Obama laments ‘backward’ thinking by Russia


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

President Barack Obama said Friday he was reassessing the U.S. relationship with Russia because of a growing number of issues on which the two countries differ, and he lamented what he called his mixed success in trying to persuade Russian leader Vladimir Putin to abandon a Cold War mentality.

Obama’s comments at a White House news conference just two days after canceling a planned summit with Putin next month came as senior U.S. and Russian officials met at the State Department to look at areas in which cooperation is possible. Those officials put a brave face on the badly strained ties and said the meeting produced some tangible results on the military front and on the push to forge a political solution to the crisis in Syria, among other issues.

Obama said Putin’s return to the Kremlin last year had brought about “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.”

“I’ve encouraged Mr. Putin to think forward as opposed to backward on those issues, with mixed success,” he told reporters. He said he decided not to attend the summit because “Russia has not moved” on a range of issues where the U.S. would like to see progress. He said his unhappiness with Russia’s granting asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden was one reason, but not the only one, for his decision.

“I think the latest episode is just one more in a number of emerging differences that we’ve seen over the last several months around Syria, around human-rights issues where, you know, it is probably appropriate for us to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia’s going, what our core interests are, and calibrate the relationship so that we’re doing things that are good for the United States and, hopefully, good for Russia,” Obama said.

He added that no one could hope for 100 percent agreement and that differences could not be completely disguised.

But he said U.S.-Russian cooperation is important.

Obama praised trade and arms- control successes that the U.S. and Russia were able to seal when he was dealing with former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Obama played down suggestions that he and Putin do not get along.

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