US President Barack Obama said former Russian President Vladimir Putin and his hand-picked successor should expect an in-person reminder the Cold War is over when the US leader makes his first trip to a Moscow summit.
Days before he departs for Russia, Obama said on Thursday that Putin “still has a lot of sway” in his nation as its nominal prime minister.
“I think that it’s important that even as we move forward with [Russian] President [Dmitry] Medvedev that Putin understand that the old Cold War approaches to US-Russian relations is outdated,” he said. “Putin has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new.”
In an interview with reporters, Obama discussed a wide range of topics: The president said he could see abandoning his own proposal to indefinitely hold some terror detainees — “it gives me great pause” — and that he would not be comfortable ordering such a disposition for Guantanamo Bay prisoners without congressional action.
In light of recent Supreme Court cases dealing with highly charged questions about the nation’s racial progress, Obama said the high court was “moving the ball” away from affirmative action.
Yet he also noted that the justices had not foreclosed the continued use of racial preferences in hiring and college admissions, which he said he supported in some circumstances. In any case he said affirmative action was neither the panacea — nor the problem — that it’s often made out to be.
With most experts in agreement that there’s a good chance Iran could have a usable nuclear bomb sometime during his presidency, Obama said: “I’m not reconciled with that.”
The 24-minute interview, with Obama nearly six months into his job and his approval ratings still high, ranged from the serious to the silly. Asked to let Americans in on a secret about White House life, the president chose the pastry chef and rued that “the best pie I have ever tasted” is a challenge to the first couple’s self-discipline and waistlines.
Asked to choose between basketball greats Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, Obama — a committed hoops player and fan of Jordan’s Chicago Bulls — didn’t pause for even a second.
“Michael,” he said, picking the retired superstar. “I haven’t seen anybody match up with Jordan yet.”
Scheduled to depart tomorrow for a trip to Russia, an international summit in Italy and his first trip to Africa as president, Obama praised Moscow for its cooperation in international efforts to persuade North Korea and Iran to abandon their nuclear development programs.
After North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in May, the UN approved “the most robust sanction regime that we’ve ever seen with respect to North Korea,” he said.
He expressed optimism he could get international agreement for even tougher action if North Korea persists in defying demands that it dismantle its nuclear weapons and stop production.