(SEOUL, South Korea) — At the tail end of his 90-minute meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday, President Obama said that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”
The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.
The conversation went as follows:
Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.
Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
When asked to explain what Obama meant, Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told ABC News that there is room for the U.S. and Russia to reach an accommodation, but “there is a lot of rhetoric around this issue — there always is — in both countries.”
A senior administration official told ABC News, “This is a political year in which the Russians just had an election, we’re about to have a presidential and congressional elections — this is not the kind of year in which we’re going to resolve incredibly complicated issue like this. So there’s an advantage to pulling back and letting the technical experts work on this as the president has been saying.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Alanna Petroff, CNN
Sugam Pokharel and AJ Willingham, CNN
Ivana Kottasova, CNN