Romney and Medvedev square off in Cold War redux

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev welcomes Perm Region Governor Oleg Chirkunov during a meeting at the Gorki presidential residence outside Moscow March 7, 2012.

Credits: REUTERS/Ekaterina Shtukina/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

WASHINGTON, D.C. - He's not even president -- at least not yet -- but GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney is embroiled in a cold war of words with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Romney called Russia America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe" on CNN Monday in response to private comments Barack Obama made to Medvedev in South Korea earlier this week.

Obama told the Russian president -- who has been accused of being a puppet for Russia's president-elect Vladimir Putin -- that he would have "more flexibility" to deal with Russia on the hot-button issue of Europe's missile defence program after he wins the upcoming election in November.

Romney said the remarks were proof Obama intended to "cave in" to Russia's demands and that he had a hidden agenda about what he would do in his second term.

"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," Romney said. "They (Russia) fight every cause for the world's worst actors.

The idea that he (Obama) has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed."

In South Korea Tuesday, Medvedev shot back saying Romney should "use his head."

"I always get very cautious when I see a country resort to phrasings such as 'No. 1 enemy.' It is very reminiscent of Hollywood and a certain period of history," Medvedev said in Russian at the end of the nuclear summit in Seoul. "I would advise two things to all U.S. presidential candidates, including the person you just mentioned.

"My first advice is to listen to reason when they formulate their positions. Reason never harmed a presidential candidate. My other advice is to check their clocks from time to time -- it is 2012, not the mid-1970s."

Obama later tried to clarify his private remarks, which were caught by an open microphone and heard by reporters, saying he only meant that with his attention now focussed on the election, he doesn't have much time to negotiate with Russia on NATO's plans for European missile defence.

Russia has said it is concerned the program would be used to attack the Kremlin, while NATO insists it is to protect Europe from Iran.

Obama also said he was not "hiding the ball," and had said in previous speeches he wanted to negotiate with Russia on the issue of missile defence.

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