Obama criticises Putin over anti-American rhetoric

Vladimir Putin: summit cancelled. Picture: Getty
Vladimir Putin: summit cancelled. Picture: Getty
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US PRESIDENT Barack Obama said yesterday that he was reassessing the tense relationship with Russia because of a growing number of issues on which the two countries differ.

He called on Russian leader Vladimir Putin to “think forward as opposed to backward” and abandon a Cold War mentality.

The comments came just days after Obama cancelled a planned summit with Putin next month after Russia granted asylum to intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

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

But the US president played down suggestions that he and the Russian leader do not get along.

“I don’t have a bad personal relationship with Putin. When we have conversations, they’re candid. They’re blunt. Oftentimes, they’re constructive,” he said.

But he took a shot at the often dour-looking Russian leader for his demeanour in meetings and appearances before reporters.

“He’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom,” Obama said. “But the truth is that when we’re in conversations together, oftentimes it’s very productive.”

He urged Putin to think in broad terms and not view the United States as an enemy.

Obama also praised trade and arms control successes that the US and Russia were able to seal when he was dealing with former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

His comments came as secretary of state John Kerry and defence secretary Chuck Hagel ended talks with their Russian counterparts that were intended to try to repair some of the damage caused by differences such as those over Syria, Russia’s domestic crackdown on civil rights and anti-gay legislation, a US missile defence plan for Europe and other issues.