Deputy Nat’l Security Adviser Squirms When Asked About Obama’s Relations With Putin, Netanyahu
An Obama adviser was left stuttering on Wednesday when asked to compare the U.S. president’s relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin to those with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other world leaders, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes at first hesitated when posed the question by The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg at the Washington Ideas Forum. He then said, “I don’t think there’s any way to answer that.”
Goldberg pressed him to try. “Make believe they’re not here,” he said in jest, referring to the live audience at the Washington, D.C. event.
The ill-at-ease Rhodes retorted, “Can we put the pope at the top?” He then added, “In terms of their personal relationship… you know, he is what, you know, what you see. And when they sit down together, they talk on the phone, it’s not like they’re, you know, getting into arguments. They’re disagreeing with one another, and they’re having very straightforward conversations with each other about how they differ.”
Goldberg then asked Rhodes how “important” Obama thinks Putin is. Rhodes retorted that though there has been a “mass, mass focus” on Putin over the past week, neither the president nor the White House thinks Russia is currently the most important player in the world, the Daily Mail said.
Rhodes added, “I think China’s gonna play a more significant role in the 21st century,” and “sometimes that’s lost,” because Russia and the Middle East “were kind of the touchstone of our foreign policy for so many years” and the center of “tension.”
“We think that that’s incredibly important, but we also think there’s a big world out there,” he added.
The Washington forum was held two days after Putin addressed the United Nations General Assembly and blamed the U.S. for the rise of ISIS.