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Obama to Putin: Think Forward

(AP) Obama laments ‘backward’ Russian thinking
By MATTHEW LEE
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON
President Barack Obama said Friday he was reassessing the relationship with Russia because of a growing number of issues on which the two countries differ, and he lamented what he called his mixed success in trying to convince Russian leader Vladimir Putin to abandon a Cold War mentality.

At a news conference while senior officials from the U.S. and Russia put a brave face on badly strained relations between Washington and Moscow, Obama said Putin’s return to the Kremlin last year had brought about “more rhetoric on the Russian side that was anti-American, that played into some of the old stereotypes about the Cold War contest between the United States and Russia.”



He added that no one could hope for 100 percent agreement and that differences could not be completely disguised. But he said U.S.-Russian cooperation is important.


Obama’s comments came shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrapped up talks with their Russian counterparts that were intended to try to repair some of the damage caused by the differences.

Kerry allowed that U.S.-Russia ties had been complicated by “the occasional collision” and “challenging moments.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also acknowledged the fractious state of the relationship but called on both sides to act like “grown-ups,” saying that’s how Moscow wants to handle the differences.

Both men maintained that U.S-Russian cooperation on even limited areas of shared concern is important.


Noting that he and Lavrov are both former ice hockey players, Kerry said that they understood “that diplomacy, like hockey, can sometimes result in the occasional collision, so we’re candid, very candid, about the areas in which we agree but also the areas in which we disagree.”


Russia has minced no words in expressing its disappointment that Obama cancelled the summit, and Lavrov made it clear that Moscow had been prepared to sign agreements on trade and nuclear research and security had it gone ahead.



U.S.-Russia discord had been simmering since Putin regained the Russian presidency more than a year ago.

On returning to power, he adopted a deeply nationalistic and more openly confrontational stance toward the United States than the man he had chosen to succeed him as president in 2008, Dmitry Medvedev, whose tenure roughly overlapped Obama’s first term in the White House.

The U.S. is upset about Moscow’s backing of President Bashar Assad in Syria’s civil war. The two nations also have been at odds over Russia’s domestic crackdown on civil rights, a U.S. missile defense plan for Europe, trade, global security, human rights and American adoptions of Russian children.

___

Associated Press writer Tom Raum contributed to this report.

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