President Barack Obama said Wednesday it is "worth noting" Russia's role in the violent civil unrest in both Ukraine and Syria.
"I do think it is worth noting that you have in this situation in one country that has been a client state of Russia and another whose government is currently being supported by Russia whose people obviously have a very different view and vision for their country," the president said of Ukraine and Syria. "And we have now seen a great deal of turmoil there that arose organically from within those countries."
Obama's comments came in response to a reporter's question of whether the violence in both countries has become a "tug of war" between the U.S. and Russia.
In Ukraine, protests took a violent turn this week in the capital of Kiev after opposition leaders began to fear President Viktor Yanukovych was further cementing an alliance with Russia over the European Union. Russia has also supported the Syrian government's war against opposition forces that has lasted nearly three years.
The United State has given support to the Syrian rebels and has said it is the responsibility of the Ukrainian government to stop the violence and listen to the protesters.
Obama, who was meeting with North American leaders at summit in Mexico, expressed both caution and optimism at a reported truce the Ukranian government had reached with the opposition.
"I don't think this is a competition between the United States and Russia," Obama said. "I think this is an expression of the hopes and aspirations of the people inside of Syria and the people inside of the Ukraine who recognize the basic freedoms...Those are fundamental rights that everyone should be able to enjoy. Now, Mr. Putin has a different view on many of those issues, and I don't think there is any secret to that."
However, Obama said he did not view the conflicts "as some cold war chess board" and that the two countries continue to work together in areas where there can be agreement.
"There are times, I hope, that Russia will recognize that they should be on board with these vales as well," he added. "Right now, there are times where will still have heavy disagreement and when I speak to Mr. Putin I am very candid on those disagreements."
First published February 19 2014, 7:24 PM