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Obama Calls Russia a "Weaker Country" in His Last Year-End Press Conference
12/18/2016 Foreign Policy Lesley F
keywords: Commerce International Trade Russian Hacking

President Barack Obama had harsh words for Russia in his last year-end press conference on Friday, calling the former superpower a "smaller" and "weaker country" whose "economy doesn't produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms." Coming as tensions between the United States and Russia continue to grow in the wake of allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, Obama's remarks also included a warning that Russia could still threaten the United States if Americans choose to "abandon" their democratic principles.

In his statement to the press, Obama directly addressed the emerging intelligence reports which suggest that Russia may have attempted to influence and undermine the U.S. presidential election process through a series of cyberattacks. Severe in his judgment of the Kremlin, Obama stated that "the Russians can't change us or significantly weaken us." Obama further criticized Russia by noting that the country "[does not] innovate."

However, Obama did also issue a warning that under Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime, Russia could "weaken" U.S. democracy if Americans relax their commitment to the country's core values. Obama noted that Russian actions "can impact us if we lose track of who we are" and "if we abandon our values." Specifically, Obama cited Putin's potential to effect the United States in the same way that he is "trying to weaken Europe" if Americans "start buying into notions that it's okay to intimidate the press," "lock up dissidents," or "discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like."

While Obama did address other issues on Friday, the president's last press conference of the year focused mainly on Russia and its alleged interference with the presidential election. In recent weeks, President-Elect Donald Trump has frequently denied any suggestion that Russia was responsible for cyberattacks that affected the presidential election or that Putin was trying to bolster Trump's chances of victory.

In his statements on Friday, Obama specifically addressed concerns that the investigation into Russian interference in the election might turn partisan. Obama was critical of some Republicans, noting that "over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB." Warning that the investigation must not be affected by party divisions, Obama suggested that "Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave" at the widespread support for Putin among Republican voters.

Source: Lesley F

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