US President Barack Obama addresses a news conference at the White House in Washington, August 9, 2013© REUTERS/ Jason Reed
WASHINGTON, August 9 (RIA Novosti) – President Barack Obama on Friday called for “a pause” in US relations with Russia, even as both countries stressed that cooperation is crucial to their mutual interests and to the world despite sharp differences on a broad range of issues.
“It is probably appropriate for us to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia is 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 as well,” Obama told a White House news conference Friday.
The comments came two days after the White House announced it had canceled Obama’s planned summit next month with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing lack of prospects for progress in the bilateral agenda as well as Moscow’s harboring of accused US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.
But they also coincided with talks in Washington between top US and Russian officials that both sides took pains to describe as constructive while largely downplaying discord over issues such as missile defense, the ongoing civil war in Syria and Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to Snowden, who is wanted by the United States to face espionage charges at home.
In his most expansive public discussion of frayed US-Russian relations since his reelection last November, Obama told Friday’s news conference that Putin’s return to the Kremlin last year has coincided with “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 backwards on those issues – with mixed success” in the effort, Obama said.
He added that both countries should recognize “that there are just going to be some differences, and we’re not going to be able to completely disguise them.”
Obama denied that he had poor relations with Putin despite much public parsing of frosty looking images of their one-on-one meetings.
“I don’t have a bad personal relationship with Putin,” Obama said. “ … 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.”
Officials from both countries on Friday downplayed the importance of the Snowden impasse in a bilateral agenda that includes US missile defense plans, which Russia sees as a threat to its security, and the violence in Syria, where the Kremlin warns that US military aid to rebel forces risks empowering terrorists and US officials accuse Moscow of propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Obama said his decision to scrap the summit was not based “simply around Mr. Snowden,” but rather on what he described as Russia’s failure to move “on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, told reporters following meetings with US Secretary of State John Kerry and the two countries’ top defense officials in Washington on Friday that Snowden “did not overshadow our discussions.”
“This was mentioned as a fact which we have on our hands,” Lavrov said of the standoff over Snowden. “But the main discussion was about the issues of the agenda, which are of huge interest to the United States, to the Russian Federation and to the entire world.”
Lavrov insisted that Russia had acted in accordance with its own laws and with international law in granting Snowden asylum last week, a position he said Moscow has consistently communicated to Washington since the fugitive former US intelligence contractor landed in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23.
A senior US official told reporters during a conference call after Friday’s meetings that the Snowden affair did not “dominate or overshadow” the talks between Lavrov, Kerry, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
“What we were able to agree on was the need to move forward on areas of mutual interest,” the official said, adding that the talks focused on missile defense, arms reduction, political and military cooperation, and regional security, including in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea.
Both sides said Friday that they had agreed that a political settlement is the only acceptable resolution to the civil war in Syria and that they remain committed to holding the so-called so Geneva-2 conference aimed at bringing an end to the violence in Syria.
Speaking in Moscow on Friday, Putin’s top foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, said Obama’s invitation to meet the Russian president in Moscow remains open and that the Kremlin hopes the American president will accept the offer.
Talks between the two countries at the highest level are “very important … not only for both of our countries, but for guaranteeing global stability and security,” Ushakov said.
Obama said the United States said effective cooperation is possible if Russia “is looking forward into the 21st century” but that a “zero-sum” mindset is counterproductive for bilateral ties.
“If issues are framed as if the US is for it, then Russia should be against it, or we’re going to be finding ways where we can poke each other at every opportunity, then probably we don’t get as much stuff done,” Obama said.
Updated with comments from Obama, Lavrov, Ushakov, and a senior US official; adds background and details throughout.
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- tec123Make a stand Putin as you said "when one is weak they are beaten"04:51, 10/08/2013All Putin has to do is say YES to everything the US says and that and a blue horse the US will never see.
- PR101Probably a good idea05:09, 10/08/2013It is probably a good idea to pause and assess at this point. See if the two countries can establish some sort of mutually constructive relationship.
