(CNSNews.com) – Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated President Obama on his re-election victory and “expressed his hopes for continued constructive work together,” the Kremlin said in a statement Wednesday.
(And on Thursday, Russian officials said they expect President Obama to "be more flexible" on U.S. missile defense plans: "We hope that President Obama after his re-election will be more flexible on the issue of taking into the account the opinions of Russia and others regarding a future configuration of NATO's missile defense," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told an international conference in Moscow, the Associated Press reported.)
Putin on Wednesday reiterated an invitation for Obama to visit Russia next year.
“In his message to Mr. Obama, the president noted that although the election campaign had been intense, the Democratic Party candidate succeeded in winning by a wide margin,” the statement said.
“Mr. Putin particularly stressed the results obtained in developing Russian-U.S. relations over these last years, and expressed his hopes for continued constructive work together on the bilateral agenda and in resolving pressing international and regional issues, noting the key importance that cooperation between countries such as Russia and the U.S.A. has for ensuring the world’s stable and secure development.”
The official RIA Novosti news agency quoted Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as saying he glad the presidency had not been won by “someone who considers Russia enemy number one.”
In the State Duma, the chairman of the powerful international affairs committee, Alexey Pushkov, welcomed Obama’s re-election, saying on his Twitter account it was good the White House would not be occupied by someone who regards Russia as “the enemy.”
Obama’s victory was “better for the outside world,” said Pushkov, a member of Putin’s One Russia party.
Medvedev and Pushkov were alluding to comments first made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last March, when he described Russia as “our number one geopolitical foe.”
Romney at the time was criticizing Obama for hinting at second-term concessions to Russia on a longstanding dispute over missile defense in Europe. At a meeting in South Korea, a live microphone picked up Obama telling Medvedev – then the outgoing president – that Putin needed to give him “space” on missile defense.
“This is my last election,” Obama told the Russian. “After my election I have more flexibility.”
“I understand,” Medvedev was heard to reply. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”
(Last week Obama said he had been referring to “the fact that it’s hard to negotiate additional treaties when I’m off campaigning and doing all kinds of stuff.”)
Aside from the missile defense dispute, Obama in his second term will have to deal with continuing fallout over proposed U.S. legislation targeting human rights violators.
Named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower who died in custody in 2009, the legislation would establish a public list of rights violators who would be denied U.S. visas and have any U.S.-based assets frozen. The House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees have both approved versions of the bill.
Putin also has accused the United States of supporting non-governmental organizations involved in street protests following United Russia’s victory in legislative elections last December and Putin’s return to the presidency in March.
Last September Moscow ordered the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to shut down its operations in the country, accusing it of using aid grants “to affect the course of the political process” in Russia.
Writing on his Facebook page last month Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion and leader of an anti-Putin movement, wrote that Obama’s so-called “reset” of relations with Moscow “has been a disaster, giving Putin everything he wants despite his support of Iranian nuclear program, arming [President Hugo] Chavez in Venezuela, protecting murderous [President Bashar] Assad in Syria, and increasing crackdowns here in Russia.”
“Romney was criticized for calling Russia the U.S.’s top geopolitical adversary, but he was correct – although he should have specified it is Putin, and not the Russian people, who oppose peace and cooperation with the West,” Kasparov wrote.