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Putin Says Antimissile Dispute More Likely to be Solved With Obama

Russian President Vladimir Putin said disagreements with the United States over its missile defense plans for Europe were more likely to be resolved under a re-elected President Obama than with his opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Putin accused the Republican presidential nominee of being "mistaken" in the harsh language he has used against Russia, which Romney has characterized as a serious geopolitical threat to the United States. Romney has knocked Obama for telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March he would have more "flexibility" to negotiate a compromise on European missile defense after the November election.

Moscow opposes the current U.S. plan to through 2020 field increasingly advanced sea- and land-based missile interceptors around Europe as a stated bulwark against the evolving Iranian ballistic missile threat. Russia fears the U.S. interceptors will undermine its long-range nuclear deterrent and has called for a legally binding pledge against such a threat. The Obama administration has rejected those demands while seeking to make Russia a partner in the missile shield being developed with NATO.

Putin indicated in a broadcast interview that a Romney White House would exacerbate the former Cold War rivals' dispute over missile defense. He praised Obama as "an honest person who really wants to change much for the better."

The powerful Russian leader blamed the U.S. defense community for the antimissile quagmire. "There is ... the military lobby, and the Department of State, which is quite conservative," RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

Putin said he was open to continuing discussions on missile defense but that he was not confident the United States was "ready for this kind of cooperation."

The Democratic Party in its recently revealed 2012 election platform said a second Obama administration would proceed with antimissile plans for Europe with or without Russia's approval. Putin criticized any such independent action as harmful to "global stability." He continued that his country would "have to think of how we can defend ourselves" if Washington moves forward unilaterally in deploying its antimissile assets.

"You also have to think about its strategic character, it's built not for a year or even a decade," Putin said of the envisioned missile shield.

Russia has threatened military responses to the system including fielding short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad, a territory that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, if an accord remains out of reach. Moscow has also warned it could pull out of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Washington.

The Russian president said he could "work with whichever president is elected by the American people. But our effort will be only as efficient as our partners will want it to be," according to the Associated Press.

Should Romney be voted into the White House, Putin said, "the missile defense system will definitely be directed against Russia."

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