“Our approach to our relations with Russia has been extremely clear-eyed,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “It has not been driven by hope or romanticism about what Russia might do but very specifically driven by what we can get done cooperatively.”
Carney said that the administration makes “abundantly clear, both in public and in private, where we profoundly disagree with Russia.”
He said that approach had “resulted in tangible benefits for the United States in our national security,” citing Russian assistance in the U.S. resupplying troops deployed in Afghanistan and on containing Iran's nuclear development.
“It's also been clear in the very clear approach we've taken when we've disagreed, whether it's on missile defense or profoundly on Syria, or on other matters,” he added.
The U.S. and Russia have clashed on a number of issues during Obama's tenure, including Moscow's support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, the decision to grant National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden asylum and most recently over Ukraine.
Violent clashes between the former government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition groups led to a European Union-negotiated peace accord. Yanukovych fled the capital of Kiev over the weekend and Ukraine’s parliament removed him from power, electing a new interim president ahead of coming elections.
Yanukovych faced opposition after rejecting an EU trade deal in exchange for closer ties with Russia. Protests to his rule over the last two months escalated into violence after security forces tried to clear opposition groups camped out in Kiev’s Independence Square.
International observers fear the Ukraine agreement could crumble without Russia’s cooperation.
Many lawmakers have slammed Obama's handling of Moscow, arguing that the president has been outplayed on the world stage by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Obama had been the “most naive” president in history over his handling of the Ukraine crisis.
Despite the criticism that Obama has failed to get tough with Putin, the White House has defended his approach, insisting that disputes over Syria and Ukraine not be seen as part of a “Cold War” struggle with Russia.
"Our view is not to see it as some Cold War chessboard where we are in competition with Russia," Obama said last week.
Carney on Monday said that the view that Russia was “somehow getting the better of the West” over the turmoil in Ukraine was wrong.
“I think that, again, is an antiquated view of a dynamic that doesn't exist anymore,” he said.