A war of words erupted between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin as they delivered their remarks two hours apart at the UN General Assembly on Monday. The two leaders laid out conflicting opinions and views on how to handle the conflicts in Syria and all throughout the Middle East. At some point, they blamed each other for the situation in the region, although they both expressed willingness to work together in defeating ISIS.
In his speech, Mr. Obama took the opportunity to announce a new presidential guidance to expand each of the member country’s support to U.N. peace operations. “As the largest financial contributor to the U.N. peacekeeping operations, the United States intends to continue to do its part,” the president said. Mr. Obama outlined his guidance: more nations need to contribute more force; improve the protection of civilians; reform and modernize peace operations because of today’s complex conflicts.
Mr. Obama then spoke of nations making military force the top priority than seeking a more diplomatic solution. “In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar-alAssad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse,” Mr. Obama said. Nevertheless, “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” he said, adding, “we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo,” with reference to President Assad’s regime.
When it was time for Mr. Putin’s speech at the podium, the assembly heard more biting and scathing words. “We all know that after the end of the Cold War the world was left with one center of dominance, and those who found themselves at the top of the pyramid were tempted to think that, since they are so powerful and exceptional, they know best what needs to be done,” Mr. Putin said in his speech.
“We are all different, and we should respect that. Nations shouldn’t be forced to all conform to the same development model that somebody has declared the only appropriate one,” he said.
Without directly referring to U.S., Mr. Putin said that foreign “aggressive intervention rashly destroyed government institutions and the local way of life.” And as a result of the all-knowing intervention that other nations have done, “there is now violence, poverty, social disasters and total disregard for human rights, including even the right to life,” he said.
“I’m urged to ask those who created this situation: do you at least realize now what you’ve done? But I’m afraid that this question will remain unanswered, because they have never abandoned their policy, which is based on arrogance, exceptionalism and impunity,” Mr. Putin words went flying like swords.
Putin went on saying that the ISIS is actually developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes. From there, the ISIS aggressively expands into other regions and has risen to the most violent group as it is today, Mr. Putin said. He then said that some nations are committing the same mistake again.
“It is equally irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them.”
“We should finally admit that President Assad’s government forces and the Kurdish militia are the only forces really fighting terrorists in Syria,” he said further, probably referring to the U.S.-led coalition.
Later, during press conference, Mr. Putin told Russian reporters that the relations between Russia and U.S. are at a fairly low level. He stressed that it was not Russia’s intention to create a slump in relations between the two nations.
“That is the position of our American partners. Is it good or is it bad? I think it is bad – both for bilateral relations and for global affairs. But that is the choice made by the United States. We are always prepared to develop contacts and restore full-scale relations,” Mr. Putin told press.