Obama dismisses Romney, minimizes Russia

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama Tuesday dismissed Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2012 description of Russia as “America’s number one geopolitical foe.”

“With respect to Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia is our number one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that America has got a whole lot of challenges,” Obama said, while downplaying Russia’s role.

“Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate numbers, not out of strength, but out of weakness,” Obama told reporters at a press conference in Holland.

Obama said he was “much more concerned” about a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.

“Russia’s actions are a problem [but] they don’t pose the number one security threat to the United States” he said. “I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.”

Obama spoke at a press conference at the end of a multinational meeting intended to block the spear of nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons. That effort has been stymied by Obama’s inability to block Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons, which is being aided by Russia, and which may trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

In the same press conference, Obama downplayed the chance that Russia’s forces will withdraw from Crimea. “The Russian military controls Crimea… there’s no expectation that they will be dislodged by force,” he said.

“I think it would be dishonest to suggest there would be a simple solution to what has taken place in the Crimea,” he said.

Obama suggested that Russian forces are threatening the rest of Ukraine, and that the Ukrainian people should make a deal with Russia.

“We are also concerned about further encroachment by Russia into Ukraine,” said Obama, who did not suggest the U.S. would offer military aid to Ukraine.

“It is up to the Ukrainian people about how they organize themselves and who they interact with,” he said. “The Ukraine government has said it is prepared to negotiate with Russia… and the international community has been supportive of a diplomatic process that would allow a deescalation of tensions, a moving back of Russian troops from Ukraine’s borders, and rapidly organized elections,” he said.

Since 2009, Obama has sought Russia’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, removing Syria’s embattled government, and in developing new curbs on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. But Obama’s diplomatic efforts have been poorly rewarded, fueling worries of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Obama has failed to win Russian cooperation even though he has cancelled the planned deployment of an American anti-missile base in Eastern Europe.

In contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been partially successful in his effort to revive his multi-ethnic country’s economy, population and world role, including its influence in Europe and the Middle East.

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