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Romney Stuck in ‘Cold War Mentality’ on Russia, Biden Say

April 1 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is “stuck in a Cold War mentality” when it comes to working with Russia, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Biden defended President Barack Obama’s “open microphone” remark last week to his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, and focused on Romney’s reaction, in which the former Massachusetts governor described Russia as “without question, our number-one geopolitical foe.”

“He acts like he thinks the Cold War’s still on,” Biden said. “I don’t know where he’s been.”

Microphones on March 26 recorded Obama asking Medvedev to let Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin know that he needed to “give me space” to deal with objections to the U.S.’s missile-defense plan.

“This is my last election, and after my election I have more flexibility,” Obama told Medvedev.

“I understand,” Medvedev replied in English, adding that he would “transmit this information to Vladimir.”

In his interview with CBS, taped March 29 and broadcast today, Biden said that Obama “just stated the obvious” and that “it’s going to be difficult” to work with Congress on further reductions of the U.S. nuclear arsenal between now and the November elections.

‘Alarming’ Words

Romney, who has been criticized by his Republican rivals for shifting positions, has accused Obama of having a hidden agenda for his second term, calling the president’s words “alarming and troubling.”

“This is no time for our president to be pulling his punches with the American people,” he said at a campaign stop in California. In a March 26 interview with CNN, after Obama’s comment to Medvedev was reported, Romney said that Russia was, “without question, our number-one geopolitical foe.”

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, appearing separately on the CBS program, also commented on Obama’s remark to the Russian president.

“You have to ask yourself: How many foreign leaders has he said that to without an open mic?” Gingrich said. “How many other countries are counting on Barack Obama to be, quote, flexible after the election?”

Biden told CBS that Russia was helping the U.S. get materials to troops in Afghanistan and would increase oil supplies to Europe if there was an oil shutdown in the Persian Gulf.

Not 1956

“This is not 1956,” Biden said. “It exposes how little the governor knows about foreign policy.”

The Romney campaign fired back at Biden.

“It’s not surprising to see more effusive praise for Russia’s leaders coming from the White House,” Lanhee Chen, Romney campaign policy director, said today in an e-mailed statement. “Vice President Biden appears to have forgotten the Russian government’s opposition to crippling sanctions on Iran, its obstructionism on Syria, and its own backsliding into authoritarianism. And he fails to explain why President Obama has given away concession after concession to Russia in return.”

“We can expect more such ‘flexibility’ if President Obama is re-elected,” Chen said. “In contrast, Governor Romney is clear-eyed about the geopolitical challenge Russia poses and will restore America’s strength abroad and prosperity at home.”

Last week Medvedev said that Romney’s description of Russia as his country’s enemy “smacks of Hollywood.”

The Republican candidates should “use their brains and check the clock,” refraining from obsolete attitudes, the Russian leader told reporters on March 27 at the conclusion of a two-day nuclear security summit in Seoul.

To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Ivory in Washington at divory@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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