Vladimir Putin said that Mitt Romney's remarks on Russia, which he dubbed America’s “number-one geopolitical foe,” have validated Moscow’s stance towards the US missile defense program.
"[Romney] has again confirmed the correctness of our position on missile defense problems,” Putin told reporters after a meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic. "It's not just us that he has convinced of this but, I think, the international community and our European partners as well.”
Romney's statements "serve to bolster our positions in negotiations on this sensitive issue," the Russian leader said.
"What is most important for us is that even if Romney does not win these elections, he or a man with similar views could come to power in four years, and we should bear this in mind by planning our security according to a long historical perspective," Putin noted.
Moscow, which believes the system represents a national security threat, has warned on numerous occasions that the project could spark “another arms race” without Russia’s full participation.
The US and NATO have declined Moscow’s requests for assurances that the system would not be directed against Russia.
In weighing the comments made by President Barack Obama’s main challenger in the November elections, Putin described the “negative aspects” of Romney’s statements, while also saying that this proved him to be a “sincere man.”
"Every situation has its positive and negative aspects,” he added.
“That Mr. Romney considers us enemy number-one and apparently has bad feelings about Russia is a minus, but, considering that he expresses himself bluntly, openly and clearly, means that he is an open and sincere man, which is a plus."
"We will be oriented toward pluses, not minuses,” Putin said. “And I am actually very grateful to him for formulating his position in a straightforward manner."
He reiterated that he would be willing to work with Romney if he becomes the next US president.
"Despite the fact that Mr. Romney considers Russia enemy number-one, if he is elected president of the US, certainly we – myself included – will work with him as an elected head of state," he said.
In an effort to win votes, Romney is blasting Obama as a leader who weakened the US by signing an arms reduction treaty with Russia, and by agreeing to a comprehensive diplomatic ‘reset’ between the two countries.
During his nomination speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney referred to a ‘hot mic’ gaffe between Obama and then-President Dmitry Medvedev, in which the US leader said he would have “more flexibility” to work with Moscow after the elections.
Obama “is eager to give Russia's President Putin the flexibility he desires after the election. Under my presidency our friends will see more loyalty and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone,” Romney said.
Putin concluded by noting that Romney's heated remarks against Russia may be “related in large part to election rhetoric.”
Nevertheless, he warned that, apart from the rhetoric, “the situation is such."
It remains to be seen how the US-Russia reset would be affected by a Romney victory in November, given an election-year atmosphere in Washington that has seen a high level of anti-Russian rhetoric.