Speaking alongside the Canadian and Mexican leaders in Toluca, Mexico, Obama said the U.S. was pursuing its values and national interests in its approach to those situations, and he hoped that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia would in time come to realize that doing so was in its interests too.
“I don’t think there’s a competition between the United States and Russia,” Obama said, when asked whether the situations in Syrian and Ukraine have become “a tug of war between two world powers.”
Freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, free and fair elections, the ability to do business without paying a bribe “are fundamental rights that everybody wants to enjoy,” he said. “Now, Mr. Putin has a different view on many of those issues, and I don’t think that there’s any secret on that.”
“Our approach as the United States is not to see these [conflicts] as some Cold War chessboard, in which we’re at competition with Russia. Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future, that the people of Syria are able to make decisions without having bombs going off and killing women and children, or chemical weapons, or towns being starved because a despot wants to cling to power,” he said.
“Those express our values and our national interests, and we will continue to express those national interests. There are times, I hope, where Russia will recognize that over the long term they should be onboard with those values and interests as well.
“Right now there are times where we have strong disagreements, and when I speak to Mr. Putin I’m very candid about those disagreements – even as we will continue to pursue cooperation with Russia on areas where we have shared concerns,” Obama said.