SOCHI, Russia - U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney's critical stance on Russia proves that Moscow's opposition to an American anti-missile shield in Europe is sound policy, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.
In his second public remarks about the Republican nominee in
a week, Putin said there were “pluses and minuses” to Romney’s
attitude toward Washington’s former Cold War enemy.
“The fact that Mr. Romney considers us enemy No. 1 and
clearly has a poor opinion of us is a minus. But the fact that
he speaks that way – directly, frankly and clearly – means that
he is a direct and candid person. That’s a plus,” he said.
“We’ll focus on the pluses, not the minuses,” he told
reporters in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Romney once called Russia “without question our No. 1
geopolitical foe”, and has promised “less flexibility and more
backbone” in policy on Russia if he defeats President Barack
Obama in the Nov. 6 election.
In power since 2000, Putin began a six-year presidential
term in May after a campaign in which he used anti-American
rhetoric as a political tool, accusing the United States of
stirring up street protests in Russia.
Last week, Putin said that Romney’s criticism was in large
part electioneering, but that his apparent animosity meant Russia’s suspicions about a missile shield the United States is
building in Europe would only deepen if he is elected.
U.S. plans for a missile defence shield in Europe, which
Washington has already started to deploy, have been a major
irritant in U.S. – Russia relations.
Washington says the shield is meant to counter a potential
threat from Iran and will pose no risk to Russia.
Russia says the system’s interceptors will be able to
destroy Russian warheads in flight by about 2018, weakening its
nuclear arsenal and upsetting the balance of power. Moscow wants
a binding guarantee the system would never be used against it.
Putin elaborated on the idea on Tuesday, saying he was
“grateful” to Romney because his description of Russia as a foe
“has once again confirmed our approach to the issue of missile
defence is the right one”.
“He has strengthened our negotiating position on this
sensitive and very important issue,” Putin said.
Russian officials have said that while the Obama
administration’s assurances that the shield is not meant to
weaken Russia may be honest, a future president could have
“The main thing for us is that even if Romney does not win
this election, in four years he or somebody with similar views
may come to power,” Putin said. “And we must take that into
account when we consider how to provide for the security of the
Russian Federation well into the future.”
Russia says it is taking steps to neutralise the perceived
threat, including upgrades to its offensive nuclear arsenal. Russia’s top general said in May that Russia could carry out
pre-emptive strikes on future missile defence installations in
Europe to protect its security.
Relations between Moscow and Washington deteriorated after
the Bush administration invaded Iraq and hit a low point with Russia‘s war with pro-Western Georgia in 2008.
They improved after Obama moved to “reset” ties in 2009, but
have been strained by disputes over issues ranging from global
security to human rights.