It was meant to be a private chat on the sidelines of the Seoul nuclear security summit.
But when Barack Obama told Dmitry Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” on difficult issues like missile defence after the US election, TV cameras were rolling.
As he leaned towards his Russian counterpart, the US President was overhead saying: “This is my last election … After my election I will have more flexibility.”
“I understand your message about space,” replied Medvedev, who will hand over Russia’s presidency to Vladimir Putin in May. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”
The US leader has defended his comments, ahead of the November poll, insisting they reflect a political reality that “everybody understands.”
Obama’s Republican rivals back home however have expressed alarm, amid claims he is too open to concessions to Russia.