Microphone Picks Up Obama’s Private Exchange with Dmitry Medvedev [Video]

President Obama was caught on microphone telling Russian president Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more flexibility after November’s election deal with controversial issues such as missile defence.

Obama had no idea that he was overhearing while assuring Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with contentious arms-control issues after the November’s presidential ballot, drawing sharp criticism back home from his Republican foes.

According to the UK’s Telegraph, when speaking on a global nuclear security summit in Seoul, Obama sought to put the controversy to rest but made clear that his earlier comments reflected a political reality that “everybody understands.”

“I don’t think it’s any surprise that you can’t start that a few months before presidential and congressional elections in the United States and at a time when they just completed elections in Russia,” Obama told reporters with Medvedev at his side.

Mr Medvedev, who steps down in May, promised that he would pass on Mr Obama’s message to his successor Vladimir Putin, according to an audio recording of comments the two leaders made during a meeting in South Korea.

The unusual exchange came as Obama and Medvedev huddled together on the eve of the summit, unaware their words were being picked up by microphones as reporters were led into the room. Photo: Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama says: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defence, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.” Mr Medvedev replies: “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you …”

Obama continues: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” And Mr Medvedev finishes: “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin].”

Obama, responding to a reporter’s question during a break in the summit on Tuesday, revealed that progress on complex arms control issues required dealings with the Pentagon and Congress to build bipartisan support and that 2012 was not a good year to fix it.

“The current environment is not conducive to these kinds of thoughtful consultations,” President Obama said. “I think we’ll do better in 2013.”

The current US president has faced plenty of opposition from Republicans in Congress to his legislative agenda on everything from job creation to taxes. Republicans have already made clear they have no interest in cooperating on further arms reduction deals with Russia.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney seized on Obama’s earlier comment, calling it “alarming and troubling.”

“This is no time for our president to be pulling his punches with the American people,” Romney said in a campaign speech in San Diego.

The candidates also quickly criticized Obama for the latest remark, saying in a statement, “President Obama signaled that he’s going to cave to Russia on missile defense, but the American people have a right to know where else he plans to be ‘flexible’ in a second term.”

In a statement to reporters, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said that reaching an agreement with Russia on missile defense will “take time and technical work.” Citing that 2012 is an election year in both countries, he added, “it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough.”

Therefore, the two leaders 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,” Rhodes said, according to The Washington Post.

He reiterated that the administration is “committed to implementing our missile defense system, which we’ve repeatedly said is not aimed at Russia.”

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