News conference following the Nuclear Security Summit
Office of the President of Russia
March 27, 2012, 16:00 Seoul
QUESTION: In continuation of the “political stuff”. Actually, as we know, journalists have keen hearing, especially after your one on one conversation with Mr Obama yesterday, which was overheard by journalists. As we know, Mr Obama asked you, so to speak, not to escalate the conversation on missile defence at present, saying that he would be more flexible in this regard after the election. How could you comment on these press reports and the harsh reaction from the presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who described Russia as the United States’ number one foe?
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Decisions of this kind are always political. This is not a purely military matter. The idea of missile defence has been modified and changed.
As for our dialogue with Barack Obama, it's an ongoing conversation. It is conducted in a closed format, and yesterday we talked for one and a half hours on various topics, including missile defence. We have also talked about it with the media. So there are no secrets there, as indeed it is not surprising that some issues are very difficult to address in certain political situations. There can be better and worse times for tackling them. Obviously, the best time is when the political situation is stable, irrespective of specific policies, but just the overall construction is clear. In fact, that is what we were talking about. There is nothing surprising about this and we never tried to hide anything. President Obama could have said it publicly or in a one to one conversation. It’s just that whenever things are taken out of context, they acquire certain shades of meaning and give rise to allegations of conspiracy. I noticed today that there were four different interpretations of what was said. I wonder what will go down in history and what will come out of it in the end.
Nobody is interested in exacerbating the situation. I believe that in this respect, the dialogue between President Obama and me has been exemplary in the past years. Most importantly, it is essential for participants in a dialogue to hear each other. That is what Barack Obama and I have learned to do, and in this sense he has been a very comfortable conversation partner. When I told him something, he analysed it and gave his answer. When he told me something, I also analysed it instead of reciting ideological clichés.
There is a difference between our past dialogue with the United States and the dialogue that is being conducted under President Obama. This does not mean that President Obama has held any special position in this regard. On the contrary, President Obama is a typical President of the United States. His position has always been absolutely pro-American. We have often held opposing views, but even when we disagreed with each other, it was always done in a proper form; first, it was always polite and second, we invariably explained our positions. I told him: “You know, Barack, I can do this but not that.” And he told me the same: “That's what I can do now, but here I will be tortured, for example, by Congress, and this decision will be very difficult to make.”
This is normal awareness of the political reality. This is exactly how a trust-based and friendly dialogue should be built, and I hope that this dialogue with the United States will continue. We would like to continue it regardless of who is in the White House but in reality the level of trust always depends on who performs specific duties, including the duties of the President of the United States.
With regard to various ideological clichés, I have already spoken about it. You know, I'm always worried when someone uses the phrase “number one foe” or something like that. It smacks of Hollywood and certain times in the past. So I would recommend at least two things to all pretenders to the office of the President of the United States, not excepting the one you have mentioned. First, to use reason when formulating a position, to use their heads, which is not a bad thing for a presidential candidate. And second, to check their watches from time to time, since the year is 2012, and not the mid-1970s. Whichever party a candidate belongs to, he should bear in mind the current reality. Only then can he expect to win.
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