This article has been updated, 5:40 p.m. Friday.
President Obama on Friday lamented his souring relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying Putin had embraced a Cold War mindset that had prompted the United States to reassess how the two countries work together.
In his first term, Obama trumpeted a so-called reset with Russia, saying the divide between the two countries on national security and trade issues had lessened. Those days are long gone.
Earlier this week, Obama scrapped a meeting with Putin planned for next month in Moscow, due mostly to Putin’s decision to grant National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden asylum. The United States and Russia have clashed of late on issues ranging from the civil war in Syria to broader human-rights violations.
“I’ve encouraged Mr. Putin to think forward rather than backward on a number of issues, with mixed success,” Obama said during a White House press conference, making his most extensive remarks about the high-profile spat with Russia.
However, the president announced the U.S. would not boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. New anti-gay laws in Russia have caused some to question whether homosexual athletes would face the prospect of arrest during the quadrennial competition.
“One of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there,” Obama said. “And if Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker.”
Earlier Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with their Russian counterparts in Washington, an attempt to facilitate some kind of dialogue amid escalating tensions.
“It’s no secret that we have experienced some challenging moments and obviously not just over the Snowden case,” Kerry said. “We will discuss these differences today, for certain, but this meeting remains important above and beyond the collisions and moments of disagreement.”
Also angering U.S. officials, Putin’s regime has supplied resources to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to use against the anti-government rebels in the deadly civil war there.
Despite the falling out with Putin, Obama insisted that he could still work with the Russian leader on a variety of issues facing the two world powers.
“I don’t have a bad personal relationship with Putin,” Obama said, adding that the media focused too much on body language between the two leaders.
“He's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom," Obama joked about the Russian leader.