President Obama tried to convince reporters that he doesn’t have a “bad relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin before comparing him to a bored schoolkid.
“I think there’s always been some tension in the U.S.-Russian relationship after the fall of the Soviet Union. There’s been cooperation in some areas. There’s been competition in others,” Obama said at his press conference today before congratulating his administration on “a lot of progress” in Russia relations during his first term.
“…What’s also true is, is that when President Putin, who was prime minister when Medvedev was president, came back into power, I think we saw more rhetoric on the Russian side that was anti-American, that played into some of the old stereotypes about the Cold War contest between the United States and Russia,” he continued. “And I’ve encouraged Mr. Putin to think forward as opposed to backwards on those issues with mixed success.”
Obama added “there are just going to be some differences and we’re not going to be able to completely disguise them, and that’s OK.”
“Keep in mind that although I’m not attending the summit, I’ll still be going to St. Petersburg because Russia’s hosting the G-20. That’s important business in terms of our economy and our jobs and all the issues that are of concern to Americans,” he said.
He further claimed “our decision to not participate in the summit was not simply around Mr. Snowden. It had to do with the fact that, frankly, on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress, Russia has not moved. And so we don’t consider that strictly punitive.”
“We’re going to assess where the relationship can advance U.S. interests and increase peace and stability and prosperity around the world. Where it can, we’re going to keep on working with them. Where we have differences, we’re going to say so clearly,” Obama said. “And my hope is, is that over time Mr. Putin and Russia recognize that rather than a zero sum competition, in fact, if the two countries are working together, we can probably advance the betterment of both peoples.”
When asked how much he can accomplish in Russia “reset” without a good relationship with Putin, Obama said, “I don’t have a bad personal relation with Putin.”
“When we have conversations, they’re candid. They’re blunt. Oftentimes, they’re constructive. I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is is that when we’re in conversations together, oftentimes it’s very productive,” the president said.
“So, the issue here really has to do with where — where do they want to take Russia. It’s substantive, on a policy front. And, no, right now, this is just a matter of where Mr. Putin and the Russian people want to go. I think if they are looking forward into the 21st century and how they can advance their economy and make sure that some of our joint concerns around counterterrorism are managed effectively, then I think we can work together.”