Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's position on Russia shows Moscow is correct in objecting to U.S. plans to field missile defense systems in Europe, Reuters reported.
The former Massachusetts governor earlier this year said Russia is "without question our No.1 geopolitical foe" and has pledged "less flexibility and more backbone" in U.S. foreign dealings with Moscow should he win the White House in November.
"The fact that Mr. Romney considers us No. 1 and clearly has a poor opinion of us is a minus," Putin said to journalists in Sochi. "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."
"We'll focus on the pluses, not the minuses" of a possible Romney presidency, the Russian leader said.
In recent days, Putin said Romney's harsh stand on Russia was due mostly to election year politics. Still, Romney's evident hostility toward Russia means the Kremlin's concerns about the real intent behind U.S. ambitions to construct a European missile shield would grow should the Republican assume the U.S. presidency, he continued.
The Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense calls for deploying through 2020 increasingly advanced U.S. missile interceptors in Poland and Romania and on U.S. missile destroyers home ported in Spain. The Obama plan is part of a larger NATO effort to coordinate and improve member nations' antimissile capabilities for the stated purpose of countering possible ballistic missiles fired from the Middle East. Russia suspects the missile shield will actually be aimed at undermining its own ICBMs.
Putin on Tuesday said he actually welcomed Romney's negative characterization of Russia as it "once again confirmed our approach to the issue of missile defense is the right one."
"He has strengthened our negotiating position on this sensitive and very important issue," he said.
Moscow has demanded from Brussels and Washington a legally binding guarantees the evolving Western missile shield will not be aimed at Russian nuclear weapons. Russian leaders have threatened to deploy short-range missiles to territory bordering NATO countries if an accord is not reached, among other potential responses.
Romney has been critical of the Obama antimissile plan, but has not offered specifics on how he would revise U.S. efforts in that sector.
Russian government officials have acknowledged President Obama could be telling the truth that U.S. interceptors in Europe are not aimed at undermining nuclear stability. They note, though, that a different U.S. leader might have dissimilar goals.
"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. And we must take that into account when we consider how to provide for the security of the Russian Federation well into the future," Putin said.