President Obama in an interview Sunday hit back at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recently dismissed the idea of American “exceptionalism” and criticized Obama’s threat to use military force in Syria.
“I don’t think that Mr. Putin has the same values that we do,” Obama said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “And I think obviously, by protecting Mr. Assad, he has a different attitude about the Assad regime. But what I’ve also said to him directly is that we both have an interest in preventing chaos; we both have an interest in preventing terrorism; the situation in Syria right now is untenable.”
Though Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart reached an agreement Saturday about forcing Syria to give up its stockpile of chemical weapons, there is clearly no love lost between Obama and Putin.
“Nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels — were the perpetrators of this,” Obama said about Putin’s assertion that anti-government forces, not Bashar Assad’s regime, were responsible for an August chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Critics contend that Putin outplayed Obama during the Syria debate, essentially increasing Russia’s clout in the Middle East and weakening the United States’ negotiating leverage over Iran.
The president, however, said Iran should not be emboldened by his decision to back away from a planned military attack in Syria.
“What the Iranians understand is that the nuclear issue is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue,” Obama said. “The threat against Iran — against Israel — that a nuclear Iran poses, is much closer to our core interests. A nuclear arms race in the region is something that would be profoundly destabilizing.”