Obama Issues 'Russia-Sympathetic' Words In CNN Interview

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Jun 23, 2023 - 09:20 PM

Former US President Barack Obama issued some surprising statements related to the Russia-Ukraine war, which came during a CNN interview which aired Thursday. Any other celebrated mainstream political commentator might have been canceled over the same remarks, given they are being widely seen as Russia-sympathetic, but not the famed Democratic former president.

During the segment, Amanpour pressed Obama over why his administration didn't do more to stand up to Putin at the time.

The CNN anchor strongly suggested that a more muscular US stance could have prevented Russia from absorbing Crimea. 

That's when the former president said: 

"There’s a reason why there was not an armed invasion of Crimea [in 2014], because Crimea was full of a lot of Russian speakers," he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, adding that "there was some sympathy to the view that Russia was representing its interests."

Obama's main defense was that "Ukraine of that time was not the Ukraine that we’re talking about today." He still said that his actions on early sanctions prevented Russia from going further at the time. 

"Part of what happened was, both myself and also [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, who I give enormous credit for, had to pull in a lot of other Europeans kicking and screaming to impose the sanctions that we did and to prevent Putin from continuing through the Donbass and through the rest of Ukraine," Obama explained.

Interestingly, the Kremlin greeted Obama's assessment positively, with Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying Obama's fresh remarks represent "rational thinking". He said, "from time to time such rational thinking finds its way out [of the US]."

He added: "There was indeed a sufficiently large faction of politicians who supported the idea of developing good relations with Russia [and] who spoke out against Russophobia being imposed." But Peskov added a corrective and qualification in follow-up to Obama's controversial remarks: "It’s not a certain part of the Crimean population, but practically the entire Crimean population that wanted to become part of the Russian Federation."

The comments drew outrage from Ukrainian and US pundits alike...

Obama's interview immediately triggered condemnations from prominent pundits online, with some calling his remarks on Russia representing Crimean interests "shameful", and others saying this is tantamount to him justifying the Crimea 'annexation' as legal and justified. 

Janathan Eyal of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI, the UK's most visible defense think tank) said Obama is "peddling self-serving nonsense". And yet, Obama is arguably just being a realist in evaluating the historical circumstances behind the war.