Obama blasts Russia's 'counterproductive' actions in Syria
© Getty Images

President Obama on Friday blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin's government for engaging in "counterproductive" airstrikes in Syria against moderate rebels.

ADVERTISEMENT
"The kinds of airstrikes against moderate opposition that Russia is engaging in is going to be counterproductive, it's going to move us farther away, rather than towards, the ultimate solution that we all should be looking for," Obama said at the White House.

Obama suggested that that Russia's airstrikes, which started this week, damaged international efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the four-year civil war in Syria and the U.S. hope to eventually see President Bashar Assad leave power.

"We are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad's behavior," Obama said, adding, "Eventually, Syria will fall. The Assad regime will fall."

Lawmakers have called on Obama to clarify his strategy in Syria after Russia ignored repeated warnings and began bombing rebel groups there this week in an effort to boost Assad's forces. Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly been called to testify before Congress next week. 

Obama on Friday pushed back on "half-baked solutions" or those "trying to downplay the challenges" of the situation in Syria, saying that Putin went into Syria "not out of strength but weakness" to protect and boost his "client" Assad with "his own planes and his own pilots."

"Iran and Assad make up Mr. Putin's coalition at the moment. The rest of the world makes up ours," Obama said. "I don't think people are fooled by the current strategy." 

"We are going to continue to go after [ISIS], we are going to continue to reach out to a moderate opposition," Obama said. "We reject Russia's theory that everybody opposed to Assad is a terrorist. We think that is self-defeating; it will get them into a quagmire."

Obama said that from Russia's perspective, Islamic terrorists and moderate Syrian rebels are "all terrorists – and that's a recipe for disaster, and it's one that I reject."
 
Obama said that the U.S. was engaged in technical conversations about "deconfliction" in Syria.