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Putin Says Romney 'Mistaken' But Russia Could Work With Him

Vladimir Putin (file photo)
Vladimir Putin (file photo)
President Vladimir Putin has criticized as "election campaign rhetoric" Mitt Romney's vow to take a tougher stance on Russia if the Republican Party nominee is elected U.S. president in November's election.

But Putin, in a wide-ranging television interview aired on September 6, said Russia would be able to work with Romney if he defeated President Barack Obama.

"We will work with whoever the American people elect their president, but our work will be only as efficient as our partners will want it to be," Putin said.

Romney recently said that if he was elected, Russia could expect "less flexibility and more backbone" from Washington.

Putin said it was a mistake to use such rhetoric on the global stage.

"As for Mr. Romney's position, we understand that, to some extent, it is election campaign rhetoric but I think it is certainly wrong, because such behavior in the international arena is the same as using nationalism and segregation as a tool in one's own domestic policies," Putin said.

"It has the same effect in the international arena when a politician who aspires to lead a nation, especially a power as great as the United States, a priori declares another country his enemy."

In his interview with Russia's RT television, Putin indicated that a Romney presidency could widen the rift between Russia and the United States over U.S.-led NATO plans to deploy a missile-defense shield in Europe.

He suggested the dispute might ease if Obama, of the Democratic Party, is reelected for another four-year term.

"Is it possible to solve this problem if Barack Obama is elected president for a second term? In principle, yes," he said.

Russia says it is concerned the planned missile-defense system could threaten Moscow's nuclear deterrent.

In a live-microphone moment that prompted criticism from Republican opponents in March, Obama was overheard asking then-President Dmitry Medvedev to relay a request that Putin "give me space" on missile defense in order to afford "more flexibility" after Obama's reelection.

Syria, Magnitsky Case

The interview is Putin's most extensive since he began a six-year term as Russian president in May.

Concerning the Syrian conflict, Putin said Moscow was not prepared to change its position opposing tougher international intervention in the civil war.

Putin suggested that countries seeking to drive Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power have been relying on militant groups, including Al-Qaeda, to aid the revolt against the regime.

"Today some people want to use militants from Al-Qaeda or other organizations with equally radical views to accomplish their goals in Syria," he said. "This policy is very dangerous and short-sighted."

Putin also vowed that Russia would respond in kind to any Western efforts to blacklist Russian officials linked to the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Magnitsky died in prison in 2009 after accusing officials of corruption in a case that sparked international condemnation.

Putin said Russia should "take appropriate steps and put together a similar list of officials from countries that have taken such measures against Russia, and that is what we're going to do."

Putin declined comment on the two-year jail sentences handed down last month to three members of the Pussy Riot punk band for performing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow cathedral.

Putin said, however, that "the state was obliged to protect the feelings of believers."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and RIAN

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