President Obama took aim at Moscow in his address at the UN's General Assembly general debate on Monday, just hours before a planned bilateral meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
"We can't stand by when the sovereignty of a nation is flagrantly violated," said Obama, criticizing Russia's annexation of Crimea and continued involvement in Ukraine. "If that happens to a sovereign nation like Ukraine it can happen to any nation here."
Obama also said Russia and its allies were misguided in their support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
"We're told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder, that it's the only way to stamp out terrorism," Obama told world leaders gathered in New York. "We're told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder, that it's the only way to stamp out terrorism."
In recent days, Russia has largely captured the diplomatic and media narrative concerning Syria's civil war — sending troops, planes and vehicles to coastal enclaves in the country. On Sunday, it emerged that Russia, along with Iran, Iraq and Syria would partake in an intelligence gathering agreement to fight the so-called Islamic State. US officials have struggled to shift public dialogue on Syria, insisting that both IS and Assad must go, while their own efforts to train moderate rebels fall flat. Russia says IS must be defeated first.
Obama attempted to counter Russia's recent moves with thinly veiled criticisms of what he called oppressive policies in many countries around the world, insisting that repressing dissent will only lead to weak governments.
But on Syria, Obama, in keeping with a push towards diplomacy that has characterized his second term, said that, "the United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict."
"But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo," added Obama.
President Putin is scheduled to speak within the hour.
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