President Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday that his singular focus in Syria is to eliminate Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons, not enter into a geopolitical grudge match with Russia.
“This is not the Cold War. This is not a contest between the United States and Russia,” Obama said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” program, which was recorded Friday. “The fact of the matter is that, if Russia wants to have some influence in Syria – post-Assad – that doesn’t hurt our interests.”
Obama said he doesn’t believe Russian President Vladimir Putin “has the same values that we do,” particular in relation to the Syrian dictator, a close Russian ally. But he emphasized that “we have worked together on important issues” and “we both have an interest in preventing chaos.”
“I know that sometimes this gets framed … [as] the U.S. versus Russia, but that’s not what this is about,” he said. “What this is about is how do we make sure that we don’t have the worst weapons in the hands, either of a murderous regime or … some elements of the opposition that are as opposed to the United States as they are to Assad.”
The comments were made the evening before a nascent agreement was announced between the two countries on a framework to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons by non-military means.
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