March 26th, 2012
08:26 AM ET
11 years ago

Open mic catches Obama asking Russian president for space on missile defense

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) - In a private conversation about the planned U.S.-led NATO missile defense system in Europe, President Barack Obama asked outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for space on the issue.

"This is my last election," Obama told Medvedev. "After my election I have more flexibility."

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"I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir," Medvedev said, referring to incoming President Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders talked Monday during a formal one-on-one meeting ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea. In video they are seen seated, almost huddled, facing each other, each man with his elbows on his knees, leaning in closely over a small table, as they speak intently. Part of the exchange was caught on camera at the end of the 90-minute meeting as reporters and cameras entered the room for a quick photo opportunity of Obama and Medvedev.

It's a prickly issue between the two countries. NATO and U.S. leaders insist the project is designed to protect against a potential Iranian strike and would not be used against Russia. But Russia bristles at having a missile defense system so close to its border, arguing it violates Russian sovereignty.

“The United States is committed to implementing our missile defense system, which we’ve repeatedly said is not aimed at Russia," said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, in a statement. "However, given the longstanding difference between the U.S. and Russia on this issue, it will take time and technical work before we can try to reach an agreement."

Rhodes acknowledged the difficulty of finding a solution when politics are at play. "Since 2012 is an election year in both countries, with an election and leadership transition in Russia and an election in the United States, it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough. Therefore, President Obama and President Medvedev agreed that it was best to instruct our technical experts to do the work of better understanding our respective positions, providing space for continued discussions on missile defense cooperation going forward.”

Filed under: Dmitry Medvedev • President Obama • Russia
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    If Newt is elected, we won't need Russia. We will be able to train our missiles on the mid east from the moon.

    March 26, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Compare that with the republican clown show; Mittens would promise a war with Russia, and RIck would threaten Russian women.

    March 26, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  3. Angus

    There are no "open mic" situations any longer. These are always planned and the media delivers the prepared message to the public.

    March 26, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  4. Cori

    Not a fan of his policies, but this picture makes him look like a GQ model....hawwwwty!

    March 26, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  5. diridi

    there is absolutely whatsoever is nothing wrong with the statement.....yes, Obama2012.
    PS: I very happy I voted for Obama. I am going to support him. Very Shrewd guy for America.

    March 26, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Whoever ever said the press is biased towards liberals? For the most part, the press treats each side the same way.

    March 26, 2012 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  7. TrueIndependent

    I hope you didn't just realize that Obama is a 'true politician' and says what gets the votes. Goodness, just go back and listen to his speeches and then look at what he has done. 'Transparency', how many times did we hear that? And then we have closed door meetings with only the democrat leaders. Change? Did that mean signing that 1T bailout that was filled with PORK? That's not change! Same old politics....... Just vote them out and if Romney doesn't fix the economy in 3 years we will vote him out too! America will die if we keep up the same old 'spend spend spend' governing!

    March 26, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  8. Joan

    The BBC last night had great coverage of the nuclear summit in S. Korea. They covered President Obama's speech about nuclear research, arms and peace which was overwhelminly received by the audience. It was a very thoughtful, important and timely speech. The journalists covering the speech were very positive and said that Pres. Obama is very well liked there. He was mobbed as he was leaving after the speech. It is interesting that the part that is getting covered here is a cherry picked sentence from a PRIVATE conversation that could cause some controversy. Funny the difference in the way that these events get covered. Some cover it factually as a whole and depict the postive and helpful aspects that could further peace and others find any controversial comments to exploit even if they might cause problems in the pursuit of peaceful negotiations. Don't journalists have a moral obligation to cover the complete stories?

    March 26, 2012 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  9. _me

    "This is my last election," Obama told Medvedev. "After my election I have more flexibility."

    What an unremarkable comment.

    March 26, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  10. EPC

    Watching the video footage of Obama whispering this to Putin's right hand man, and then patting his hand gave me chills. Seems Obama wants to do a lot of "things" after he's re-elected. Just exactly WHAT remains a mystery.

    March 26, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  11. Tyler Snyder

    Does this mean that the goverment can wait for my taxes untill I feel better about paying them?

    March 26, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  12. Trey

    Wait... you mean he'll promise something and behave a certain way before the election and then change if he gets elected? Say it ain't so. I thought we've always been told he is acting just as he promised!

    March 26, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  13. Bob

    This is a huge story and I hope it gets plenty of air time so people can see the latest example of the deceitfulness of this president. He is too often protected by his admirers in the media, but Americans need to see (and acknowledge) how dismissive and disrespectful he is (and has been) towards the American public. His term as president has ushered in the most divisive tone in American politics and, worse, has produced an us-against-them mindset amongst Americans which tears at the very fabric of what is great about this country. He's got many gifts (personal attributes), and he's fresh and likeable, but the sum total of his political philosophy and where he'd like to move America (left) do not help Americans prosper and, ultimately, we need a president who has more dynamic experience than him. In this election, Americans need to vote with our heads, not just our hearts - the stakes are too high to be deceived again.

    March 26, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  14. R.I.P. Damon

    Apparently Pres. Obama thinks his re-election is a shoo-in. Perhaps he'll use that crystal ball of his to figure out a way to drive down gas prices and create a passable budget while he's at it, but I won't hold my breath...

    March 26, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |

    It's wonderful to see diplomacy in action. This President doesn't claim to see inside anyones soul, he just governs accordingly. The START treaty goes to show you how this administration has mended U.S-Russian ties.

    March 26, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  16. brian in dc

    And the amateur clown show in the WH continues.

    March 26, 2012 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  17. Mikey

    @EPC – "Seems Obama wants to do a lot of "things" after he's re-elected. Just exactly WHAT remains a mystery."
    How about continue to move the country in a positive direction and to govern for the benefit of the majority of Americans? How sinister!!!

    March 26, 2012 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  18. nevermind

    just the president, telling the Russians they can have what they want, after november,

    March 26, 2012 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  19. Fair is Fair

    Well at least we know what his priority is.

    March 26, 2012 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  20. crusader12

    Pleading with Russia for "space"? lol, getting weak there yanks, or what LMAO!!!

    March 26, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  21. Dee

    great job by our President! keep up the diplomatic policies and make America's reputation better! Obama 2012!

    March 26, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  22. Robyn

    The dead claw of Reagan reaches out from beyond life to try one last time to drag the whole world into the grave with him.

    March 26, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  23. brian in dc

    In order words he needs to wait until after the US election to sell out the US. "Veracity has never been my long suit, so why start now?"

    March 26, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  24. swisscottage

    They audacity of hype

    March 26, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  25. Anonymous

    This is my last election," Obama told Medvedev. "After my election I have more flexibility."
    What a frightening statement!

    Who knows what he will lie to us about then turn around and use his new flexibility.

    March 26, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
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