MOSCOW – After months of denouncing the United States, and throwing the U.S. Agency for International Development out of the country, Russians took a conciliatory tone Wednesday in speaking of Obama's reelection. The country's top leaders quickly offered congratulations, and analysts predicted improved relations, particularly regarding missile defense, now that Obama has the space he so famously mentioned in an off-the-microphone moment in March.
“He had a limited amount of space for maneuvering in relations with Moscow over the past year,” Sergei Markov, director of the Political Research Institute, told Interfax on Wednesday, adding that Obama was constrained by Republican criticism of the administration’s policy toward Russia.
At a nuclear security summit in Seoul in March, Obama was overheard telling Dmitry Medvedev, then Russia’s president, that he could do little about Russia’s concerns over a European missile defense system until after the election, when he would have more flexibility.
Russia has demanded written guarantees that the missile defense system is not aimed at it, and while the United States has offered verbal assurances it so far has been unwilling to go further.
Medvedev, now prime minister, congratulated Obama on Wednesday—in a tweet—and later alluded to good relations with him.
“Obama is an understandable and predictable partner,” Medvedev said. "There have been both successes and failures in the reset of Russia-U.S. relations, and this policy should be carried on."
President Vladimir Putin, who was elected in March, sent a message congratulating Obama and planned to call him with a personal greeting.
“In general, the Kremlin took the news about Barack Obama's victory in the elections very positively," Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said, adding that Russia expected positive relations regarding international security.
Many of Russia’s opposition leaders were disappointed in Obama’s victory, criticizing the president over human rights issues. They had gravitated toward Republican Mitt Romney, who called Russia a "number one geopolitical foe," hoping he would take a harsher line toward Putin.
Russians followed the U.S. election closely, and USA and Romney trended in the top two spots on Twitter in Moscow on Wednesday.