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Obama Has Not Shown Promised 'Flexibility' on Missile Defense: Medvedev

U.S. President Obama has not shown the "flexibility" on missile defense issues with Russia that nearly a year ago he said would be possible were he to win re-election, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview with CNN last week.

Obama and Medvedev were famously overheard discussing their countries' long-running antimissile dispute at an international summit in Seoul last March. At the time, Moscow was accusing Washington of seeking to undermine bilateral nuclear strategic stability with its plans to deploy increasingly sophisticated missile interceptors around Europe that the Kremlin feared could undermine its ICBM force.

The U.S. leader was recorded telling then-President Medvedev, "This is my last election. After my election I [will] have more flexibility" to resolve missile defense disagreements.

Obama won re-election in November, nearly three months ago. Since that time, however, "we don't see any flexibility," Medvedev told CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria in Davos, Switzerland. "There are no easy solutions in terms of antimissile defense. There is no flexibility."

The U.S. president was sworn in for his second term last week.

Moscow wants Washington to provide it with a legally enforceable pledge that U.S. sea- and land-based interceptors planned for fielding in Europe in coming years will never target Russian strategic nuclear weapons. The Obama administration has repeatedly refused this demand, offering instead  verbal political assurances on the matter. Washington has also said Russian scientists could be invited to observe U.S. missile interceptor flight tests so that they may confirm for themselves that the U.S. system is not a match for Moscow's ICBMs.

"We have not changed our previous positions. The U.S. has one opinion and the Russian Federation, unfortunately, has a different opinion. These positions are not getting any closer," Medvedev said.

The prime minister suggested that if Obama desired, he could personally do a lot to hammer out an antimissile deal with Russia now that he is no longer confined by concerns of winning re-election. "Any U.S. president during his second term can take a stronger position and act in a more decisive manner, and that is exactly what Barack meant" when he promised more flexibility last year, Medvedev said.
 

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