Romney vows 'no flexibility' with Russia on missile defense

ADVERTISEMENT
"And on this, there will be no flexibility with [Russian president] Vladimir Putin," Romney said, drawing a contrast with the Obama administration's current talks with Russia on a new missile shield in the region.

In May, congressional Republicans chastised President Obama for saying to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" on European missile defense after the 2012 election. The remark was caught by a microphone the leaders didn't know was live.

It drew a wave of criticism from Republicans, who said Obama was allowing American missile defense policy to be determined by the whims of Moscow.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) claimed the comment was an indication the White House was forging an alleged "secret deal" with Russia on its plans for a European missile shield.

The White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill dismissed the claims, arguing Republicans were looking to politicize the statement in the run-up to the presidential election in November.

"We will not agree to any constraints limiting the development or deployment of United States missile defense," White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors told Turner's office in April.

The Obama administration plans to field a massive network of land and sea-based ballistic missile interceptors to defend against potential long-range missile threats from Iran by 2020.

Russia has strenuously opposed that plan, arguing the weapons could easily be used to take out Russian-operated missile systems stationed in the region.

Moscow has demanded that NATO sign an agreement guaranteeing that none of the weapons included in the missile shield would be used to neutralize the country's own missile defense system.

Such a deal or any other concession to Moscow on U.S. missile defense strategy simply would not happen in a Romney White House, the GOP hopeful claimed on Monday.

To that end, Romney reiterated his plan to ramp up construction of U.S. warships, at a rate of 15 ships a year.

The Navy's AEGIS destroyers, warships outfitted with anti-ballistic missile weapons, are the crux of the sea-based arm of the Obama administration's European missile shield program.

U.S. and NATO leaders agreed to deploy a number of those ships into the Mediterranean Sea during the alliance's annual conference in Chicago in May. Those deployments represent the first phase of the administration's missile defense strategy in Europe.