President Barack Obama explained in an interview with BuzzFeed that he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin views everything through a Cold War lens.
BuzzFeed pointed out to the president that Obama had a good relationship with former president and current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, but that relations with Russia are now at their worst since the Cold War.
When asked how that relates to Putin’s character, Obama said:
You know, I don’t want to psychoanalyze Mr. Putin. I will say that he has a foot very much in the Soviet past. That’s how he came of age. He ran the KGB. [Ed. note: Although Putin was an agent at the KGB, he was not the head of the agency. He did lead the FSB, which succeeded the KGB after the fall of the Soviet Union.] Those were his formative experiences.
So I think he looks at problems through this Cold War lens, and, as a consequence, I think he’s missed some opportunities for Russia to diversify its economy, to strengthen its relationship with its neighbours, to represent something different than the old Soviet-style aggression.
You know, I continue to hold out the prospect of Russia taking a diplomatic offering from what they have done in Ukraine. I think, to their credit, they have been able to compartmentalise and continue to work with us on issues like Iran’s nuclear program. But, if you look at what’s happened to the Russian economy, even before oil prices collapsed, it is not an economy that’s built for the 21st century.
Unfortunately, those forces for modernization inside of Russia, I think, have been sidelined. That’s bad for Russia and, over time, it’s bad for the United States, because if Russia is doing badly, the concern is that they revert to old expansionist ideas that really shouldn’t have any application in the 21st century.
These comments are much tamer than the statement Obama made in 2013 comparing Putin to a “bored kid in the back of a classroom.” Putin was reportedly infuriated by the comparison.
“Soviet-style aggression” is definitely an important part of Putin’s persona. During his end-of-year press conference in 2014, Putin compared Russia to a bear and said the West would “always try to put it in chains and … take out its teeth and claws, which in this case means our strategic nuclear deterrent.”
And on Saturday in Sochi, Putin said that U.S. hegemony is a “pseudo-occupation, but we won’t put up with it.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.