President Barack Obama says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pining for the former Soviet Union is shaping his approach to the conflict in Ukraine and potentially causing him to misread the United States’ intentions.
“What I have repeatedly said is that he may be entirely misreading the West,” Obama said in an interview with Scott Pelley that aired Friday on “CBS This Morning.” “He’s certainly misreading American foreign policy. We have no interest in encircling Russia and we have no interest in Ukraine, beyond letting the Ukrainian people make their own decisions about their own lives.”
Obama said he believes Putin views the breakup of the Soviet Union as “tragic” and thinks the Russian leader is riding a wave of nationalism to compensate for what he sees as the West trying to “take advantage” of that country.
“I think he’s been willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union,” he said. “You would have thought that after a couple of decades that there’d be an awareness on the part of any Russian leader that the path forward is not to revert back to the kinds of practices that, you know, were so prevalent during the Cold War.”
The President told Pelley it is “well-known” that Russia is amassing troops on the Ukrainian border, but that it remains to be seen whether that is just a move to intimidate Ukraine or a precursor to other military plans. He also acknowledged that Russia has legitimate trade interests in Ukraine and is bound to its neighbor by a shared language and heritage.
“But there’s a difference between that and sending in troops, and because you’re bigger and stronger taking a piece of the country,” he added. “That is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century.”
Watch below, courtesy of CBS News:
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.