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Obama says he had to drag Europe 'kicking and screaming' to confront Putin when he was president

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obama putin
Then-US President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland June 17, 2013. The next year, Russia was exeplled from the body, known thereafter as the G7.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
  • Obama said that as president he had to force European countries to challenge Putin's Russia.

  • Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, prompting some sanctions from the US.

  • Obama has been widely criticized for not standing up to Russia during his time in office.

Former President Barack Obama said he had to drag Europe "kicking and screaming" to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin while in office.

Obama dealt with several instances of Russian aggression while president, notably the fallout from President Vladimir Putin's 2008 invasion of Georgia and the 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Speaking Wednesday at an event hosted by The University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, Obama said he was happy with Europe's response to the current Ukraine invasion, which has taken the form of harsh sanctions and military aid.

Obama said that it was a change from when he was president.

"As somebody who grappled with the incursion into Crimea and the eastern portions of Ukraine, I have been encouraged by the European reaction," Obama said.

"Because, in 2014, I often had to drag them kicking and screaming to respond in ways we would have wanted to see from those of us who describe ourselves as western democracies."

Like the US, the EU and UK imposed harsh sanctions on Russia following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, targeting banks, seizing assets, and severing many trade ties.

In 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea and expressed support for pro-Kremlin rebels in the Donbas region of Ukraine, Obama moved to punish Putin with sanctions on Russian entities, also banning US exports to and imports from Crimea.

The EU also imposed economic sanctions on Crimea.

However, Russia pressed ahead with completing the annexation. In one case, the US sanctioned Bank Rossiya, saying it was the bank of Russia's elite, a move which Putin derided.

"I personally didn't have an account there, but I'll definitely open an account there on Monday," he said.

At the time, Obama painted a picture of unity between the US and the EU over Russia.

"If anyone in the Russian leadership thought the world wouldn't care about their actions in Ukraine or that they could drive a wedge between the European Union and the US, they clearly miscalculated," Obama said during a 2014 trip to Europe.

This does not line up with his assessment eight years later, when Obama was clear there were internal disputes.

Putin found little common ground with Obama

Obama too has been criticized for showing weakness toward Putin.

In 2014, Mitt Romney, who ran against Obama for president in 2012, said Obama was naive in his approach to Russia. In 2017, former President Donald Trump outright blamed Obama for letting Putin take Crimea.

Critics of Obama often point to a comment he made to Romney during a 2012 presidential debate to show how wrong he's been over Russia.

"The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War's been over for 20 years," Obama told Romney.

The relationship between Obama and Putin was extremely tense and often marked by derision from the Russian leader.

Shortly after becoming president, Obama showed his intent to form good relations with Russia, calling for "a reset" and saying it was time to shed the legacy of the Cold War and to move on.

However, than strategy was short-lived, with relations quickly souring over Putin's decision to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his apparent lack of remorse over Russia's invasion of its neighbor Georgia in 2008.

In turn, when the US led an intervention into Libya in 2011, Putin slammed Obama, and compared the mission to the 12th and 13th century crusades.

Read the original article on Business Insider