Russian economy attacked through oil prices – Obama

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo/Doug Mills)
Pushing down global oil prices was part of Washington’s rationale to destabilize the Russian economy, US President Barack Obama said in an interview to National Public Radio, a non-profit media organization.

Oil price key to Russian economy crumbling

Answering a direct question whether it was the US that collapsed oil prices globally to create problems for Russia, Obama said that Russian economy “was already contracting and capital was fleeing even before oil collapsed.”

Obama revealed that it was a “part of our rationale” that the “only thing” keeping Russian economy “afloat” was the price of oil.

Sanctions only made Russian economy more vulnerable to the “inevitable” oil price disruptions. “They'd have enormous difficulty managing it,” Obama said.

The US should be “firm with the Russians” when it comes to issues like Ukraine, but also America must build its manufacturing base to make sure its economy is better than Russia’s.

“Ultimately, the big advantage we have with Russia is we've got a dynamic, vital economy, and they don't. They rely on oil; we rely on oil and iPads and movies and you name it,” Obama said, adding that “making sure that prosperity is broadly shared” is also important for American people to feel confident about the future.

AFP Photo / David McNew

“We don't really have a serious conventional military peer”

Pressure on Russia has not helped to solve the Ukrainian crisis, Obama said, because such international problems are big, difficult and messy.

“But wherever we have been involved over the last several years, I think the outcome has been better because of American leadership,” Obama said, adding later in his speech that in Ukraine the US has been upholding international norms.

Speaking about the future, Obama said that “America is in a great position and our military is more capable than any military in history.”

“We don't really have a serious peer, at least on the conventional level,” Obama said, but acknowledged that “obviously Russia is a significant nuclear power.”

Putin ‘not so smart’ after all – Obama

“You'll recall that three or four months ago, everybody in Washington was convinced that President Putin was a genius... And he had outmaneuvered all of us and he had, you know, bullied and, you know, strategized his way into expanding Russian power,” Obama said.

“We don't want war with Russia,” Obama recalled telling himself at the time. So instead he concentrated on applying “steady pressure” on Moscow.

An international coalition with European partners was formed “to oppose Russia's violation of another country's sovereignty,” Obama said, after the interviewer mentioned the Crimean Peninsula.

After the citizens of Crimea voted overwhelmingly in favor of reuniting with Russia in spring, Moscow quickly organized the region’s reentry into the Russian Federation.

“Over time, this would be a strategic mistake by Russia,” Obama said.

“And today, you know, I'd sense that at least outside of Russia, maybe some people are thinking what Putin did wasn't so smart,” Obama said.

US President Barack Obama.(AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)

“America never colonized or grabbed resources of other countries”

“America's never been in the business of colonizing other countries and grabbing their resources… we've never been in the business of bullying folks into doing things that we can't do for ourselves,” Obama said, adding that when such things were done, they “never worked out all that well. That's not our best tradition.”

America’s best tradition is to lead by example, to be strong and secure to stand up for “what we believe in,” Obama said, emphasizing that the US is “in a great position to do that right now.”

Through the last two years of his presidency, Obama said he intended to build on work “that we've done over the last six years” and expressed hope he can bring the country together to do it.