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Obama asks Russia to cut him slack until reelection

On the sidelines of a nuclear security summit today, President Barack Obama asked outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to delay any major moves until after November.

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U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev chat during a bilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March, 26.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Barack Obama hopes that Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin will agree to another round of popular nuclear arms cuts when the two meet in May, but is asking the Kremlin to hold off on its potentially deal-breaking objections over NATO's projected European missile defense shield until he has been safely re-elected in November.

Mr. Obama's appeal for Russian forbearance, on an issue that is of critical concern to Moscow, played out at the nuclear security summit in Seoul today. In a speech, Obama said he would ask Mr. Putin to move beyond the dramatic one-third cuts to US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals agreed to just two years ago in the new START treaty and perhaps even dial the numbers back to levels not seen since the 1950s.

But on the vexing issue of missile defense, which has led the Russians to threaten a possible walkout from the START accord, microphones in the conference room picked up Obama making a surprising request – probably not intended for journalists' ears – to outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, with whom he was having his last official meeting before Putin is inaugurated in early May.

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