Putin’s policies have not been “so smart,” since sanctions have proved devastating to his country, Obama said in an interview with NPR, released on Monday.
The Russian leader was hailed as a “genius” earlier this year for showing resilience in the face of Western sanctions.
“You’ll recall that three or four months ago, everybody in Washington was convinced that President Putin was a genius,” Obama said in the interview, which was recorded early in the month.
“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, suggesting his “strategic patience” has been a key factor in dealing with Moscow.
Russia has been witnessing a decline in the value of its currency, which is going through its worst crisis since 1998 due to Western bans, dropping oil prices and trade fears.
Asked whether he was “just lucky that the price of oil went down and therefore their [Russian] currency collapsed,” Obama replied that once the sanctions were put in place, the US and its European allies knew Russia’s oil-dependent economy would be hit sooner or later.
The US president said that the sanctions “would make the economy of Russia sufficiently vulnerable” that “if and when there were disruptions with respect to the price of oil… that they’d have enormous difficulty managing it.”
“Ultimately, the big advantage we have with Russia is we’ve got a dynamic, vital economy, and they don’t,” he said. “They rely on oil; we rely on oil and iPads and movies and you name it.”
The United States and the European Union have imposed a series of sanctions on Russia over the allegation that Moscow is playing a role in the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusation.
Obama signed the latest Russian sanctions legislation into law on Dec. 18.