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President Putin and President Obama butt heads at UN assembly

Monday was the 70th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations, and to mark the occasion Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the General Assembly for the first time in more than a decade.

What followed was a 25-minute long speech criticizing U.S intervention in the Middle East.

The day was filled with speakers from all over the world, including President Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But it was Putin’s speech that stole the spotlight.

The underlying theme of the Russian president’s speech was clear: Western interventions across the Middle East has backfired and created even more issues for the already turbulent region. Though never explicitly calling out the U.S., it was clear whom his comments were targeted at. At one point, Putin took particular aim at the U.S involvement in Iraq and Libya saying,

“Rather than bringing about reforms, an aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself. Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster. Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life. I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you’ve done?”

He also attacked the U.S failed strategy in Syria, which is now dominated by ISIS. Putin called for more countries to support the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Russia has long backed. Putin called it an, “enormous mistake” that many Western countries were not supporting his regime.

In a setting where President Obama was expected to be center stage, he was forced to go on the offensive to defend his foreign policy. Obama had the opportunity to make his opinions clear about Russian policy as well. In particular Obama called out Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, which resulted in the annexation of Crimea.

Obama criticized Russia’s state-controlled media notions that a Russian empire was being revived by noting that Ukraine had tried for a long time to align with the European Union. He also pointed out that sanctions, resulting from Russia’s involvement in the situation, had hurt the Russian economy.   

Obama threw in a thinly veiled warning about Russia’s continued aggressive actions in Eastern Europe and military build-up in Syria by saying, “History is littered with the failure of false prophets and fallen empires, who believed that might always makes right, and that will continue to be the case. You can count on that.”

Despite the icy relations between Obama and Putin, both met afterwards in a closed-door meeting. The discussion lasted more than an hour, and though it is clear there is still animosity between both parties they ultimately agreed that they must work together to solve international issues.  
CNN, WSJ, and the Washington Post contributed to this report

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President Putin and President Obama butt heads at UN assembly