SEOUL, South Korea - White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday took issue with comments from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stating that Russia was America's "number one geopolitical foe."
Carney, a former Moscow-based correspondent for TIME magazine, stated that "in a world where Al Qaeda is so clearly the preeminent threat to the United States, and similar organizations, it seems a little inaccurate to make that statement about Russia where Russia is a county that we have been able to cooperate with on very important issues even as we disagree with them on others and that includes missile defense and Syria."
Romney had been responding to the comments President Obama made Monday to outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, unaware that a microphone was making the private remarks quite public.
On issues, "particularly missile defense," President Obama told Medvedev that incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needed to give him "space."
"This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility," the president said.
Medvedev said he would "transmit the information to Vladimir."
Appearing on CNN, Romney said Russia "is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world's worst actors. The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very very troubling indeed."
He noted that "Russia continues to support Syria, supports Iran, has fought us with crippling sanctions we wanted to have the world put in place against Iran. Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage and for this president to be looking for greater flexibility where he doesn't have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia is very very troubling, very alarming. This is a president who is telling us one thing and is doing something else."
Carney said "the relationship that president Obama has established with Russia when he pressed the reset button in 2009 has born a great deal of fruit, including Russia's cooperation with China at the United Nations in sanctioning Iran, Russia's cooperation and assistance to the United States on our Afghanistan mission in terms of trans-shipment issues."
President Obama on Tuesday responded to a question about what he meant by his open microphone comment, saying "the only way I get this stuff done is if I'm consulting with the Pentagon, with Congress, if I've got bipartisan support and frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations. I think the stories you guys have been writing over the last 24 hours is pretty good evidence of that."