Obama: Russia Has Longstanding Assad Relations

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Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama answers Bloomberg's Margaret Talev's questions about Syria at a conference in Sweden. (Source: Bloomberg)

It has been a very interesting development after copenhagen.

We were both present in copenhagen and we were saying that the u.s. had the highest in missions in the world and that china was catching up.

Now only a few years later we have a situation where china has doubled emissions that we have in the u.s. this is reshaping the situation when it comes to climate protection.

We are both responsible for lowering our emissions, but we must face the fact that we soon have a situation where 25% of global emissions are from the european union and the united states together.

We need to take in the 75% outside the european union and the united states.

We want to deal with this, but it has to be a global answer.

Final question goes to margaret caliph of bloomberg news -- margaret talev of bloomberg news.

Tomorrow you will see mr.

Putin at the g 20 with the relationship between the u.s. and russia seriously strained.

Are your efforts now excluding russia from the decision, and looking back at your hopes for a reset, and you believe -- do you believe you have overestimated what you could change, or do you believe that mr.

Bute and change the rules midway -- mr.

Putin change to the rules midway?

If you'll will indulge me with one more cash i will indulge you.

Could you walk us through your thinking during that walk on the south lawn -- goodness, margaret, you are passing things now.

-- pressing things now.

You have expressed doubts about military action in syria, and i wonder if you could be more specific about what your concerns of the consequences may be and whether you think mr.

Putin shares any burden of response ability for mr.

Assad's actions.

Ok, i am going to try to remember all of this.

First of all, the reset in the russian relationship was not done on a whim.

There were specific u.s. interests that i believe we could pursue with russia where the interests overlap that would help us on our long-term national security and our economy.

We succeeded.

We succeeded in passing a new start treaty that reduced nuclear sites for the united states and russia.

Russia joined the wto, which bound them to a set of international rules governing trade, which i think ultimately will be good for the russian economy but is also good for its trading partners and potential companies investing in russia, and that includes u.s. companies.

We work together on counterterrorism issues.

They have provided us significant assistance in supplying our troops in afghanistan.

There were a whole host of outcomes from that reset that were valuable to the united states.

There is no doubt that, as i indicated a while back, we kind of hit a wall in terms of additional progress.

But i have not written off the idea that the united states and russia are going to continue to have common interests even as we have very profound differences on some other issues.

And where our interests overlap , we should pursue common action.

Where we have got differences, we should be candid about them and try to manage those differences but not sugarcoat them.

One area where we have got a significant difference right now is the situation in syria.

Russia has a long-standing relationship with the assad regime.

And as a consequence , it has been very difficult to get russia working through the security council to acknowledge some of the terrible behavior of the assad regime and to try to push towards the kind of elliptical transition that is needed -- the political transition that is needed to stabilize syria.

I said to mr.

Putin directly and i continue to believe that even if you have great concerns about elements in the opposition, and we have got concerns about certain elements of the opposition, like al-nusra, and even if you are concerned about the territorial integrity of syria, and we are concerned about the territorial integrity of syria, if you want to end the violence and slaughter inside syria, you have to have a political transition, because it is not possible for mr.

Assad to regain legitimacy in a country where he has killed tens of thousands of his own people.

That will not happen.

So far at least, mr.

Putin has rejected that logic.

As far as security council action, we have gone repeatedly to the security council for even the most modest of resolutions condemning some of their actions that have taken place there, and it has been resisted by russia.

Do i hold out hope that mr.

Putin may change his position on some of these issues?

I am always hopeful, and i will continue to engage him because i think that international action would be much more effective, and ultimately we could end d eaths much more rapidly, if russia takes a different approach to these problems.

In terms of my decision to take the issue to congress, this had been brewing in my mind for a while.

Some people have noted, and i think this is true, that had i been in the senate in the midst of this period, i probably would have suggested to a democratic or republican president that congress should have the ability to weigh in on an issue like this that is not immediate, imminent, time sensitive.

When the chairman of the joint chiefs, mr.

Dempsey, indicated to me that whether we struck today, tomorrow, or a month from now, we could still do so effectively, then i think that raised the question of why not ask congress to debate this in a serious way.

Because i do think it raises issues that are going to occur for us and for the international community for many years to come.

The truth of matter is that under international law, the security council resolution, self-defense or defense of an ally provides a clear basis for action.

But increasingly what we are going to be confronted with our situations like syria, close of oh, like rwanda -- like kosovo, like rwanda, in which we may not always have the security council that can act.

It may be paralyzed for a whole host of reasons.

And yet we have all of these international norms that we are interested in upholding.

We may not be directly, imminently threatened by what is taking place in a kosovo or syria or rwanda in the short term, but our long-term security will be impacted in a profound way and our humanity is impacted in a profound way.

I think it is important for us to get out of the habit, in those circumstances -- again, i am not talking about circumstances where our national security is directly impacted and we have been attacked, etc., where a president has to act quickly, but in circumstances like what i described, it is important for us to get out of the habit of just saying, well, we will let the president stretch the boundaries of his authority as far as he can, congress will sit on the sidelines, snipe, if it works, the sniping will be a little less, and if it doesn't, or more, but either way, the american people and their representatives are not fully invested in what are tough choices.

And we as a country and the world are going to have to take tough choices.

I do get frustrated, although i understand how complex this is -- any time you involve military action, people ask if this does more harm than good and i understand those arguments and i wrestled with them everyday.

But i do have to ask people, well, if you are outraged by the slaughter of innocent people, what are you doing about it?

If the answer is we should engage diplomatically, well, we have engaged automatically -- engaged diplomatically.

We should shine the spotlight and changes governments -- well, oftentimes these governments show no shame.

We should act internationally -- well, sometimes because of the various alignments it is hard to act through a security council resolution.

And so how do we resign ourselves to saying there is nothing we can do about it and we will just shake our heads and go about our dismiss -- our

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.


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