MOSCOW – Russian President Dmitri Medvedev today accused Mitt Romney of being stuck in the Cold War, after the Republican presidential candidate said Russia was the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.”
Medvedev dismissed Romney’s Monday remarks at a news conference in Seoul, saying they “smell of Hollywood.”
Medvedev told reporters today that the U.S. presidential candidates should explain their rationale for such statements, according to the Russian Interfax news agency. He advised Romney and the other candidates to look at their watches, saying “now is not the mid-70s.”
Romney’s comments came in an interview with CNN Monday. He cited Russia’s support for “the world’s worst actors,” including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has led a bloody crackdown on an opposition movement that is seeking his ouster.
The former Massachusetts governor was responding to comments by President Obama to Medvedev Monday. The two were overheard on an open microphone discussing a contentious U.S. missile-defense shield plan in eastern Europe that Russia opposes. Obama told Medvedev to allow him some “space” and that he’ll have more “flexibility” to negotiate with Moscow after the November election. Medvedev pledged to pass along the message to Vladimir Putin, who will return to the Kremlin in May for a third term as president.
Romney said he was “very concerned” about the exchange.
“The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed,” he said.
Medvedev told reporters today that Russia wants to continue dialogue with the United States regardless of the results of the November election, but he said that the level of trust will depend on the personality of who wins.
“I hope that the dialogue with the United States of America will continue … regardless of whoever sits in the White House,” he said, according to RIA Novosti.
“And the level of trust always depends on who performs specific duties, including the president of the United States,” he added.
He said that consultations must continue between the United States and Russia in order to resolve the differences that persist, warning that a new arms race could emerge if talks fail.
Medvedev also commented on Syria at today’s news conference, saying that even if President Assad leaves power, the underlying problems will remain. Russia’s Foreign Ministry today said that it would not attend an international gathering in Turkey this weekend that will discuss how to end the violence in Syria, including possible aid to the opposition.
The announcement was a blow to the United States and its allies, which hoped Russia had begun to back away from its staunch support for Assad. Russia signed on to a United Nations Security Council statement last week condemning the violence and endorsing a peace plan by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had also offered his strongest criticism of Assad, saying the Syrian leader had made many mistakes in his response to the uprising.