President Barack Obama warned his Russian counterpart Tuesday against intervening in Syria’s civil war, suggesting that Vladimir Putin is aware of the dangers his country faces by entering the bloody conflict.
“I think Mr. Putin understands that … with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him to simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he’s looking for,” Obama said at a news conference in Paris.
Obama said he does not disagree with Putin — with whom he met on Monday — on the necessity of a political resolution to Syria’s conflict. But he said there remains discord over the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who the United States insists must leave power as part of a political transition. But he said the reality on the ground in Syria could change Putin’s calculus.
“I think it is possible over the next several months that we both see a shift in calculation in the Russians and a recognition that it’s time to bring the civil war in Syria to a close,” Obama said. “It’s not going to be easy.”
Obama said that he leaves the major climate change conference — that united world leaders in one city — with confidence in the forward trajectory of his ISIS strategy, which he said must include new efforts to stamp out financing for the terror network.
Speaking at the tail end of his visit to the French capital, Obama said he was “confident that we can continue building momentum and adding resources to our effort to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State terror network that was responsible for last month’s Paris attacks.
Obama said hosting the climate conference amounted to a “remarkable display of resolve” for the French. And he compared the battle against ISIS to global efforts to curb global warming.
“In some ways it’s akin to the problem of terrorism,” he said. “In the immediate aftermath of a terrible attack like happened here in Paris, sometimes it’s natural for people to despair. But look at Paris. You can’t tear down Paris because of the demented actions of a handful of individuals. The beauty, the joy, the life, the culture, the people, the diversity. That’s going to win out every time.”
The President was one of nearly 150 world leaders gathering outside the city to agree on carbon reduction targets. He reiterated an urgent warning that countries move to curb global warning, claiming the consequences could be drastic.
“If we let the world keep warming as fast as it is, and sea levels rising as fast as they are, and weather patterns keep shifting in more unexpected ways, then before long we are going to have to devote more and more and more of our economic and military resources not to growing opportunity for our people but to adapting to the various consequences of a changing planet,” Obama said.
A successful outcome for the Paris climate talks will include a “legally binding” mechanism to ensure countries are adhering to their carbon reduction commitments, Obama said.
The nature of the Paris accord has been in dispute, since a legally binding pact — if considered a treaty — would require Congressional approval. A lesser agreement could potentially be scrapped by the next president.
Obama downplayed that possibility Tuesday, predicting a Democratic successor who he said would uphold whatever emerges from the two-week long climate conference.
“I’m anticipating a Democrat succeeding me. I’m confident in the wisdom of the American people on that front,” he said. “But even if somebody from a different party succeeded me, one of the things you find is when you’re in this job, you think about it differently than if you’re just running for the job.”
“Everybody else is taking climate change really seriously,” he said. “They think it’s a really big problem. It spans political parties.”
During his news conference, held just before Obama departed Paris for Washington, Obama renewed his calls for tighter gun laws after last week’s shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic.
Claiming similar gun sprees don’t happen in other countries, Obama said he hoped the shooting — which left three dead — spurs a larger conversation about access to firearms.
“At the end of the day, Congress, states, local governments are going to have to act to ensure we are preventing people who are deranged or have violent tendencies” from getting high-power weapons, Obama said, adding he welcomes a debate over abortion rights, calling it a “serious” issue.
But he insisted those with opposing views “talk about it accurately” and not “demonize” Planned Parenthood.