MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a congratulatory note to President Obama after his re-election Tuesday, his spokesman said. The Kremlin says it will make the text public after the Americans have received it.
Putin is also expected to call Obama personally “in the near future.”
“In general, the Kremlin took the news about Barack Obama’s victory in the elections very positively,” spokesman Dmitri Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency.
“We have the hope that positive initiatives in bilateral relations and in Russian-U.S. interaction on the international arena in the interests of international security and stability will be developed and improved,” he added.
It is perhaps not surprising that the Kremlin is pleased with the outcome of the election, especially since President Obama told then-President Dmitri Medvedev earlier this year that he would have more flexibility after the election to negotiate NATO plans to place components of a missile-defense shield in Eastern Europe.
Russia has expressed concerns that the system is aimed at them, although the United States and NATO insist it is designed to counter an Iranian attack.
Obama’s remarks, caught on an open microphone at a summit in Seoul, South Korea, drew sharp criticism from Republicans who suggested that the president was too soft on Russia and not honest with the U.S. public about his intentions for missile defense.
Now the prime minister, Medvedev told reporters in Hanoi today that he is glad Republican candidate Mitt Romney lost. Medvedev cited Romney’s comment in an interview with CNN that Russia is the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.”
“I am glad that the man who calls Russia its number one foe will not be the president of this large and influential state. That is paranoid,” he said, according to news agency RIA Novosti.
“Obama is an understandable and predictable partner,” Medvedev added.
“There have been both successes and failures in the reset of Russia-U.S. relations, and this policy should be carried on,” he said, suggesting that now U.S.-Russian relations will “be basically normal.”
In an interview with the Moscow News today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow is prepared to cooperate with the Obama administration, saying “We are prepared to go as far as the U.S. Administration is prepared to go on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect.”
Other Russian leaders have also cheered Obama’s victory, including Alexei Pushkov, the hawkish chairman of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee. Pushkov said he hoped Obama would have a “less aggressive” foreign policy, whereas he had feared a Romney presidency would return U.S.-Russian relations to the post-Soviet lows seen during the administration of George W. Bush, according to Interfax.
Relations between Washington and Moscow got off on a high note after Obama came to office, promising a “reset” in relations with Russia. Ties, however, have since become strained.
Russia says it was misled into supporting an international military intervention to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi last year. The Kremlin’s resistance to similar measures in Syria and its opposition to tougher United Nations sanctions on the government of President Bashar al-Assad has further strained ties.
President Putin has blamed an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests in the past year on U.S. meddling and has expelled the United States Agency for International Development from the country.
Recently, an article in a Russian government newspaper tried to devise the perfect U.S. president for Russian interests. The answer was a combination of Obama (for his “modern” worldview and flexibility), Romney (for his “pragmatic” business skills), Ron Paul (because he would reduce the size of the military and pull out of NATO), Rick Santorum (for his “moral values”) and Rick Perry (for his connections to the oil industry).
Many ordinary Russians also expressed a preference for Obama over Romney. A group of young pro-Putin Russians who attended an election party at the U.S. ambassador’s house Tuesday night agreed that Obama would be better for Russia.
They only smiled when reminded that being “good for Russia” probably would not win a presidential candidate any points among U.S. voters.