Unaware that a microphone was recording him, President Obama asked outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Monday for breathing room until after Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign to negotiate on missile defense.
“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Medvedev at the end of their 90-minute meeting, apparently referring to incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Medvedev replied, “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…”
“This is my last election,” Mr. Obama said. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”
The Russian leader responded, “I understand. I transmit this information to Vladimir.”
The exchange was picked up by microphone of a Russian reporter as journalists were allowed into the meeting room for remarks by the two leaders. It was first reported by ABC News, which said it verified the conversation. A Washington Times reporter heard a portion of the tape that begins with Mr. Obama saying, “This is my last election.”
The two leaders are in Seoul for a nuclear security summit involving the heads of more than 50 nations. Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev were huddling close together in their respective chairs when the conversation took place.
The President and the Democratic Party have never been in love with the National Missile Defense system first started by President Reagan and greatly accelerated by President George W. Bush. During the Obama Administration, the issue has been quiet as cuts were made to the program but slow deployment and research progress was made.
So, did President Obama just elevate the issue of missile defense into the political arena?
The President has some answers to deliver to the American people and undoubtedly will be asked about the level of his support for the program during the Presidential debates.