President Vladimir Putin's military mission in Syria is a sign of Russia's weakness, not a show of its leadership, says President Obama. Russia has been forced to prop up a teetering Assad regime, he maintains, Russia's only ally in the region. Mr. Obama speaks at length to Kroft about the situation in Syria and about domestic politics, including his opinions on Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, whether his vice president, Joe Biden, will run for president, and his take on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The interview will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m ET/PT.
An excerpt from the 60 Minutes interview was broadcast on CBS This Morning. A transcript of that excerpt is below:
Steve Kroft: A year ago when we did this interview, there was some saber-rattling between the United States and Russia on the Ukrainian border. Now it's also going on in Syria. You said a year ago that the United States-- America leads. We're the indispensable nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.
President Barack Obama: In what way? Let-- let's think about this-- let-- let--
Steve Kroft: Well, he's moved troops into Syria, for one. He's got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II.
President Barack Obama: So that's-- so that's --
Steve Kroft: bombing the people-- that we are supporting.
President Barack Obama: So that's leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office-- Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin.
Steve Kroft: Right, right, right.
President Barack Obama: Syria was Russia's only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they've had for a long time. Mr. Putin now is devoting- his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine--
Steve Kroft: He's challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He's challenging your leadership-
President Barack Obama: Well-- Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership.