In a private conversation captured by a hot microphone, President Obama today appeared to be putting off diplomatic talks with Russian leaders about a controversial missile defense system until after November.
Television footage shows Obama telling Russian leader Dmitri Medvedev that "after my election I will have more flexibility." An advisor to Obama later said the two were talking about Russia's objections to the system, agreeing to talk later because of political concerns on both sides.
"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," the White House said. "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."
It was a rare private exchange, caught after a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit meeting here.
The audio is a bit muffled, but Obama can be seen in the video leaning toward Medvedev and touching his hand. Obama explains that this is his last election and that he'll have more flexibility after November.
Medvedev's response is that he will "transmit" the information to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the former president who is scheduled to return to that post on May 7 after being declared the winner of a controversial election earlier this month.