Obama was certainly in a testy mood when Steve Croft decided to probe him about his administration’s strategy on the ongoing Syrian civil war and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obama got on the defensive and claimed that he was always skeptical about training and arming moderate rebels to fight against Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The $580 million program, by the Pentagon has only managed to generate 60 trained fighters, instead of the 5,400 trained fighters that were expected.
During the initial exchanges the President appeared a bit nervous, and after being questioned by Steve Croft if he was comfortable talking about the failed initiative in Syria, Obama claimed that he was happy to talk about it. He admitted that the United States had to do something, because it has partners on the ground that are interested and invested in seeing a resolution come out of it. He claims that all possible options were considered before the initiative was launched.
Cranking it up a notch with Putin
After the initial tense back and forth about the failed initiative, like a tennis match between 2 seasoned professionals, the match came to life when Kroft started talking about Putin. On Putin’s move to get Russian troops into Syria, Kroft claimed that Putin was challenging the leadership of Obama.
Obama shot back instantly by questioning the concept of leadership. Kroft, claimed that a year ago when they did the interview, the United States and Russia were each showing off their military prowess to intimidate the other on the Ukrainian border, and it is now being continued in Syria. Obama said a year ago that the United States leads, as they are the indispensible nation, but Vladimir Putin seems to challenge that notion of leadership.
Steve Kroft mentioned the fact that Russian troops are moving into Syria and the Russians are openly conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II and are bombing allies of the United States.
Obama was in no mood to back down and claimed that Russia is barely able to support and maintain the base that they have in Syria and Putin is now forced to deploy his own troops and military in order to help their ally. Obama further said that he doesn’t believe that running the economy of a country into the ground by sending troops in order to help support your ally is good leadership.
Obama’s Definition of Leadership
Barack Obama claimed that his definition of leadership was to help lead in the areas of climate change, and claimed that he wanted to mobilize the entire world to ensure that Iran doesn’t get its hand on a nuclear weapon. He also claimed that there is a 60-country coalition, which is debating over the strategy that Russia is employing, and all of them are adamant that the strategy is not going to work.
Towards the end of the interview, Obama also indicated that he knew about Russia’s intention to send ground troops into Syria, when he met Putin at the United Nations General Assembly meeting 2 weeks ago. When asked if he had any idea about it at that time, Obama claims that the United States has got pretty good intelligence and that they are always watching. That is how they knew that the Russians planned to provide military assistance to Assad, since they were growing nervous over a potential collapse of his regimen.