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. Bilbo do what? Scary considering what he's done with less flexibility.

    March 26, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  2. Cheryl Jefferies

    It's obvious Obama has plans to ax our missile defense system just like he axed Europe's right after his election. Of course he doesn't want to discuss means to keep us secure until after November: he has NOTHING GOOD planned for America and if it came out before November, he'd be defeated for sure. Folks, we aren't talking just the lives and futures of our children and grand-children anymore. Obama is going to destroy OUR lives. We won't have ANY future if he's re-elected. When are his followers and the lap-dog media going to wake up?! Russia isn't the Soviet Union anymore, but they're still not our friends. Obama has alienated our friends and allies and is destroying us. If he's re-elected, we simply will not survive, economically, freedom-wise, or, very likely, physically. The rest of the world laughs at him. I'm not ever sure they understand. Obama is the most dangerous man on the planet right now. There will never be true peace or security as long as he is in the Oval Office.

    March 26, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  3. lindy226

    This is my last election," Obama told Medvedev. "After my election I have more flexibility."
    Yes he's gonna lie to the people then turn around and stab them in the back!

    March 26, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  4. angryyyone

    "After the election, I have more flexibility." Typical Obama; more concerned about himself than doing what is best for the American people. We have to get this self-centered, arrogant, selfish clown out of office.

    March 26, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  5. Anonymous

    This just in: all politicians have to tread carefully in an election year. More at 11.

    March 26, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  6. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Cheryl – You are wrong.

    March 26, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  7. GOP Observer

    It is one thing for Romney to be accused of a change in position in the middle of a campaign it is quite another to actually make campaign deals with Russia and tell them you will change your position on missle defense after the election - DANGEROUS

    March 26, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  8. GOP Observer

    Time to give that etch a sketch to Obama - he has earned it

    March 26, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  9. redwinw9991

    Obama is clearly one of the best American presidents. The greedy super rich hate him because he deeply cares for the middle class and the poor and works for peace and prosperity.

    March 26, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  10. cajun queen

    Do you folks read the daily news??????????????? This president is the most dangerous one that has ever held this office. If we are fortunate enough to GET HIM out of office this election year we might have a chance to turn this great nation around....otherwise we will be down the tubes – controlled by the US Government – say so long to your freedom and anything remotely like we enjoy now. Unfortunately for us that see him as he truly is – "It rains on the just and on the unjust" which means – we will all suffer at the hands of this guy – thanks to all you who voted him into office. Woe to those that call evil good – the day of reckoning is coming. And NO – I am NOT a religious nut or a terrorist Tea Partier – I am a concern US citizen you can see right though this guy. I just hope that all will be able to before we put him back into office to finish off what he started 4 years ago. Destroying America – the country that he has hated all his life.

    March 26, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  11. friendlyphil

    Is there an Etch-a-sketch involved?

    March 26, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  12. Ricky L

    Cheryl.....are you out of your mind?


    March 26, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  13. Common$ense

    Where is the outrage?!?! A President of the United States bleading with a Russian President? A President of the United States asking a Russian President to Help him get re-elected!! A President of the United States telling a Russian President that he will have more Flexibility with US Security after he is re-elected?!!?!!? This should be front page of every media outlet and congress should start thinking about empeaching him!

    March 26, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  14. bczu

    How about we stop preaching peace while creating war and putting missile and military bases across the world? Time to mind our own business.....that will weaken the Taliban. Not continuing to fight, killing children and women all in the name of peace. That gives them strength and something to preach about the evil in the United States.

    March 26, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  15. Agnim

    Ha ha ha!

    'Having more flexibility after election' (A TRUE STATEMENT) means what exactly? lol

    How many bright minds will think that the Russian leadership is going to buy American PROMISE of 'flexibility' in favor of the Russians? lol

    March 26, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  16. redwinw9991

    Isn’t against tha law to spy on the President of the United State of America?

    March 26, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  17. Robert

    For all of you saying this is some deep, dark conspiracy, get a grip. For those saying it is all about him, seriously? Seriously? Yes, he will have more flexibility after he is reelected to do the right thing without much worry about how the Right will spin whatever is accomplished. Given that the average American is woefully ignorant and easily swayed by the lasted sound bites and the slop from their favorite talking head, one has to tread carefully when the fate of not only this nation, but the world is in the balance. We simply cannot afford to elect a Republican that will be subject to act based on warmongering.

    March 26, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  18. Levi

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

    And people actually think that four more years of this guy is a good idea? Give me a break. Basically he wants to wait until after the election so he can do whatever he wants with no fear of repercussion. Can't wait to get him out of the WH so we can get someone with a backbone in there.

    March 26, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  19. tom clements

    Everything is about the election...for those serving themselves!!!

    March 26, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  20. Marcus

    I can't remember a President that used the words "me", "mine", "my", and "I' more than Obama. Quite telling.

    March 26, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  21. pjc722

    Surprising. Mitt Romney top aide says he'll ECHO-SKETCH the campaign once they win the primary and it overshadows the news of Mitt get 2 major supports from the Tea Party leader and Jeb Bush. AND MITT didn't even say the comments. I mean, it was the "GAFFE of ALL GAFFE'S" one moderator said and Newt and Rick went out and bought the toy.

    And here's Obama politely begging the President of Russia to stay silent about the issue til afte HIS election at which time, anyone can assume, Pres Obama will scrap the missile defense program, YET YET YET CNN and the media aren't leading with this as a LEAD story. It even has a subtle article title "open mic" that makes it seem like no big deal.

    COME ON, CNN and other media outlets, this is major compared to Mitt's aide! I'm a democrat but I want honest and FAIR reporting. Call one guy out, call them ALL out.

    March 26, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  22. Joe

    We knew he was going to be a 50 pound weakling. We knew he would be just like Jimmy Carter. There is your proof. Begging Russia. Thank God the election is almost here.

    March 26, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  23. Joe

    Begging Russia??? So Weak!!

    March 26, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  24. Cush777

    Can anyone explain to me why WE as US taxpayers are going to pay for a missle defense shield in Europe? If Europe wants a shield to protect themselves, from Iran or from Russia, I don't care let them pay for it!!!!! Sure we will build it for them, no problem, but when are we going realize that we are NOT responsible for keeping Europe safe!!!!! That is the job of, oh I don't know, Europeans. They have their own governments and their own money, if they want it so bad, let them pay for it. A shield in Europe does nothing for our security here in the states.

    March 26, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  25. jennygirl

    why was he wearing an open mic? i hope someone gets fired.

    March 26, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
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