- bielecAgain, "My way or no way"05:27, 10/08/2013It seems that Putin could make exactly the same comments about the United States, but it isn't actually true. Bilateral relations between Russia and the United States are not symmetrical.
It is the U.S. that is engaged in criminal conquest wars that just happen to take place in the regions of the world rich in energy resources. It is the U.S. that uses terrorists and false flag operations as an excuse to circumvent international law and a pretext to engage in military interventions. It is the U.S. that supports illegal annexation policies of Israel and war crimes committed in the process. It is the U.S. and NATO that places their military bases and missiles around Russian borders, although during the Cuban Crisis, American rhetoric on such moves was exactly opposite. It is the U.S. that adopted policies of torture, extraordinary renditions (kidnapping), indefinite imprisonment without due process, political assassinations, and spying on their own citizens.
Finally, it is the U.S., and not Russia, that is continuously bullying and meddling in internal affairs of other sovereign nations.
Obama's demagogy is what it is - a demagogy aimed at creating false impressions.
Russia under Putin displays a very responsible foreign policy, one that is in line with international law, and one that is peaceful and based on diplomacy. Perhaps this is why Obama does not like it.
Quote: "...to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia is going..."
Mr. President, Russia is not going anywhere. It is here to stay.
- PR101Not exactly16:16, 10/08/2013It is not the US and NATO, but NATO that places bases near Russian borders. The countries involved include some of those who have experienced Russian/Soviet occupation and it is Russia who can change this by their approach to relations with these countries.
Putin's mentality was formed during Soviet times, one that knew if it was good for the US it was bad for Russia. This mentality will only be changed by the youth of Russia who are barely 22 years old at this time, those who were not raised under the Soviet system and mentality. Perhaps a new "win-win" mentality will emerge, rather than the "zero sum" mentality established by the Soviets.
- mishkaThis is a perfect summary.01:56, 11/08/2013Bielec I just applause you stand up.
- bielecTo PR10103:32, 11/08/2013Firstly, U.S. is a part of NATO and a leading part, I would say. The "missile defence" systems placed on Russia's borders are made in U.S. and operated by U.S. army.
Secondly, most of the former Soviet satellites experienced German occupation during WW2 that was much worse than their after WW2 reality. Yet, Germany is perceived as a "friend" today, although it is maintaining a colonial economy in these countries.
Thirdly, your statement that Putin's mentality was formed in Soviet times and this somehow makes him oppose America's criminal wars and policies today, does not make any sense. You need to look at real policies and actions of the two superpowers.
Finally, counting on young generation has always been at the base of any "regime change" strategy. The 22-year olds don't remember the old times and cannot compare the old and new realities using independent thinking and their own judgement rooted in their own experience. They have to rely on "sources" that more than often are nothing else but politically motivated propaganda. This is why it is more difficult for young people to know the truth. For the same reason, they are more idealistic, more naive, and more likely to be used. Nothing new here.
- moist"bored kid in the back of the classroom"..14:34, 10/08/2013..First of all, i can´t wait to hear the Russian response of this school-bully insult from a hapless Zombie-lame, AIPAC-remote controlled "president".
Perhaps they should respond to his israeli-firster Zionist funders & speech writers who run the show directly?
"Vlad the hammer´s" body language is that of a sovereign, experienced and professional president clearly tired of having to deal with second-hand and inbreed-stupid faces of the USraeli power elite. First Bush the chimpanzee and now this, to borrow a Harry Belafonte phrase, house-n*gger.
Obombah the zombie just do what they tell him to no matter what, counting the days to his fancy retirement...
"Vlad the Hammer can sense a wimp of Carter-esque proportions like a polar bear hunting a seal. He quickly evaluated how the Obama administration turned its already shaky credibility to ashes on two simultaneous fronts; because of the scale of the Orwellian/Panopticon complex detailed by Snowden's leaks, and because of the way he was being mercilessly hunted. "
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The clash of Russian and Western interests has given rise to a geopolitical battle. German politicians are trying to leave all doors and windows open for dialogue with Russia. Moscow does acknowledge this, and Germany is probably the only country with which it is ready to discuss European security.