The assessment flies in the face of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's recent assertion that Russia is America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe." But that's getting ahead of the story.
Rewind to March 26, when a private comment made by President Barack Obama to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was accidentally heard on an open microphone at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul. Obama told Medvedev that he was confident Moscow and Washington's differences on missile defense could be solved, but not until after November's presidential election.
Obama told Medvedev, "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it's important for [President-elect Vladimir Putin] to give me space." Then he and Medvedev had this exchange:
Medvedev: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir."
You could have put an egg timer on how long it took Romney, Obama's likely rival for the White House, to jump in. In an interview with CNN, he raised alarm about Obama's comments:
Medvedev couldn't leave that unanswered. At a news conference at the end of the security summit in Seoul, he took the rare step of commenting on U.S. domestic politics.
"Regarding ideological clichés, every time this or that side uses phrases like 'Enemy No. 1,' this always alarms me," he said. "This smells of Hollywood…
"I would make at least two recommendations to all U.S. presidential candidates, including [Mitt Romney]," Medvedev continued. "First of all, they need to apply reason and use their heads when phrasing their positions -- sometimes it doesn't harm a presidential candidate to do that. And secondly, check their watches from time to time because it's 2012 now, not the mid-1970s."
Would Romney take that sitting down? Only long enough to dash off a piece for the "Foreign Policy" website that said, in part, "It is not an accident that Mr. Medvedev is now busy attacking me. The Russians clearly prefer to do business with the current incumbent of the White House."
The Russian newspaper "Pravda" quickly parried with its own piece, headlined, "Mitt Romney: Out-Of-Touch, Out-Of-Date, Unelectable." Here's how it begins:
You can imagine how it continues, but highlights include calling Romney a "foul-mouthed, big-headed oaf," "a pea-brained, pith-headed simpleton with too much testosterone and too little common sense," and "a foul-mouthed guttersnipe."
But let's remember where all this started: with Romney trying to ping Obama on his foreign policy in his quest to win the White House. The tetchy back and forth between Romney and the Russians may be fun to watch, but it doesn't shine much light on what Romney's foreign policy would be if he were U.S. president.
Enter Obama's foreign policy and military advisory team. Clapping their hands like a cross school mistress trying to bring order to a chaotic classroom, 18 of them sent a letter to their counterparts on Romney's campaign via "Foreign Policy's" website, saying they wanted to "put the record straight" about Obama's record.
They asked for details on how Romney's policy would differ from Obama's on Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, Cuba, and Iraq, and concluded, "We look forward to your responses on these specific issues."
So are we. This is getting good.
-- Heather Maher