White House press secretary Jay Carney on Friday insisted that divisions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine were “profoundly different” than the rivalry between the nations during the Cold War.

“I think I have a little deeper expertise in this matter than perhaps some others,” said Carney, who covered Russia as a foreign correspondent for Time Magazine. “I would say that it is profoundly different from the Cold War era.”

“What we've seen in recent weeks and months is the express desire of the Ukrainian people for a future that they decide on their own for themselves, for their nation, and that that desire expressed by Ukrainians on the street through peaceful protests,” he added. “And it was the reaction to that, the unacceptable reaction to that that led to the violence that we saw.”

Carney's comments came after President Obama on Wednesday said he did not view disagreements over Ukraine between Moscow and Washington as “some Cold War chessboard,” denying that there was a competition between the two nations.

Critics of Obama's foreign policy said the administration has failed to address Russia's opposition to the U.S. and that Russian President Vladimir Putin has managed to thwart American interests repeatedly.

In Ukraine, Putin is backing President Viktor Yanukovych, who has launched a brutal crackdown on opposition groups who are against him scuttling a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Moscow. The violence, which left dozens dead, sparked international condemnation.

Yanukovych on Friday signed an accord with opposition leaders moving up the date of a presidential election and establishing a caretaker national unity government. But Russia has refused to endorse the deal.

Obama and Putin have had icy relations after clashing over a number of issues, from Russia's support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad to Russian anti-gay legislation and Moscow's grant of asylum for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Carney on Friday said Obama was “correct when he says that this is not about the United States and Russia or the West and Russia.”

“This is about Ukraine and the Ukrainian people and their desire for the right to choose their own destiny, the right to a government that represents them and their interests,” he added.