"I believe America must remain engaged for our own security. I believe the world is better for it. Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional - in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all," said the president in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.
Obama's remark was a rebuke to Putin, who in an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this month had criticized U.S. foreign policy and mocked suggestions that the U.S. was unique in standing up for human rights and international law.
"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," Putin wrote.
The White House dismissed Putin's comments after the op-ed.
"The fact is that Russia offers a stark contrast as to why America is exceptional," said press secretary Jay Carney.
Putin and Obama have had an icy relationship, clashing over Moscow's decision to grant temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, the Syrian civil war and anti-gay rights legislation in Russia.