During a September 15 appearance on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, President Obama quoted Ronald Reagan again and said U.S. pressure is keeping Syria and Russia in check.
Early in the interview segment of the program, Stephanopoulos asked Obama if he was confident the chemical attacks will not happen again. To this Obama responded: “Well, I think we have the possibility of making sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Think about where we were [when this event happened]. This initial response is that the Syrians act as if they don’t know anything about it, at that point they are not even acknowledging that they’ve got chemical weapons. The Russians are protecting the Syrians, suggesting that there is no possibility that the Assad regime might have done this. And the inspectors weren’t even in yet.
And as a consequence of the pressure that [the U.S.] has applied for the last couple of weeks, we have Syria for the first time acknowledging that it has chemical weapons, agreeing to join the convention that prohibits the use of chemical weapons. and the Russians–their primary sponsor–saying that they will push Syria to get all of their chemical weapons out.
Obama the said he expects the Russians to work with us to bring about “political transition” in Syria once the weapons are out, and Stephanopoulos asked: “Do you trust that [Putin] has the same goal, do you really trust that?”
Obama responded: “I don’t think that Mr. Putin has the same values that we do. And I think, obviously, by protecting Mr. Assad, he has a different attitude the Assad regime.” Yet Obama believes he and Putin find common ground on wanting to prevent chaos and terrorism in Syria.
Asked how he can ever be confident that someone with different values is holding up his end of the bargain, Obama said: “Ronald Reagan said, ‘trust but verify,’ and I think that’s always been the experience of U.S. presidents when we’re interacting with, first, Soviet leaders and now Russian leaders.”
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