Obama dismisses Russia and says West must be firm with China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 9:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 9:18pm

US President Barack Obama in an interview with The Economist magazine dismissed Russia as a nation that "doesn't make anything" and said the West has to be "pretty firm" with China.

Obama has tried to focus the United States' foreign policy on Asia, a response to China's economic and military might. But for months, that "pivot" has been overshadowed by international crises, including Russia's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia is the world's third-largest oil producer and second-largest natural gas producer. Europe relies heavily on Russia's energy exports, complicating its response to the Ukraine crisis.

But Obama downplayed Moscow's global role, dismissing President Vladimir Putin as a leader causing short-term trouble for political gain that would hurt Russia in the long term.

"It's important to keep perspective. Russia doesn't make anything," he said. "Immigrants aren't rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity."

On Russia's regional challenges, he said: "We have to make sure that they don't escalate where suddenly nuclear weapons are back in the discussion."

Obama described US tensions with China as "manageable". China is engaged in territorial disputes with its neighbours in the South China Sea, and often skirmishes with the West over intellectual property issues.

"One thing I will say about China … You also have to be pretty firm with them, because they will push as hard as they can until they meet resistance," he said.