "But it's important for him to give me space.”

"This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility,” said Obama.

"I understand," Medvedev said. "I will transmit this information to Vladimir."

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