Administration Dismisses Obama's Credibility Problem, Says Putin's Looking Weak

March 3, 2014 - 4:59 AM

Obama-phones-putin

The White House released this photo of President Obama talking on the phone in the Oval Office on March 1, 2014 with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

(CNSNews.com) – A senior administration official took issue with a reporter’s suggestion Sunday that the Ukraine crisis has left President Obama with “a credibility problem around the world with other foreign leaders, and particularly very strong ones like [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”

The official, one of three speaking during a background teleconference briefing, said on the contrary, Putin was the one looking weak after Obama rallied support to condemn his takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

“The premise of your question is that [Putin] is strong and the president of the United States is weak, when, in fact, he is not acting from a position of strength right now,” the official told the reporter, Fox News’ James Rosen.

“He is acting from a position of having lost the government that they backed in Kiev and made a play to move in to Crimea, a piece of Ukraine, and being met with international condemnation.”

The official pointed to statements of censure from NATO and Russia’s partners in the G8, and said that Obama’s credibility was being “manifested in how many leaders and how many countries are joining with us and standing with us in rejecting this Russian action.”

Rosen followed up: “It just seems to me that this may be a first occasion where senior administration officials of this rank are left arguing that an occasion where the head of Russia flagrantly disregards a warning from the president of the United States issued on the world stage as a win for that president of the United States.”

This is not about a win for anybody,” the official responded. “We’re focused on the people of Ukraine. We’re not focused on some political game here in Washington.”

At another point during the teleconference briefing, one of the other senior administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity conceded that, a day after Obama’s 90-minute phone conversation with Putin, there was no sign of reversal of Russia’s actions in Crimea; in fact more troops are being sent in.

“There is no question that they are in an occupation position in Crimea, that they are flying in reinforcements, and they’re settling in,” the official said. “That is the situation that we confront.”

Earlier on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Obama had been “very strong” in the phone conversation with Putin.

“The president was very strong. He made absolutely clear that this was unacceptable and that there will be serious repercussions if this stands,” he said in an appearance on CBS’s "Face The Nation."

“The president asked Mr. Putin, as – in fact, told Mr. Putin it was imperative to find a different path to roll back this invasion and undo this act of aggression,” Kerry added.