McCain: Obama Will Use 'Presidential Power to Downgrade' Missile Defense

By Eric Scheiner | March 27, 2012 | 3:14 PM EDT

( - Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says President’s Obama’s recent comments to Russian President Medvedev show the president intends to downgrade the importance of missile defense in Europe.

“What he means is that he will use his presidential power to downgrade the importance of missile defense, that’s what he means, that’s what the translation is,” McCain told

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On Monday an open microphone picked up President Obama telling Russia’s leader that he would have more flexibility after the presidential election in November to deal with the difficult issue of missile defense.

“This is my last election,’’ Obama told the Russian President. “After my election, I have more flexibility.’’

McCain, the ranking Republican of the Senate Armed Services Committee is critical of President Obama’s comments, “It’s deeply alarming and disturbing to all of us that we show ‘flexibility’, we know what that means, we know what that means. That means he will back off existing American policy since Ronald Reagan.”

“I think they’re very revealing. I think those of us that are very committed to national security should be very concerned about stating one policy and then saying you’re going to be quote ‘flexible’ – does anybody believe flexible means that he’s going to increase his stance or strengthen his stance on missile defense? Of course not.”

Tensions over missile defense have strained relations between the United States and Russia in recent years.

Russia has been critical of a US-led NATO missile defense system in Europe. Russian officials are concerned the planned missile initiative will focus on Russia’s nuclear weapons.

The United States says the missile defense system is to counter threats from Iran.

Eric Scheiner
Eric Scheiner
Eric is the Senior Video Producer for