The Russian president told the state-owned RT television channel that he thought he would make more progress with the incumbent president than with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, though he added that he could work with either one.
Putin dubbed President Obama “a genuine person” who “really wants to change much for the better.” despite the current frosty relations between the two nations. He said that in a second term Obama would be able to work with him on missile defense issues.
He was less interested in working with Romney, who has harshly criticized the president’s stance on Russia as too soft. Earlier this year he said that Russia was America’s top “geopolitical foe.”
“Our American partners tell us, ‘It’s not against you.’ But what if the president of the United States will be Mr. Romney, who considers us enemy No. 1?” Putin told RT television, according to the Wall Street Journal. He dismissed Romney’s comments though as mere “pre-election rhetoric.”
The Russian president’s comments appear to reference a notorious incident in March when Obama took then out-going Russia President Dimtry Medvedev into his confidence during a summit in Seoul, not realizing that he was speaking before a hot mic:
As he was leaning toward Medvedev in Seoul, Obama was overheard asking for time – “particularly with missile defense” – until he is in a better position politically to resolve such issues.
“I understand your message about space,” replied Medvedev, who will hand over the presidency to Putin in May.
“This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility,” Obama said, expressing confidence that he would win a second term.
“I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” said Medvedev, Putin’s protégé and long considered number two in Moscow’s power structure.