“I’d like to think if anyone were out there drowning, I’d save them," Obama said in response to a question at a news conference in South Korea. "I used to be a pretty good swimmer. I grew up in Hawaii.”
Last week, Putin was asked if he thought Obama would rescue him during an extended TV interview with Russia’s RT network.
The foreign leaders have sparred repeatedly in recent months, over not only Russia's incursion into Ukraine, but the Kremlin's embrace of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and its support for the Assad regime in Syria.
Obama went on to say that despite recent conflicts with Putin, “there are still areas where we should be cooperating,” including on joint counterterrorism operations. He praised Russian assistance in coordinating American military efforts in the Middle East.
But, the president stressed, Putin’s “decisions recently … make it much more difficult for us to cooperate, and I suspect that will linger for a long time to come.”
“The violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity in Ukraine is a principle the United States has to stand up to,” Obama said.
Obama also voiced disappointment that Putin has “an increasing tendency to view the world through a Cold War prism."
“What’s clear is, you’re right, Mr. Putin is going to make decisions on what he thinks is best for Russia,” Obama said.
Still, in a muted compliment, Obama said that, “President Putin is not a stupid man.”
He said the Russian leader recognized the dangers of “Russia being isolated so no businessman or woman with any sense is going to want to invest there” and had recently acknowledged that sanctions levied against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine were having an impact.
“There’s going to come to a point where he has to make a decision,” Obama said.