TIME Barack Obama

Obama: ‘We Don’t Need a War’ With Russia

President Barack Obama walks from the Oval Office to the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
President Barack Obama walks from the Oval Office to the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

President Obama downplayed the chance of a military conflict with Russia over the escalating tension in eastern Ukraine, in an interview that aired Thursday, saying it's not up to either country to decide what kind of relationships Ukraine has with its neighbors

President Barack Obama said in an interview that aired Thursday that “we don’t need a war” with Russia, downplaying the chance of military conflict between the U.S. and Russia over tensions in Ukraine.

“What we do need is a recognition that countries like Ukraine can have relationships with a whole range of their neighbors, and it is not up to anybody, whether it’s Russia or the United States or anybody else, to make decisions for them,” Obama said in an interview with CBS Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett on Thursday’s broadcast of CBS This Morning.

Obama’s comments came days after a Russian fighter jet made multiple close-range passes near a U.S. Navy ship in the Black Sea. When asked if the aircraft “buzz” represented Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to send a signal to Washington, Obama said Russia is “not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us, understanding that our conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians.”

“As commander-in-chief, I don’t make decisions based on perceived signals. We make decision very deliberately, based on what’s required for our security and for the security of our allies,” Obama added. “And the Russians understand that.”

Putin has amassed Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border and threatened to invade amid tensions between the pro-Western government and a large ethnic Russian minority in the region, despite the threat of increased economic sanctions from the U.S. and Western European powers.

Zeke Miller contributed reporting.

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