Tuesday, September 02, 2014


In Live-Mic Moment, Obama Pledges 'Flexibility' On Missile Defense

Obama and Medvedev having a heart-to-heart in Seoul.
Obama and Medvedev having a heart-to-heart in Seoul.
Private remarks between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, that were broadcast near the end of a meeting in Seoul have set off a media firestorm.

The live-mic moment came as they discussed one of the most sensitive points in U.S.-Russian relations: missile defense.

In the video that has emerged (below), Obama suggests that he'll bring more "flexibility" to the table once he and Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin sit down to discuss U.S. missile defense, which is fiercely opposed by Moscow.

ABC News has posted a video of the final exchange in the conversation, with no specific reference to missile defense. But here's their transcript suggesting that was the topic:

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

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you.

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I [will] transmit this information to Vladimir.

WATCH the ABC News video:

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For Obama, there's potential danger in his perceived certainty of victory in November's election and his suggestion that he might deal more benevolently with Moscow. Neither is likely to go over well with detractors or possible Republican challengers. An "'After The Election I Have More Flexibility'" headline was quickly splashed across the top of the Drudge Report, for instance. More interesting than the immediate partisan fallout, however, is what's in store if Obama is truly intent on dealing more decisively on such a sore point in mutual relations.

For Medvedev's sharpest critics, the incident simply drives home the image of the outgoing president as Putin's errand boy. It makes sense that Medvedev, with less than two months left in office, would respond deferentially. (Recall Strobe Talbott's account of the frosty reception that an ambitious President Bill Clinton got from Putin in June 2000, with Russian eyes seemingly fixed on the next U.S. presidential term.) And as the ABC News transcript shows, Obama was clearly directing his comments to Putin, saying, "it's important for him to give me space."

But it will be interesting to see, as Medvedev prepares to make the transformation to the prime minister's seat, whether his domestic rivals try to exploit the "I will transmit this information" moment.

-- Andy Heil
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Lorraine Conley from: Tempe Arizona
March 27, 2012 00:12
Obama didn't ask for time, Obama asked Russia to help, illegally re-elected him President of United States of America - DEAD GIVEAWAY – “but the label was missing an “i” — a dead giveaway that these “Australa” boots were counterfeit.” Obama’s birth certificate made public on the internet The White House Website has THE spelled TXE — a dead giveaway the birth certificate is a forgery. — “I CERTIFY THIS IS A TRUE COPY OR AN ABSTRACT OF TXE COPY ON FILE IN THE HAWAII STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH Alvin T. Onaka, Ph.D. STATE REGISTRAR” – The White House Website posting of Barack Hussein Obama II’s birth certificatehttp://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/birth-certificate-long-form.pdf – Millions of dollars in fake goods stopped at port, officials say http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20120303/NJNEWS10/303030011/Millions-dollars-fake-goods-stopped-port-officials-say.

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
March 27, 2012 01:49
Too bad Obama doesn't know Russian. Impressed with Medvedev's English skills. Yes, Americans should definitely punish those politicians who dare to speak the truth. Much better for his election PR if Barack had taken off his shoe and beat Dmitry over the head while shouting 'we will bury you!'

by: vytautasba from: vilnius
March 28, 2012 07:04
Good example of the West being in denial about anything going the wrong way in Russia since 2000. Just keep on talkin', hopin', and apeasin' till the bad things go away.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 28, 2012 14:10
And what else can the West possibly do, Vytautas, other then "talkin', hopin', and apeasin'"? What is you recommendation :-)?
In Response

by: vytautasba from: vilnius
March 29, 2012 10:22

1. True flexibility comes from not thinking about the next election but from doing what you think is right. If you do a good job you will be re-elected or if not you can leave with a healthy conscience that you did your best with the trust given by the people who elected you.
2. Know who your are dealing with and act accordingly to your conscience and values. In a democracy values are supposted to mean something and should guide your actions as leader. In WW II the leaders of the West chose to ally themselves, hold friendly talks, and come to aggreements with a leader who was a notorious armed bank robber. In a negotiation with another leader one should keep this in mind as misplaced trust will lead to disolusionment when the agreements are not kept. Agreements should be based on a realistic assessement of the counterparts willingness to fulfill the agreements. Acting as if the soviet leader was an "uncle joe" instead of a "John Dillenger" led to some big mistakes leading one can argue to 50 years of wasteful (in lives and resources) Cold War.
3. These recommendations should be applied to the current Russian leadership. Know about your counterpart and act accordingly. If it means not giving in to a concession it means not giving in. Continue the dialogue and hold to your values. It does not mean announcing a reset and then ignoring the lack of response on the other side.
4. A reset in computer terms is done when one is too lazy to analyze whats wrong and fix the problem. Instead it is an attempt to restart the computer and hope the problem fixes itself or disappears in the boot process. More attention needs to be addressed in better understanding what is behind the unacceptable events in the country you are dealing with and basing your policy on ways to encourage that country along a path that will be in the interest of all.

That's a lot for a comment section. Really to answer your question fully would require a full article. Hope you have at least a better idea of what was meant.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 29, 2012 14:05
Hey, Vitautas, well, very frankly, I did not really get a CLEAR idea of what SPECIFIC steps the West, from your point of view, should adopt vis-à-vis Russia. Examples of SPECIFIC steps: (a) attacking Russia and erasing it from the surface of the Earth; (b) imposing an oil/gas embargo on Russia - i.e. stopping to buy its oil and gas and making it "die from starvation", as someone on this Forum was proposing; etc etc etc. So, what do think that the West should do with Russia in SPECIFIC terms, Vytautas?
In Response

by: vytautasba from: vilnius
March 29, 2012 15:43
Hello Eugenio,

You had asked for recommendations earlier but will try to answer. The specific steps you mentioned are not very likely to promote progress. Best possibility lies in steps that promote shared values. Problem is that since 2000 there are very few shared values left. The West should on every possible occasion for contact consistently remind the other side that the judiciary should not be used for political purposes (think Khordokovsky), media/press should not be an automatic voice of the government. Other points of view need to be respected, murders of journalists should not go unpunished (think Politovskaya), free and fair elections mean allowing other parties the same opportunity and time to express their views to the voters, free market economy for growth and diversification (not just based on selling raw materials (oil)) not an economy run by a few "good fellas", and review their support of brutal regimes such as Syria. All this and others should be constantly brought up in discussions and until progress is made there should be no hurry in signing most favored nation and other trade agreements until positive movement in these areas is noticed.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 29, 2012 20:06
Hey, Vytautas, very interesting to read your recommendations - you sound a little bit like Mahatma Ghandi to me :-)).

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
March 29, 2012 14:42
Instead of to start bombed fanatics- terrorists and deprive them of opportunities to produce nuclear weapons....
Instead of to start to fight against аbkhazians racists and south ossetians thugs who by Putin's orders are destroying Georgian churches and monuments,rob and rape of innocent people..Mr. Obama has asked for permission from the chief dictator of Europe to give him an opportunity to cheat ordinary Americans and fraudulently re-elected for a second term.

Obama has ruined everything ...
with a kick began to launch astronauts into space..
America has lost prestige in the international arena because of Obama

immediately to remove Obama the scrub...or will be too late.

by: William from: Aragon
March 29, 2012 22:05
"Neither is likely to go over well with detractors or possible Republican challengers." Who cares what they think. Take a good, long look at the challengers - is this the best that the Republican Party can come up with from a nation of 300 million people? Did nobody else in the Republican party nominate?

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