Republicans fear Obama will sell out to Russia

President denies ‘hiding the ball’

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Mr. Obama said he is committed to nuclear disarmament and confirmed that he sees American missile defense as secondary to the goal of building trust with the Kremlin on disarmament.

“I think everybody understands — if they don’t, they haven’t been listening to my speeches — that I want to reduce nuclear stockpiles,” Mr. Obama said. “And one of the barriers to doing that is building trust and cooperation around missile-defense issues. I’m on record, I made a speech about it to a whole bunch of Korean university students [Monday]. I want to see us over time gradually, systematically reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.”

Although the president spoke to Mr. Medvedev only in terms of his own election, Mr. Obama said Tuesday that congressional elections and Russia’s just-completed presidential vote also influenced his thinking on the matter.

He said the New START agreement that he and Mr. Medvedev signed in 2010 required “a painstaking two-year process.”

“I don’t think it’s any surprise that you can’t start that a few months before presidential and congressional elections in the United States, and at a time when they just completed elections in Russia, and they’re in the process of a presidential transition where a new president’s going to be coming in, in a little less than two months,” Mr. Obama said.

Russian reaction

The Russian leader backed Mr. Obama on Tuesday by saying, “It’s not surprising that a number of issues are better solved in a specific political situation.

“There are good and bad periods for solving things,” he said. “It’s quite obvious that the situation when all political forces are stable is the best time for that.”

Mr. Medvedev also injected himself into U.S. politics in a more pointed way, chastising Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney and saying the former Massachusetts governor should “rely on reason” and not try to act like a movie star.

In the context of criticizing Mr. Obama about the previous day’s whispered exchange, Mr. Romney called Russia the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the U.S., words that Mr. Medvedev said “smacked of Hollywood” and sounded as if they came from the Cold War.

“It’s 2012, not the mid-1970s, and whatever party he belongs to, he must take the existing realities into account,” the Russian leader said.

The U.S. and NATO are pursuing a missile-defense shield in Europe, a project that Russia says will compromise its security. U.S. officials want Russia to proceed with negotiations on various technical matters related to the shield while they seek common ground on the overall system.

Leaders at the summit that wrapped up Tuesday agreed to work on securing and accounting for all nuclear material by 2014, including completed weapons, bomb material and the skills to build them.

Although Mr. Obama also met Tuesday with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the White House was tight-lipped about an Associated Press report that U.S. officials offered key concessions to Islamabad’s spy chief on the CIA’s drone campaign against al Qaeda in Pakistan.

The report said the U.S. offered to provide advance notice of missile attacks and respect limits on the types of targets. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said only that the two men “discussed ways in which we can ensure that we have an ongoing dialogue at all levels of our government.”

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