President Obama told CBS that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine is really done out of weakness, not strength.
“Contrary to all the rhetoric that you’re hearing from Russia, there’s no excuse for not only Russian troops being massed along the borders of Ukraine, but also, there’s no excuse for the covert support and certainly the rhetorical support that you’re seeing for these militias that are taking over government buildings and causing chaos,” Obama said.
“What I’m saying is, is that the Russians generally have not been respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And that’s not simply my opinion. That’s world opinion,” he continued. “The question now becomes whether or not this can be de-escalated and resolved in a way that gives Ukrainians a chance to make their own decisions about their own lives.”
“What I’ve said consistently is that each time Russia takes these kinds of steps that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, that there are going consequences. Mr. Putin’s decisions are not just bad for Ukraine. Over the long term, they’re going to be bad for Russia.”
The president stressed, though, “we want to give diplomacy a chance as long, ultimately, the decisions are being made by Ukrainians, not by Russians, not by Americans, not by other European nations, but by Ukrainians themselves.”
“None of us think that somehow Ukraine can ignore Russia, should be hostile towards Russia, but we also don’t think that Ukraine should be a vassal state. Now, what we have said consistently is, is that we’re not going to see a military resolution to this problem,” he said.
“What Mr. Putin has been doing he does out of sense of weakness, not strength. The fact that he’s willing to endanger his economy and lose all credibility all around the world the way he has is indicative of the fact that Ukrainians are unsatisfied with a relationship in which you’ve got another country trying to dictate their foreign policy and their economy, and they want to move forward.”
When asked about this week’s tauntin of a U.S. warship in the Black Sea with repeated passes by a Russian fighter jet, Obama brushed off the assertion that it could have been a mocking gesture.
“I have to tell you that everybody around the world understands the superiority of our military. And as commander in chief, I don’t make decisions based on perceived signals. We make decisions very deliberately based on what’s required for our security and for the security of the allies,” he said. “The Russians understand that. They’re not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us, understanding that our conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians. We don’t need a war.”
During a four-hour television interview today, Putin was asked by a small child if Obama would save him from drowning.
“I don’t want to be drowning!” Putin said, laughing. “… I don’t think I have a close personal relationship with Obama. I think Obama is courageous and a good person, and for sure he would save me.”