Obama said nothing then about not deploying the missile defense because he wanted to appease the Russians -- who opposed it. But then Obama was elected president.
In September 2009, more than three full years before his next election, but just a week before he was scheduled to meet with Russian President Medvedev, Obama announced he was scrapping the plan to deploy the anti-Iranian missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. He would replace it, he said, with a partially mobile missile-defense system that could be more quickly deployed.
Medvedev instantly hailed the "good conditions" Obama had created. "I am ready to continue our dialogue," he said.
Obama and Medvedev then negotiated the "New START," a treaty calling for modest reductions in deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads and missiles.
Two years have passed, another election looms. Obama's administration is now advancing its own plan for a missile defense in Europe to protect against Iranian missiles.
In November, Medvedev announced that if the U.S. deployed this missile defense in Europe, the Russians would target it with offensive missiles deployed in Europe.
Earlier this month, Medvedev's ally, Putin, who has served as prime minister for the last four years, was elected to a third, non-consecutive term as Russia's president. Putin ran on a platform of naming Medvedev his prime minister. Medvedev had stepped aside to let Put lead the ticket.
In some ways, the Putin-Medvedev campaign sounded like a liberal campaign in the United States.
The Congressional Research Service reported that according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the Russian elections, "Prime Minister Putin received an advantage in media coverage, and authorities mobilized local officials and resources to garner support for Putin."
"Besides these efforts," said CRS, "Putin boosted or promised large increases in military and government pay, pensions and student stipends."
Putin outlined his "election manifesto" in a series of seven newspaper articles, including one about what he understood "democracy" to mean.
"He defined this democracy in terms of the rights of Russians to employment, free health care and education, although he admitted that civil society recently had demanded more political participation," CRS reported.
It was to this once-and-future Russian president that outgoing Russian President and future Prime Minister Medvedev promised to bring Obama's message.
"After my election, I have more flexibility," Obama said.
"Yeah. Yeah. I understand," said an apparently sympathetic Medvedev. "I will transmit this information to Vladimir."
In his domestic politics, Obama is often profoundly disingenuous. But in his meeting with Medvedev, we may have caught a rare glimpse of our president expressing unfeigned empathy.